Inclusive Growth Show

Putting the DNA into Diversity and Inclusion

February 01, 2024 Toby Mildon Episode 120
Putting the DNA into Diversity and Inclusion
Inclusive Growth Show
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Inclusive Growth Show
Putting the DNA into Diversity and Inclusion
Feb 01, 2024 Episode 120
Toby Mildon

This episode of the Inclusive Growth Show features Tracy Boylin who is the CEO of Organisational Genetics. Tracy talks about how her experience of toxicity in the workplace led to founding her business.

If you're enjoying this episode and looking to boost equity, inclusion, and diversity in your organisation, my team and I are here to help. Our team specialises in crafting data-driven strategies, developing inclusive leaders, designing fair recruitment processes, and enhancing disability confidence. With a blend of professional expertise and lived experience, we're ready to support you on your journey. Reach out to us through our website.

If you want to build a more inclusive workplace that you can be proud of please visit our website to learn more.

Show Notes Transcript

This episode of the Inclusive Growth Show features Tracy Boylin who is the CEO of Organisational Genetics. Tracy talks about how her experience of toxicity in the workplace led to founding her business.

If you're enjoying this episode and looking to boost equity, inclusion, and diversity in your organisation, my team and I are here to help. Our team specialises in crafting data-driven strategies, developing inclusive leaders, designing fair recruitment processes, and enhancing disability confidence. With a blend of professional expertise and lived experience, we're ready to support you on your journey. Reach out to us through our website.

If you want to build a more inclusive workplace that you can be proud of please visit our website to learn more.

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Inclusive Growth Show with Toby Mildon. Future proofing your business by creating a diverse workplace.

Toby Mildon: Hey there, thank you ever so much for tuning into this episode of the Inclusive Growth Podcast. I am Toby Mildon and today I'm joined by Tracy Boylin. And Tracy and I met through a business accelerator program that the University of Salford was running at the time. Tracy and I are both based in Manchester. We've both set up our own businesses. As you know, I've set up a Diversity and Inclusion consultancy and we will learn more about what the business that Tracy has set up. But as Tracy and I were part of this accelerator program and we were doing our introductions, when Tracy explained the work that she did, I realised that it was really complementary to what we do. And I could learn a lot from her HR experience and the software that she is developing on the back of her experience. So I thought it'd be a really good opportunity just to sit down with Tracy and learn more about what she does and her experience and I suppose, the complementary nature of what we do. So Tracy, it's lovely to see you. Thanks for joining me.

Tracy Boylin: Thank you for having me.

Toby Mildon: That's a bit of a high level introduction, but would you mind introducing yourself a bit more and sharing your background in HR? 

Tracy Boylin: Not at all. My name's Tracy Boylin. My company is Organisational Genetics Limited. I named it Organisational Genetics because I think it should be about organisations connect with the DNA of their people and all the people that they have. So I started life off when I left school, as most of us do, not sure what I wanted to do with my career. Got my first job in a recruitment consultancy that supplied civil engineers and architects to overseas, UK as well. But specifically, so my role there was as a researcher, getting some research for them, looking at the companies that were their clients and giving them a bit of background to that and looking at where we could get the best type of consultants from that we'd put into these companies. And I got into HR through working there because basically a female architect applied for a company overseas many years ago now, and I thought she was the best candidate. She was not given the role based on her gender.

Toby Mildon: Right.

Tracy Boylin: They felt the client specifically, it wasn't the sort of company's culture that I had about that, it was more about how the client would perceive it overseas, 'cause it was a very male-dominated culture over there. So basically, they ended up having issues because of that. And that really sort of piqued my interest into HR and getting it right for both companies and the clients that we work with. So I started my CIPD study, so I'm level seven, I'm CIPD qualified, and just loved what I did in HR, totally enjoyed it. Got head-hunted eventually by the public sector after working in a few corporates. And eventually, I suppose, what... In terms of HR working for organisations, that sort of ended my career as a HR director. I'd got to the level of HR director in one particular NHS trust just because of the culture that they had. So a doctor came to me with patient safety concerns, and that led to a whole load of issues, which has took me on the path that I am on now. So I still do HR, but from my own company perspective and from the way that I feel it should be delivered.

