When George Floyd, an unarmed black man was killed by a white police officer, it sparked global condemnation and a wave of protests. The sense that something must be done about racially motivated violence was palpable and it shone a light on racial injustice and discrimination more broadly. Corndel, along with many businesses, pledged support for the fight against racism.
We believe that there is no neutral stance on any form of discrimination against individuals or groups of people. This was not a policy position or a conscious strategy for us.
The pledge began as an internal message to our team, at a time of collective shock, anger and sadness. Many connected personally with the tragedy and two individuals in the team suggested that we meet in memory and in solidarity for George Floyd and many others that have been killed in such circumstances.
We decided then that, as a company, Corndel can and should contribute to societal change. We are innovative, creative and recognise that we can do better. We believe that the actions we take must be authentic and effective in bringing about meaningful change in our own company and wider society.
On a national level, we know that inequality across all strands of the Equality Act (2010) does exist. The gender pay gap, over representation of women, black or minority ethnic people in low paid work and under representation of those people at Board level are all well documented. The racial disparities in outcomes in education, health and employment and criminal justice are also well known. Hate crimes and killings on the grounds of protected characteristics confirm that we have a problem in society.
Developing people and changing structures
We believe in developing people to change structures. Inequality persists in the minds of people and is perpetuated by the structures they create and by which they are shaped. Our coaching experience confirms the influence that an individual can have in their workplace and also the structural barriers and blockers to change which can limit them.
We know that other businesses are taking similar steps. We plan to share our journey and would like to invite anyone taking on this challenge in their workplace to do the same so that we can learn from each other and accelerate the speed of change.
Vocal support from the senior team and staff-led task force
We formed an Inclusion Taskforce, Chaired by Aquilla, a Delivery Director and champion for equality, diversity and inclusion, supported by our Chief of Staff. Beyond that we know that we want an emergent approach to creating an equality and inclusion strategy. At an all-staff meeting this week we started a conversation and began to shape our plan.
Encouraging company-wide involvement and participation
We want to apply established good practice to ensure that we are diverse and representative of our communities. We want to continue to create the conditions for all our team to thrive as we grow. To enable this we have created a fully inclusive all-staff forum where all staff can participate, beginning with a series of facilitated discussions to challenge ourselves to be upfront, honest and open about where we are and where we want to be. Self-managed task groups will be empowered to explore areas of concern and personal interest to feed into the emergent strategy.
Creating a safe space for a company-wide conversation
We need to engage in a period of self-reflection and honest sharing as a group of individuals and at a company level. We’re inspired by the actions of U.S. company, Bloomberg, which held a virtual meeting with 5000 employees for a conversation about racial injustice.
“We all have a responsibility to educate and raise our level of awareness on race – because it’s only through education, awareness, and discussion that we can begin to recognize our role in changing the narrative.” – Pamela Hutchinson, Bloomberg’s Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion
We plan to hold a series of discussions and will use our existing staff groupings to develop the conversation on a more intimate scale. We will start with race and then widen our scope. Our team are skilled listeners and our PDE’s are effective coaches. In some contexts, it might be helpful to upskill your staff in active listening.
Using a framework for collective learning and action
We chose the Appreciative Inquiry Model to help us frame our activity because it met our desire for a positive, developmental and collective learning approach. David Cooperrider is considered the pioneer of the Appreciative Inquiry Model. The 5-D cycle has guided our initial All-staff conversation where our initial ideas began to be scoped out:
- Step 1: Define – What is our desired outcome?
This focuses on our shared understanding of where we are going and what we want. Collectively we will build the vision for what we want to see.
This discussion has given us the impetus to aim even further. Staff told us that they wanted the Inclusion Taskforce to be a platform for staff to share their experiences. We identified the need to look at BAME representation in senior leadership positions, training and strategies around unconscious bias and diversity. Staff want us all to be fully equipped to support inclusion and challenge exclusion. We need to hold ourselves to account to ensure that every individual has an equal opportunity to make the most of their skills and talents.
- Step 2: Discover – What are our strengths?
By holding this conversation, we found that we had a phenomenal breadth and depth of experience in the equality and inclusion space.
The discussion reinforced our shared core values and the belief that we have a culture that supports this work. Members of our team have led and participated in programmes and initiatives in-house and as consultants. We have trainers and facilitators in unconscious bias and anti-discrimination. Members of the team have studied themes at an academic level. Many have lived experience they are ready to share. This is a reminder to fully understand and utilise the knowledge that exists in your team before inviting external input. At the same time, there is much to learn about what already works from outside your business.
- Step 3: Dream – What will work well in the future?
Core to this approach, which has its roots in positive psychology, is the process of envisioning results, and describing how things could be in the future.
Creating a positive vision for where we want to be goes to the heart of our company culture. A sense of psychological safety needs to be cultivated and nurtured. We have tasked ourselves with creating an Inclusion Pledge that we can all identify with and strive to achieve. We’ll develop this vision collectively.
- Step 4: Design – What action do we need to take to make it happen?
Through this collective approach we will create an Inclusion strategy that is organisationally-aligned and action orientated.
The strategy will encompass our role as an employer, training provider, member of the business community and education sector. It will support staff personally and in their roles. It will involve all departments at Corndel and will inform our people strategy and service to our learners and clients.
- Step 5: Deploy – We’re taking that action.
Action matters and it needs to be effective. Informed by our strategy, this stage is also about identifying, challenging, and dismantling the structures which persist in creating barriers to equality within Corndel and beyond.
There is existing good practice around collecting diversity data to identify areas of under-representation which we will draw from. At the same time, our staff-led task groups will bring forward actions that they identify. Ideas already being considered include: diversity training and toolkits to support our conversations with learners about structural racism, racial injustice and how it can be tackled by leaders in the workplace.