In this episode, Toby spoke to an existing client, Michelle Meakin, Business Services Director at Agility in Mind. We covered the organisation’s approach to developing a DEI charter and bringing those values to life every day.
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S?: Welcome to the Inclusive Growth Show with Toby Mildon, future proofing your business by creating a diverse workplace.
Toby Mildon: Hello, thank you ever so much for tuning into this episode of The Inclusive Growth Podcast. I'm Toby Mildon. And in this podcast, we're doing something slightly differently, I'm gonna actually be sitting down and talking to one of my clients, so normally I'm interviewing Diversity and Inclusion thought leaders and business leaders, and I thought actually a bit quite a nice change to sit down with some of the organisations and clients that I've been working with, just to explore what they are doing about diversity and inclusion. So in this episode, I'm joined by Michelle Meakin, who is the Business Services Director at Agility in Mind, and I'll ask Michelle to introduce herself and the business in her own words shortly. But I met the founder or one of the founders of Agility in Mind years ago, when I was working at the BBC as a project manager, and he was really instrumental in an accessibility project that I was working on. And then also my training as an Agile project manager at the time. So we kept in touch and it's funny how these things kind of come full circle. I then ended up working with Agility in Mind, providing divesting and inclusion advice and support. So Michelle, could you just let us know a bit more about who you are and what you do and what Agility in Mind is all about?
Michelle Meakin: Absolutely. Well, first, I'd like to say thank you, Toby, for welcoming me along to talk on your podcast, I have to say it's the first one I've ever done, so slightly nervous and wary, but we'll see how it goes. As Toby says, I work as the Business Services Director at Agility in Mind. I've been with them since 2014. My role has evolved significantly since I started working for them, and now I'm responsible, I guess, all of those, what you would consider business services side of things, including finance, administration, supporting all of our coaches and trainers in what they do on a day-to-day activity, so just trying to be very organised, proactive. So very busy and varied role, but I thoroughly enjoy it. With regards to what Agility in Mind do as a business, we love and exist to work with ambitious businesses to help them achieve their plans for growth. So we do that. We provide services that provide clear outcomes for impactful change, which shifts the mindset of individuals, which leads to new behaviours and action. As part of that, we use Agile principles and practices that give people the confidence about changing the way they work.
Toby Mildon: Brilliant. So one of the reasons why I wanted to bring you on to the podcast is that Agility in Mind is a boutique consultancy, and yet you've invested in the diversity and inclusion journey for your organisation. And this isn't something that only big businesses do, small boutique companies can do it as well. Why did you want to invest in diversity and inclusion for your organisation?
Michelle Meakin: Well, that's a really good question, Toby, thank you. If I can start with just kind of giving you a teeny-tiny bit of background. So Agility in Mind has grown and evolved since its inception in 2010. And as I mentioned earlier, I've been part of the team since 2014. And there's always been a mindset that every member of the team has a part to play and their views and opinions are important. However, more recently, sort of back in circa 2019, we started to question how he could become a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organisation, because we believe building an inclusive workforce is the right thing to do. And they are definitely more effective. So when you think about organisations and that diversity of thought and looking at problems from different perspectives, it will lead to greater innovation within organisations. So when you think about what it is we do as an organisation, people sit at the heart of what we do, so it is essential really that we are a people-centric organisation who support and work effectively with everyone and embedding and incorporating DEI into our workplace has become an essential requirement and very necessary and beneficial requirement.
Toby Mildon: So I mean obviously Agility in Mind is a boutique consultancy, and a lot of the work that I do with clients is in medium and large size businesses. So we did put together a tailored package for you because I suppose a kind of standard approach wouldn't be quite the right fit for you. One of the first things that we started to do was the Diversity Includes Everyone workshop with the team. Would you mind explaining a bit about how that workshop worked out for you and what the team got out of doing it with me?
Michelle Meakin: Absolutely, and just thinking about that whole journey, I guess before we got to your workshop, we'd had a whole team day where we looked at the start-up that we'd had an initial workshop, if I go back further with some of the leadership team to sort look at our starting point and where we needed to go. So before we got to that whole team workshop, we talked about diversities for everyone. We'd gone through some sort of like activities in terms of putting together a diversity charter, looking at our organisation as a whole, looking at our values. So we'd sort of done quite a bit of work before we got to the point of coming on that training and offering that whole training to all of the team. It's basically opened our eyes, I guess, for want of a better expression. We'd like to have thought that we were, you know, our DEI initiatives and everything we were doing was good, but I think we still... It shows you, you can still learn there's things that we haven't thought about. And so then great feedback from all of our team in terms of that workshop and gave us food for thought, and what we could be doing differently. What we should be doing differently. What we weren't even thinking about.
