We all dream of days at work that uplift, inspire and fill us with good feelings; however the reality is that they don’t come along as often as we would like. On 13th July, we had a day just like that, with 130 staff from all parts of our organisation, discussing how we create an organisation that is ‘fit to house the human spirit’. It created a positive energy and vibe that lasted throughout the day.
At Guy’s and St Thomas’ we have the highest staff engagement scores in the country, but we still have some dark spots. We’re focussing on shining a light on these key areas, one of which is improving staff feeling a sense of inclusion in the organisation. We have been running a series of Staff Engagement Inspiration Masterclasses, starting with Professor Michael West in May, and most recently we invited Eden Charles PhD to talk to staff about inclusion.
The amount of enthusiasm for the session was unprecedented. We had 100 places but were packed to the rafters with 130 staff wanting to take part. Eden delivered a key note speech and through the use of ZOUD – zone of uncomfortable debate – really got everyone to think about how we all have the ability to exclude others and to precipitate micro inequalities without even realising it. Leading on from Eden’s inspiring speech our Chief Nurse led a series of discussions both in thinking pairs and at a table level, to help participants to really engage with thinking about what they value about their own characteristics and how they might also lead them to accidentally exclude others both in the workplace and outside. This engendered a real energy and engagement of the participants really wanting to engage in thinking about how they could really start to understand others better.
In thinking about diversity overall, thought diversity emerged as a key topic; a conclusion of the Masterclass was that inclusion and understanding of others takes place “one conversation at a time.”
After only 2.5 hours of talking about inclusion, the atmosphere had changed and the energy carried out of the room with the participants. Some challenging points were raised such as ‘what will be different’ and the response is clear; “embracing diversity and being inclusive is everybody’s business”.
Having authentic conversations can often feel quite daunting; especially in the workplace. There are often cultural norms guiding what is considered appropriate and what is a taboo area, and if you are brave and do challenge the status quo it can often feel psychologically unsafe. This means that the culture prevails as people protect themselves by not challenging the norms, and those that feel differently will often leave as they do not feel comfortable or understood within the organisation. This leads to the unsafe practice of groupthink and can lead to poor decision-making and a stunting of the potential of an organisation to progress.
Moving to a place where diversity of thought is not only accepted but positively embraced is the way forward for the NHS and the wider public sector. We are living in a very uncertain and ambiguous time and therefore having a linear approach, based on the thinking that has always prevailed at the top of organisations, will not enable us to navigate the complexity of our new environment. We need a new way of thinking and being that will engender new, evolving conversations and inspire new approaches to enable us to re-invent our workplaces.
Back to the Masterclass; you could argue 130 staff out of our 15,000 is not many, however this is only the first step on the journey for us – a small step but an important one nonetheless. We want to start a completely different conversation in the organisation that encourages diversity and enables our leaders to create enabling environments that supports all our staff to bring their best to work every day. This will help us to continue to deliver high quality healthcare to the in excess of 2 million patients who access our services every year. We will do this one conversation at a time.
Left to right: Sarah Morgan, Director of Organisational Development; Eden Charles PhD, People Opportunities Ltd; Yadveer Kaur, Staff Engagement Manager; Amanda Pritchard, Chief Executive; Dame Eileen Sills, Chief Nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust at the Inclusion Staff Engagement Masterclass held on 13 July 2016
Participants of the GSTT Inclusion Staff Engagement Masterclass 13 July 2016
About the author
Sarah Morgan is the Director of Organisational Development for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and passionate about changing the world of work