by Gamal ‘G’ Turawa
We are in unprecedented times and the challenges that has brought are pushing us to explore new options and ways of working and let's be honest for those that like to feel the energy of the room and use it to work their magic this is not ideal.
However if we look at the positives we have found ways to connect to the world through a tablet or computer screen. I recently found myself talking to delegates in 15 different countries from my sofa. There has been an explosion in how many ways we can now interact online all with various networking softwares with a myriad of conferencing features and facilities.
The pandemic, politics and injustices across the whole diversity spectrum have come to the fore in ways that have put our work front and centre and the market place is now becoming awash with ‘consultants and specialists.’ Buzzwords like unconscious bias, resilience, humanistic, allyship and inclusion are entering the vocabulary of our profession at a phenomenal rate. It seems that almost every conversation has to have them included if one wants to be taken seriously.
Organisations in both the public and private sectors are now looking at themselves and seeking to address their cultural imbalances and looking for help to do so. However their understanding comes in varying degrees of awareness. Let me share with you how I see them.
- The Shop Window - These are organisations that don’t really get what D+I is all about but want to be seen to be on board, they normally want an hour’s workshop on Unconscious bias or something similar so they can tick a box and say they’ve done something or put a line in their literature to say they are ethical. For these companies it's more about image rather than change. They are constantly putting out flames rather than making progress. They don’t normally look at the pedigree of providers because they’ve just done an internet search and found the cheapest they could find. They are looking for firefighters not change agents. These attract those providers that are out to make quick money rather than make a difference. They see an opportunity for a quick turnaround and will undercut the value of the training for a fast profit.
- The Shop Floor - These are organisations that are on that journey to awareness. They know that they must do something more substantial but have not yet understood the full spectrum of the D+I agenda however they do recognise change needs to take place so they focus on processes and policies. They also put a lot of effort into the area that has come to light be it Race, Gender , etc. They have not yet recognised the I in D+I. They are driven by compliance more than change. They usually attract providers who are able to combine academia with creativity. Those who are foundation builders and blue sky thinkers.
- The Stockroom - Now these are the organisations that recognise that they really need a deep clean culture wise. They know there are no quick fixes and they are looking for those who are experienced enough to guide them on that journey with a proven culture change program. They will research the market knowing that whoever they select will have to be solid enough to hold the reputation of their organisation in their hands throughout the process of change. They attract those who have that strategic overview and proven track record. Those that respect the fact that they are contributing to something larger than themselves. They have usually been around for a while and have well used tools and techniques that can get into all the darkened corners of the stockroom.
A lot of organisations are not yet ready to go into the stockroom and therefore end up putting effort more into keeping its door closed. When scandals occur and dirt falls out, as it will do from time to time they expend a lot of energy and effort on pushing it back in or trying to disguise/hide it. All the time failing to realise how much that is costing them in both financial and reputational terms.
As a practitioner the main thing is to understand where you operate and to maximise your skill set in that zone as well not being afraid to collaborate where necessary. Which is why we should form camp fire groups.
A camp fire group is made up of the colleagues you trust the most, the ones who recognise that by keeping the fire burning you are all kept warm. All members have a responsibility for keeping its burning potential alive.
You can bring up issues knowing that the responses will be coming from a place of mutual growth. Ideally your group should be made up with members from all three areas of the business highlighted above and that will maximise your reach within the marketplace as well as create a space for creativity and innovation to occur.
As I started we are in new territory and to get through this collaboration is the key and one of other benefits is that now that camp fire group can be international, through the web we are now connecting more globally than ever before…
There’s plenty of opportunities out there, new skills we can share, so together lets dare….