Toby Mildon: Yeah. So I know, based on our previous conversations, you started working off in HR, and you loved your role. You then got head-hunted to go and work in the public sector, specifically working as a head of HR within the NHS. But within the NHS, you ended up working in a toxic environment, didn't you? 

Tracy Boylin: Yeah.

Toby Mildon: There was a particular situation, as you said, when a doctor brought some safety concerns with you, that really was the beginning of the end of that part of your career. Can you elaborate on what happened, without kind of divulging any confidential information? But I know it was a very difficult situation for you.

Tracy Boylin: Yeah, it was pretty horrific, and one of those life-changing moments, really, Toby. A big learning curve, actually, because I felt I knew quite a lot in terms of HR. I kept up-to-date. I was very good on the legal side. And basically, he shared these concerns over a coffee, just because he hadn't come to me directly. I just sort of stopped him, because I didn't think he looked great, and asked him how he was. And he did the usual, "I'm fine". And I said, "I don't think you are. Let's go and grab a coffee". So we did, and he opened up about what his concerns were. And really interesting for me, because technically what he was doing, well, exactly what he was doing, by sharing that with me, it potentially was a whistleblowing complaint.

Toby Mildon: Yeah. Yeah.

Tracy Boylin: So for me, as a HR director, I thought, okay, so this is my job to act on this now, and make sure it's dealt with for him, for the patients that we serve, and for the trust that I was with. I didn't see or perceive myself as a whistleblower, 'cause I thought that's my... My role, is the HR director, to act on that, and ensure the policies forward. So I shared with him that I felt I needed to address it, and I needed to tackle it. He was very, very nervous, because of the toxic culture that we both worked in. I said I couldn't unknow what he'd shared, and it was quite serious. And it ended up, he gave me permission to actually forward the policy for him, and follow it through. But he suffered significant bullying as a result. Eventually, I ended up being bullied by the organisation, 'cause I didn't let it drop. But he ended up dying as a result.

Toby Mildon: That's really serious, yeah.

Tracy Boylin: Yeah, and that was for me, when I thought that would be the moment the organisation learned, and it didn't.

Toby Mildon: Right.

Tracy Boylin: So that is what sent me down a different path after that, really.

Toby Mildon: What did the organisation do after he died? 

Tracy Boylin: So after that, they were relieved that he wasn't around to drive his concerns through any further.

Toby Mildon: Gosh. Yeah.

Tracy Boylin: He'd opened up his own, got his own lawyer, obviously, because of the way they were responding to him and making baseless allegations against him. And at that stage they offered me a package to leave because they felt I should have discouraged him from taking the concerns further, which I didn't do. And then, I'd escalated it to the regulators. So at that point, even though I hadn't raised the initial concern in law, that's when I became defined as the whistleblower. And they offered me a package to leave, which I refused, but left anyway.

Toby Mildon: So I think you worked on a number of cases, didn't you? And I mean, did you notice any kind of consistent themes? 

Tracy Boylin: Yeah. So after that, before I sort of set up the business not knowing what to do, 'cause I was a single parent to two girls, and suddenly finding myself unemployed, I went working for an organisation called Patients First.

Toby Mildon: Right.

Tracy Boylin: So Patients First had been set up by Dr. Kim Holt, who was the whistleblower in the Baby P case.

Toby Mildon: Okay.

Tracy Boylin: And she'd set up this because she realised more and more people in the NHS were facing repercussions as a result of raising issues. And whilst the Robert Francis QC who'd done the mid staffs inquiry into the big scandal at Mid staffs where there'd been all the deaths, he'd just been commissioned to do the Speak Up review right across the NHS 'cause it was becoming clear that this was a big concern for the NHS and that more and more scandals were happening as a result. We've seen the Bristol Heart scandal, we've seen the Morecambe scandal, we've seen Gospel. So where we've got the current drama about the post office, similar scandals are going on over time in the NHS.