Michelle Meakin: We use a turn of phrase, one of my colleagues in particular, you don't know what you don't know, so until you start to explore things and talk to people like yourself, there's things out there that you've not necessarily thought about that actually you can change and get better at and evolve. So for us it was an eye-opener. It's made the organisation think individuals and us as a group, how we work, what we're doing on a daily basis, it led to some individual sessions with people. So updating of policies. Just a whole different way of working, I guess. Yeah, we think differently now, I think ultimately following that... Following the sessions.
Toby Mildon: That's really good. I'm glad that was one of the outcomes, because if it does shift the mindset about diversity inclusion, that's really good. 'Cause one of the... I suppose one of the objectives of that particular workshop is to help people understand that. Well, it says it on the title of the workshop that diversity includes everyone.
Michelle Meakin: Absolutely.
Toby Mildon: It's not about those people over there at arms length, it's something that we all need to take responsibility for, particularly if we hold power and privilege within an organisation. And we can then explore, like you were saying, if it opens up your eyes, we can explore things like bias and privilege and micro-aggressions and really understand about how these behaviours can help you grow as an organisation and how it aligns with your values. And I think one thing I've really enjoyed about working with Agility in Mind is that after we've done these activities, you've then just gone off and done some really great things. So one of the first things that you did on the back of that diversity inclusion workshop was create your diversity charter. And I really like that because it was you setting out as an organisation what diversity and inclusion means for you.
Michelle Meakin: Yeah.
Toby Mildon: Can we explore that a bit further, 'cause I think it's such a powerful tool. So obviously this is a podcast, so we don't have any visuals, but if you imagine a wheel, the wheel is split into three sections of empowerment, respect and belonging, so Michelle would you mind kind of just explaining a bit more about how that wheel has been created?
Michelle Meakin: Sure, we work together as a whole team, so it was important to us that we got everybody that works at Agility in Mind and everybody as part of that team involved in that whole discussion, and we got views and opinions. We started by the creation of a mural board, got everybody's thoughts, ideas onto the board. We thought about different areas, what's important to us, and then kind of narrowed it down, if you want, 'cause everybody's thoughts... We kind of categorise things. For example, under empowerment, we've got two sub-headings, one's we provide safe working environments for our team, and then the other is we support our internal and external members to do their best work. So we looked at everybody's views and opinions and try to categorise them as best we can under those three areas on that wheel. So yeah, very much a team effort and involvement in its creation because we obviously want... It needs to be ongoing. It's not just tick box, we've done that, we've done our DEI bit. We need to be living those. We need to be living the value. We need to, in our everyday activities, reflecting on what we've said and what we've committed, not just to ourselves as individuals, but us as a company, all of the employees, and then all of our stakeholders as well, so customers and the like.
Toby Mildon: Absolutely, yeah. No, it was a really good process to go through to make sure that the whole team was involved. I mean that's inclusive. And I think it's important that if you're gonna be creating a diversity charter that you do so in an inclusive way. And I like how it's structured. So at the top level, you've got three areas of empowerment, respect from belonging. Each of those has got two subsections. So, for example, under empowerment you've got we provide safe working environments for our team. And then what is really cool is that even within that you've set certain behaviours that you expect. So you've got, for example, that we are comfortable sharing our views without fear of being judged, and we respect other people's views even if we don't agree. So I think it's a really powerful tool.
Michelle Meakin: Yeah, no. It's really good. And I often go back and reflect on it and what's in there and just remind yourself what it's about, and it's there for an important reason, and not, as I said earlier, just to tick a box to say we've done that, now we need to be living that and it's very much embedded within our culture. And thinking then as you're kind of bringing new people on board when they join the team, making sure they are fully aware of this is our DEI charter, it sits alongside our values, it complements our values and what we believe in and how we want to be as an organisation. So making that explicit right at the start, that in new employee journey as well, that this is us as a company, we want to be a great place to work. We want to be fully inclusive, we need all employees to be on board with this fully.
Toby Mildon: Yeah, absolutely.
