Founder and Managing Director Delsion
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National Inclusion Week: Achieving unity through learning and development

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To mark National Inclusion Week, Julian John examines how to embed knowledge, empathy and engagement as a learning and development professional.

27th Sep 2021
Founder and Managing Director Delsion
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I am fortunate to be able to talk about a subject that I feel passionate about every day. Equality, equity, and diversity and inclusion form the foundation of the learning and development work that we do. 

My pathway to founding Delsion and my engagement in this area comes 100% from my personal experiences of exclusion and wanting to make a positive change in making workplaces inclusive through our learning and development offering.

And within that, I focus on three elements: how to embed knowledge, empathy, and engagement through our work.

Everyone needs to have a foundational understanding and be able to define what equality, equity, diversity, and inclusion means and what good looks like within their role and organisation.

Relevant to everyone

There is, however, a stumbling block within that and within effective equality, diversity and inclusion learning and development: how do you make it relevant to everyone, how do you capture and engage an entire organisation?

It’s telling that if you run a learning and development workshop around a particular diversity and inclusion area that a percentage of people that may choose to attend are already engaged around this specific area. The question to be answered is how do you make diversity and inclusion relevant to everyone? 

For the cultural and behavioural changes that are needed to drive effective change around more diverse and inclusive workplaces, everyone – in my view – needs to have a foundational understanding and be able to define what equality, equity, diversity, and inclusion means and what good looks like within their role and organisation.

We need to target inclusion for all in order to be able to create equity, treat people as individuals and create a sense of belonging. It has to be about us. Every single participant must understand what they can achieve as individuals to drive the agenda forward. 

We must also understand that inclusion is a leadership trait and should be developed in that way. We need to keep talking about it, so we get to the point where because our behaviours and the culture we work in has changed, we don’t need to talk about it anymore. 

My experiences of exclusion have shown me how vital empathy is to driving positive change. Knowledge is key within that and the interventions that present equality, diversity and inclusion through Learning and Development are vital.

Avoiding silos

There is also a danger where organisations focus specifically on one particular area of the diversity agenda. That danger is that by that singular focus you run the risk of marginalising others. That’s why it is vital to build a foundation of knowledge, empathy and engagement through our learning and development activities. It also needs to clearly link up with the framework of learning and development interventions within your organisation. It can’t sit outside of say, management development programmes when it is management development.

And while I am on my soapbox, this brings me back to National Inclusion Week and this year’s theme of unity. National Inclusion Week is such a great opportunity to showcase what you are doing within your Equality, Diversity & Inclusion work. It’s a fantastic way to widen that knowledge, empathy, and engagement I keep talking about. 

But here is a top tip: give the week a legacy – create a momentum and make it relevant and engaging for everyone. You’ll be surprised at what that can achieve.

For me, that’s where unity comes into it. Inclusion that’s relevant to everyone, that allows everyone to strive for equality and create a workplace for all. My experiences of exclusion have shown me how vital empathy is to driving positive change. Knowledge is key within that and the interventions that present equality, diversity and inclusion through Learning and Development are vital.

Best practice

I have been really fortunate to spend the last twelve months working closely with Transport for Wales and they have absolutely taken the approach I have outlined to heart, where inclusion is for everyone and where equity is sought throughout the organisation.

National Inclusion Week is the perfect example of this where they have a number of activities focusing on engaging the entire organisation. This includes involvement from the Senior Leadership Team, talks capturing people’s experiences and at every step, practical advice, and support around every subject and for every person in the organisation.

And this builds on the foundation I spoke about. From the Learning and Development side, this starts with their diversity statement which is: “At Transport for Wales we value diversity. It makes us stronger, helps us understand our customers better, make better decisions and be more innovative” and an inclusive and accessible approach to Learning and Development not only within the subject of Diversity & Inclusion but in every area that Learning & Development touches. Their engagement and progress are a testament to their approach and Learning and Development is a central element in that.

Unity matters

If unity is defined as the state of being in agreement and working together or joined as a whole then the point is in order to do that we must engage the whole organisation to create equality, equity, diversity, inclusion, and unity. 

So, to end, my last tip is to remember that Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion is at their most effective when it is a journey for everyone, by everyone….by the whole. In my view, it’s this approach that can allow real equity through unity.

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