Toby Mildon: Yeah.

Tracy Boylin: So basically I work with him with Patients First and we sort of looked to evidence that we could submit to his inquiry. And we took 79 cases from all our members that we felt were irrefutable, that had themes in them. So the themes were around people were initially discouraged to not report concerns. If they did, they were seen as rocking the boat. Then it led to a whole host of policies being implemented through the HR process, which were around grievance, bullying, disciplinary. And the person who'd raised the concerns just got overwhelmed with that many processes that they were getting involved in. If they were a clinical person, they were reported to the BMA and the RCN or the clinical body for raising these concerns, but with a different aspect or connotation.

Tracy Boylin: So it wasn't that they'd raise concerns, it was that they were difficult, they was a troublemaker. They weren't part of the culture that the organisation wanted. And as a result, people have lost lives, they've lost careers and livelihoods. They've had to go overseas. So these were the themes that we identified. And Robert Francis called it his thematic review and submitted it to the Health Select Committee. And that's where really my life took a different turn because we've got so many inquiries about it that Patients First had to eventually shut down 'cause it couldn't cope with the demand. And we didn't have the funding 'cause it was a set up as a charity by Kim.

Toby Mildon: Right.

Tracy Boylin: So I found myself unemployed again. [laughter]

Toby Mildon: Yeah. And is that the point when you set up your company? 

Tracy Boylin: Yeah. And that was the point that I thought, I can help here and I've got to do something 'cause where they quote this phrase, lessons will be learned, it was like Ground Dog Day. We were seeing the same things over and over again.

Toby Mildon: And what, what's your new business journey been like? 

Tracy Boylin: Fascinating. Amazing. Inspirational from the people that I've met, it got me back to jumping out of bed enjoying what I do again. Frightening, at the same time.


Tracy Boylin: Overwhelming at times if I'm really honest. But yeah. But it just seems to have took off. And even now from when I set it up, I get from individuals in the NHS I'm getting 300 to 400 emails a day, a month. Sorry.

Toby Mildon: Yeah. Yeah. So there's definitely a need for your support.

Tracy Boylin: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Toby Mildon: So what's your advice to organisations if they want to develop more trust? 

Tracy Boylin: I think for me, they're looking at it, the totally wrong way. So they look at this from a people perspective and they therefore... When I said that, that sounds a bit odd, but they make them people issues. So all these policies get instigated, which is the grievance process, like I said, the disciplinary process. And what that does is get both parties, it draws a back line if you like, and it's both parties get defensive. Get upset. It breaks relationships down further. And when people are raising issues rightly or wrongly, I think you should be looking at it as a risk to your organisation.

Toby Mildon: Yeah.

Tracy Boylin: Is this a real risk? What do we need to do? How do we tackle it? It starts to go down into a whole range of issues that you could really get some great intelligence from. So I.e, is it a risk and what do we need to do so we don't end up on the front page of the Guardian or God forbid, another drama like the post office scandal involved in that.

Toby Mildon: Yeah. Yeah.

Tracy Boylin: And also, what is it telling us about what our people feel in this organisation and how can we use that intelligence to benefit the people that we serve, whether it be clients, whether it be patients, and use it you really, really productive way. 'cause I think the intelligence is like gold dust for organisations.

Toby Mildon: Yeah. Yeah. I think it's interesting to look at this from a risk perspective. Got me thinking about just divesting and inclusion in general. Because I would say some of my clients think about the upside and the opportunity. Like being able to innovate more, being able to break into new markets, that kind of thing. But then some of my clients think of it more as a risk or an issue. So if we don't do this right, could there be reputational damage? Or is it going to make recruitment harder? Are we gonna struggle to innovate? And therefore we might not be as relevant in the market as we need to be in the future. So it's quite interesting to kind of look at it from those different perspectives, actually. You've also been developing some software, which got my interest 'cause I've got a background in technology before. Moving into diversity and inclusion, could you tell us a bit more about the software that you've developed and how that came about? 

