Welcome to the first in a series of guest blogs for National Inclusion Week! We start off with Nikita Montlake, an Inclusion Specialist with a focus on Disability and Neurodiversity. Being born with a birth deformity and diagnosed Dyslexic and ADHD, Nikita weaves in her lived experience to provide context and proof of best inclusion practices. Currently Nikita freelances as an Inclusion Consultant for Diversity and Ability, is on the Equity Committee for Year Here and provides workshops and needs assessments for individuals and workplaces.
As an Inclusion Consultant, I have been brought into a wide variety of spaces, industries and contexts - from the United Nations, to advertising, to theatre companies, to Transport for London (to name a few). This access to such a variety of different ways of working, coupled with the facilitated conversations to identify and discuss key issues has enabled me to gain insights into where the key inclusion gaps and pain points are, as well as discover some phenomenal inclusive best practices and approaches. These insights have informed the development of my specialities in Disability Theory, Intersectionality, Inclusive Design, and Accessibility, to be well-equipped to guide organisations on a transformative journey towards more inclusive workplaces.
In the quest for creating inclusive workplaces, what I have learnt over time (and over the delivery of 200+ inclusion workshops) is how essential it is to embrace this process as a journey. A journey with an action plan, open mind and realistic expectations. So, welcome to National Inclusion Week! Let's kick start this journey together by breaking down three key aspects to implementing effective inclusive practices while acknowledging that this path can be daunting and overwhelming at times.
1. Identify Barriers and Embrace Failure as an Opportunity:
One of the first steps in building an inclusive workplace is to identify and dismantle the barriers that might be hidden within your organisation. It's natural to feel apprehensive about confronting these issues, but I encourage you to view every challenge as an opportunity for growth. Here are some key aspects to consider:
Challenge the binary thinking that often exists in workplaces. Instead of viewing things as either/or, explore the rich spectrum that exists in between. Recognise that diversity exists not only in terms of visible characteristics but also in thoughts, perspectives, and experiences.
Identify practices, policies, or behaviours that unintentionally exclude certain groups. It might be as subtle as a meeting time that doesn't consider caregiving responsibilities or as overt as inaccessible office spaces. Embrace these discoveries as opportunities to reshape your workplace for the better.
Redesign for Inclusivity:
Remember that inclusivity is an ongoing journey. Don't be discouraged by initial setbacks. Instead, use these failures as stepping stones to redesign and reimagine your workplace. Implement feedback loops to solicit feedback from your employees, particularly those from underrepresented groups, to co-create solutions that work for everyone.
2. Build Intersectional Intelligence:
Understanding and supporting diverse talent is at the heart of inclusion. This involves recognising that individuals have multiple identities and experiences that intersect and impact their lives. To build Intersectional Intelligence within your organisation, it’s time to consider:
Start by educating your team about intersectionality. Encourage open conversations that allow employees to share their unique experiences and perspectives. This will foster empathy and a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by different groups.
Recognise that one-size-fits-all solutions are rarely effective. Tailor support and accommodations to the specific needs of each individual. This could mean providing flexible work arrangements, assistive technology, or mentorship programs.
Promote inclusive leadership by modelling inclusive behaviours and holding leaders and management accountable for creating equitable opportunities. Leaders who champion diversity inspire others to do the same and set the standard across the organisation.
3. Use Inclusive Design Principles:
Inclusive Design is not just about making physical spaces accessible; it's about designing every aspect of your workplace with inclusivity in mind:
Ensure that your physical spaces, digital platforms, and communication materials are accessible to all. This doesn’t just mean considering the needs of Disabled individuals, but thinking about the diverse ways everyone engages with your organisation as we all benefit from accessibility.
Policies and Practices:
Review your organisation's policies and practices through an inclusive lens. Are your hiring practices inclusive? Do your benefits support diverse needs? Make necessary adjustments to align with your commitment to inclusivity.
Systems within your organisation, such as performance evaluations, promotions, and feedback mechanisms, should be designed to minimise bias and provide equitable opportunities for all employees.
As you embark on this journey towards a more inclusive workplace, remember that it's okay to feel overwhelmed at times. Change is never easy, but it is essential for progress. Embrace the discomfort, learn from your failures, and keep moving forward. Working with your people will allow you to create a workplace where every employee feels valued, respected, and empowered within the environments and culture of your organisation.
Through That Day, I specialise in guiding organisations through this transformation. My approach is grounded in human rights and progressive thinking, and we are here to support you every step of the way. Let's work together to anticipate, attract, retain, support, and celebrate diverse talent in your organisation. Together, we can take action to create a workplace that truly embodies the spirit of inclusion. Happy National Inclusion Week!