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It’s Inclusion week 2020.  It is a time for organisations to renew their commitment toward the principles of creating a world of opportunity and success for all.  

We all know that this has been a year of challenge and reinvention in the workplace.  The way our world has been able to adapt and accommodate in a crisis has been inspiring.  We have found ways to make the workplace accessible, we have found assistive technology to boost productivity.  We have made sure that everyone gets what they need in order to be successful.  Without realizing it, we have developed a new muscle for inclusion.

As we get used to “the new normal”, it is important that we use these lessons we have learned before they get filed away with old exam papers and math formulas.  Like any muscle, the more we work it, the stronger it will be.  Below are my top three ways we can build momentum 

People Adapt at Different Speeds, But They Adapt

When online meeting platforms became the new office space, there were some learning curves.  Some curves were steeper than others.  Whilst digital natives were able to click and go, others (many of whom were in leadership positions) needed extra time, extra support and a lot of patience to become fluent.  Did these extra needs mean that suddenly they were no longer valuable in their organisation?  Of course not.  When they were given the space and support they needed, they thrived.  Also, many were able to show hidden talents that were beyond the remit of their job.  Tech department members also became teachers.  Many people became quasi-therapists when helping colleagues cope with overwhelm and frustration.  Newly discovered skills were an incredible asset to organisations everywhere.  This is inclusion in its purest form.  Individuals are valued for who they are and supported with what they need.  

Everyone Has a World Away from Work…Some Look Very Similar

Dogs barking, toddlers needing cuddles, partners in bathrobes and more wallpaper than you ever knew existed…this is the new meeting aesthetic.  Workers have had a new level of work life balance.  They have had to literally merge the spaces, priorities and responsibilities of both worlds.  Employee networks have provided a space for togetherness and support in wonderful ways.  Parent and Carer Networks have offered everyone from Jr members of staff to Line Managers a place to come together to learn how to educate their children whilst working.  BAME networks have offered support in coping with the feelings that come with tragedies and politics of the now that are a manifestation of the undercurrent of racism that has been a very real part of many people’s lives. Inclusion networks are not a box ticking exercise.  They are a living space that grows and adapts to the needs of its members.  Having them ready and available means that when a crisis hits, the unique needs and perspectives of its population are assessed and addressed quickly and effectively.  Thank you, Diversity and Inclusion Departments!

Opportunities for Learning and Support are Needed and Valued

When everything changed so quickly, two departments took the lead to make sure the transition could be as smooth as possible.  The first was the IT department.  The second, was Diversity and Inclusion.  Parents and Carers, older employees, Neuro-diverse individuals, people with disabilities and those from diverse communities who needed help and support leaned heavily on the infrastructure that was already there for some and quickly and effectively formed in others.   As Diversity and Inclusion professionals, we at Educating Matters have been honoured to be providing webinars, videos, coaching, clinics and resources to help meet the needs of many organisations for almost 20 years.  In the past 6 months, we have had so many requests for new and innovative topics including: Allyship, Working Parents and Coronavirus, Mental Health in Lockdown and many more.  Inclusion professionals were able to source the support needed by accessing their networks and utilising their skills.  

More than ever, it has become apparent that the future is uncertain.  The geo-political climate and even the general health of the world has proven that we are fragile in ways that even a year ago we never imagined.  More than ever, we must value those individuals who are able to recognise the support that is needed for tomorrow’s workplace and those who rely on it for livelihood.  Diversity and Inclusion departments have proven, once again, that they are not only valuable but vital to enable organisations to move through the next decade.