Tracy Boylin: Yeah, so I love research and all that we do in Organisational Genetics is research driven. We did a big project after what was a big scandal up in Scotland called the Stuart inquiry, which John Stuart QC led. And we went in after that and dealt them to put in solutions, which is now known as the healing process. So Salford University are quite interested in that and that transformed basically what was happening in Inverness. So they've got funding and I'm working jointly with them also on doing a case study around all of that to evidence the outcomes and what could be done differently. But for me, when you go into organisations, particularly the very big ones like the NHS organisations can be, they're sort of said they had a bullying issue and they wanted me to go in and look at that.

Tracy Boylin: They can tell you the number of cases they've got. They can tell you the breakdown in terms of ethnic origin of people involved in those cases. They can give you the outcomes. And what I noticed in every single case, and it's not just the NHS, this was in other organisations as well. What they couldn't tell me because the database didn't provide it, they could tell me why the bullying had been raised, but not what the root cause of it was. So if you don't get down to the very, very root cause, how do you solve it? How do you put the right solutions in that address that? So what the tech does is allow people to share issues through the tech, allows them to share why they think those issues are happening. It also allows them to share good things as well as bad.

Tracy Boylin: One of the things I found as a HR director is really getting to know how my people think and feel in that organisation. And that for me is critical. Even if we don't, as a HR director, I didn't agree with it, that's their reality. And you can only address things if you deal with their reality. So it takes them through and it gives you that intelligence that a survey doesn't, or a survey very quickly becomes outdated by the time 'cause it's live data. And then, what we do is turn that data into the organisation's risk register based on their scores that we work with and compile what we think the solutions might be. So it can cover anything from the wellbeing of your organisation, how your people are feeling. It can sort of ask questions around, do they feel the organisation is inclusive? So is there any equality and diversity issues going on? 

Tracy Boylin: Is there a bullying culture? And that bullying culture might only be in one part of the organisation, not in all, 'cause cultures can be different based on the people who are operating there. And it can also drill down into what their perceptions are. So if, for example, one of your values on the wall that people have is respect, what does respect mean to different people? And we get that because, particularly up in Scotland, what you could see is what respect meant to one group meant different to somebody else. And that's where you was getting the clash of issues. So if you could explore that through active learning and listening with groups, you very quickly got them. Actually, I didn't see, I didn't understand you saw it like that. So you start to build up a more cohesive team again.

Toby Mildon: That's really interesting because even if you've got a universal set of values, there might be some misunderstanding or disagreement about what those values mean. And that might inadvertently be causing you issues. So I think that root cause analysis that the software does is really helpful.

Tracy Boylin: Yeah, 'cause what it highlighted up in Scotland, in one particular team, is that the team was a sort of multi-diverse team. So they came from different backgrounds because it was in a surgical area. So you had physiotherapists, you have pharmacists, as well as surgeons, et cetera. And the guy leading that team had come from an army background where it was life or death. So in terms of his training, it had all been about command and control, and this is the order, and then that's what you do. And when his team started to explain how they wanted to engage and share their professional expertise into solutions, he finally got it. And that only came through that data sharing about there were different views of what. So he felt if they weren't responding to that command and control, they weren't respecting him. And equally, they felt he wasn't respecting them 'cause he wasn't listening to their views and solutions as well.

Toby Mildon: Interesting. It's just useful to get those insights because otherwise the team will just be bumbling along as a not particularly high-performing team otherwise, wouldn't they? 

Tracy Boylin: Absolutely. And they were talking at cross-purposes. So now quickly, once we explored that as a group, they got back together because it was like that light bulb when they shared it with him, 'cause he wasn't a bad guy. But prior to this, they had said he was a toxic bully. He was anything, but it was just his training and background. And when he understood and heard from them things they weren't sharing because they didn't feel they could talk to him and he didn't listen, it totally transformed how they worked together.