S?: If your company has a great diversity and inclusion strategy, if your organisation has an amazing work culture where productivity is peaking, if the best talents in your industry are working for you, if all your employees are happy and feel included, then feel free to skip this message for about 30 seconds and continue listening to the podcast interview with Toby. But if you feel that your company is lacking in any one of these areas, your employer reputation is taking a hit. Toby Mildon is one of the UK's lead in diversity and inclusion experts, who has helped top companies to like Deloitte, the BBC, Sony Pictures and Centrica, as well as numerous scale of businesses who want an outstanding inclusive culture. To go further in your diversity and inclusion journey, log on to Toby's webinar at www.mildon.co.uk/free-webinar to accelerate your company's diversity and inclusion strategy in 40 minutes. Thanks for listening. And now back to the podcast interview with Toby.
Toby Mildon: The other great thing about the workshops that we did was that they were a springboard for further discussions in the business. So I remember doing a session, yeah, a follow on session looking at how there might be bias within the way that projects are resourced. We had a couple of conversations about the process, so when a potential client approaches you, who gets involved with the bidding process, who ultimately gets assigned to a client project, whether that helps advance their careers and that kind of thing, and we mapped out that process to see where there could potentially be that kind of systemic bias and how we could improve things as well.
Michelle Meakin: Yeah. No, as I said before, we don't know what we don't know, and it was amazing kind of having those sessions. I know I sat in on one with you where we looked at recruitment and that whole employee journey from sort of like right from the early recruitment stage and right the way through. And we just kind of looked at how we place our ad and again, just reviewed it and thinking actually there's unconscious bias in there. And it wasn't something that we thought about until we had those sessions with you. So now we've gone a way and we've reviewed our ad and sort of tweaked it a little bit, just so it has become more inclusive. There was no intent behind it not to be but just through some of the language that we'd used. One of the examples, I think you gave to us about, I think it was even where females may look at something and think, "Well, actually it says five years experience, that's what I need," whereas somebody else might go, "I've only got three, that's sufficient." So just rewarding certain documents and things on our website to make sure that they are more inclusive than they were. But it was great, as I say, to have those sessions very much opened our eyes to what we can be doing better.
Toby Mildon: Definitely. And the things that we've identified or that we identified through that process, were just small tweaks, we didn't have to overhaul the recruitment process. And the thing is you are a small organisation, you don't recruit hundreds of people every year. So it's not like we had to revamp the whole recruitment process, but actually, those small adjustments have quite a bigger impact, really. One of the other things that we did together was create the Inclusive Growth Playbook, which is out there for anybody to download from the website if they want to. Would you mind just exploring a bit more, or letting us know more about why Agility in Mind wanted to create that playbook.
Michelle Meakin: Yeah, I think again it was, it was to help us as an organisation and other people just understand what's going on out there really. So we worked with a research house to conduct a study on... With 250 businesses to understand what they've got in place with their DEI initiatives and to understand what help and support organisations may need to become truly inclusive. And some of the results were surprising, I guess, and some less so. But what it was a spring board for us to do was to actually think about, "Okay, where are these organisations on their journey, what could they be doing, and what could we be doing to make sure that we have become more inclusive?" So with that data, it led us to put together the Inclusive Growth Playbook, I think you had some input too, Toby, in what we could do. And we set out some steps for change as part of that Inclusive Growth Playbook. So organisations could go to it as a free resource, have a look and look at ways that they could start on their change for more inclusivity within the organisation. So it's a really interesting data that we captured and it's a really good read, the Inclusive Growth Playbook.
Toby Mildon: Absolutely, yeah, like you say, it's freely available from your website, you don't even need to put in an email address to download it. So if you do want to get a copy of the report that Agility in Mind have written, just Google Agility in Mind Inclusive Growth Playbook, and then it usually appears right at the top of your Google search, but it is a really good comprehensive report with some really interesting statistics and facts and figures in there, and some really good sort of strategies to think about as an organisation. So Michelle, thank you ever so much for joining me on today's episode. It's been really great to catch up with you and I am really looking forward to continuing to support you and the team.
Michelle Meakin: It was great Toby. It was good to catch up and yeah, thank you very much for your time too.
Toby Mildon: Cool, thank you, and thank you for tuning into this episode of The inclusive growth podcast with Michele and myself, hopefully you've taken away some interesting information and hints and tips that you can start to put in place in your organisation. And over the next few weeks and months, I'm going to be sitting down with some of the other clients I've been working with so we can learn about how they've got on and what they've been implementing and some of the best practices that they've unearthed within their own organisations. So until the next time, thank you for tuning in and I look forward to seeing you on the next episode of this podcast coming up very soon. Take care.
S?: Thank you for listening to the inclusive growth show. For further information and resources from Toby and his team, head on over to our website at mildon.co.uk.