Toby Mildon: That's fascinating. So, before we sign off, what, what does inclusive growth mean to you? 

Tracy Boylin: I think inclusive growth means there is... Everybody in the organisation has got something to offer and is there for a reason. And sometimes it's not just to pay the bills. When I was even in the organisation that I was at where it was quite toxic, it was really interesting. The cleaner who used to clean my office. I made, the very first day when she came in, I made her a cup of tea and she was quite shocked that I asked her did she want a cup of tea and I made it right. And she just said, "Oh, is that okay? And I'm not gonna get into trouble". And I'm like, "Why would you get into trouble?" I need a cup of tea each day to keep going quite a few times each day. [laughter]

Toby Mildon: Yeah.

Tracy Boylin: Throughout the day. And just because of that, that relationship built where she shared with me all the skills she had, and she'd been prior to the death of her husband, she lost her husband some time ago and she'd got her own business making the game.

Toby Mildon: Right.

Tracy Boylin: Promoting that to see, and when you hear that and you think, how can we capture that to make our organisations better? How can we value? And she really valued that discussion and that I was interested. And I think for me different backgrounds, different people. For me, that's why I'm in HR because it's fascinating and I love hearing that. And I'll never get bored of hearing about people and what they do. And if you can capture that and utilise that, that's when you really, for me, your DNA of the organisation will relate to the DNA of the people you've got. And for me, when I see that, and it starts to happen, the organisations are the ones that become the high performing organisations.

Toby Mildon: Yeah, yeah. And I would suggest that within that we need to be developing more inclusive leaders like yourself. So where leaders are more curious, where they're more open-minded, where they've got that kind of learning orientation or that growth mindset. These are really key traits, aren't they, of being an inclusive leader.

Tracy Boylin: Absolutely, yeah. And developing that 'cause we have a coaching side to what we do as well. So we work with leaders where we can take all that best practice and share it so they can get ideas as well about how they can develop that. And the difference it makes to where they then build trust with their people, that means a lot. That starts to create that trust from people.

Toby Mildon: So if the person listening to us right now wants to have a chat with you about culture, developing that trust, enabling people in their business to speak up, they might also be interested in looking at your software to see if that's a good fit for their business. How can they do that? 

Tracy Boylin: So through LinkedIn, I'm quite active on LinkedIn, so by all means reach out and I'd love to connect and hear more about what they do as well.

Toby Mildon: Brilliant.

Tracy Boylin: Like yourself and I show up, there might be some synergy between, and again, we're always interested in partnering up because through the work that we do, definitely we get clients who say, do you know anybody who could also then do and work with us on this? 'cause we can't do it all. So where you've got that equality and diversity background, certainly I'd be thinking about you to refer them onto clients. So for me building those connections is really important and LinkedIn is a perfect way to do that. And then we've got our organisational genetics website where we've got that inquiry line and people can log onto the website and drop us an email through that way as well.

Toby Mildon: Brilliant. Well, Tracy, thanks ever so much for joining me today. It's been really great to catch up with you. Good luck with growing your business and good luck with continuing to develop the software and hopefully more people will start to use it.

Tracy Boylin: Thanks, Toby. It's been a pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Toby Mildon: You're welcome. And thank you for tuning into this episode of the Inclusive Growth Podcast with myself and Tracy. Hopefully you took some interesting insights away in terms of developing trust and psychological safety within your organisation and the really the damaging effects of having toxicity in your culture. But also having some, I suppose, some faithful trust that there are people out there that can help you and Tracy and her team can help you, whether that's through Tracy's coaching and advisory services, or through the software that she's developed to enable your team to speak up and give you those crucial insights into what people are really thinking and feeling in your organisation. So thank you for tuning in and I look forward to seeing you on the next episode of the podcast, which will be coming up very soon. Until then, take good care of yourself.

Speaker 1: 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,