Our inaugural workshop in Auckland on 5 July was a vibrant event, with the room filled to the brim with ideas, stories and conversation. It further proved that while there’s still much to be done in our industries, there’s a groundswell of doers ready to drive change. While our workshop was only open to Founding Partners and Change Makers, we still want to enable organisations outside of those groups to develop inclusive policies and programmes of their own. We’ve put together the below information based on the conversations that took place during the workshop, and we hope that the insights uncovered here help any person or organisation grappling with how to approach the journey to a more diverse, inclusive culture get started.
We have upcoming workshops planned for Wellington (6 September) and Christchurch (date TBD) that will be open to members of the engineering and architecture professions, regardless of their affiliation with the Diversity Agenda as a Founding Partner or Change Maker. More details to come.
If you’d like to download these findings, you can do so here.
What attendees said about inclusion
Many of the workshop attendees have started the internal dialogue about inclusion to understand their people and what they need, and have enabled employees to create supportive networks and share ideas through tools like Yammer. Some of them also realise that while finding ways to make employees feel genuinely included is important, it’s even more impactful when you find ways to include yourself and your company in their culture.
Groups that represent the diverse workforce can help those who may currently feel out of place get a sense of belonging. Ensuring that they’re given time within their working week to dedicate to the group can ensure that it’s seen as a priority amongst everyone in the organisation.
Things like advisory boards comprised of people from a range of departments and levels can help contribute to a more inclusive culture. In addition, having directives and initiatives being led from the top down, and not just from HR, can inspire more employees to see the importance of getting involved.
Many organisations are facing the same challenges when it comes to developing an inclusive culture. The main ones are:
- Lip service vs. authenticity
- The size of the company and access to relevant resource
- Managing expectations of what inclusion means across the organisation
Bottom line: Survey your employees to understand who they are and what they need. Then, support and champion change with them.
What attendees said about flexible working
Many of the attending organisations have already developed toolkits for managers focused on flexible working, which is a great start. If you haven’t yet, consider creating something that demonstrates your commitment and helps managers accommodate requests in a consistent way. Include principles, guidelines and procedures for establishing flexible working arrangements.
Some of the organisations have leadership teams who take advantage of flexible working and are transparent about it with the rest of the company. It’s great when leadership can be seen as role models for policies.
Things like job sharing and remote access are the low-hanging fruits that many companies have begun implementing. If you haven’t yet, it’s a great place to start. Something also up for consideration is having flexible working hours not only for parents, but for people with other commitments such as study, sports or music. Establishing core hours is one way some organisations find a balance. Employees are able to work wherever and however suits them best, except for a window of a few hours where everyone can be physically present in the office to get important face-to-face meetings done.
In addition to flexible working hours, equally important is supporting parents as they transition back to work. This is a topic we’ll be exploring in-depth at our upcoming workshop in Wellington on 6 September. If your organisation has had experience shaping a post-maternity transition programme and you’d like to share your insights, please get in touch.
There are a lot challenges facing organisations when it comes to designing a flexible work environment. Some of the common issues Founding Partner and Change Maker organisations experience are:
- IT issues and technical programmes that are difficult to use remotely
- Changing the common perception that people who are working flexible hours are doing less work.
- Ensuring those who are working part-time are truly part-time, and that those who work four days a week aren’t simply squeezing a five-day week into four days
- Managing the expectations of clients and external stakeholders
- The types of roles and number of people who can work flexibly
Bottom line: Have an open discussion with your employees on what flexibility they need and what would enable that. Ensure open communication and find the sweet spot between the Individual needs, team need’s and company needs, and use your guidelines to find solutions to make it work.
What you plan to do
At the end of the workshop, we asked attendees to write down three things they plan to look into and implement. The notes were full of powerful ideas and actions that they’re planning to take. Here are some of the trends we saw in the responses:
- Get a better understanding of the diversity within your organisation and how employees view current initiatives
- Raise awareness of unconscious bias and look into programmes and training to combat it
- Ask your staff – about flexibility, diversity, inclusion and what it all means to them. Create an open, transparent dialogue.
- Incorporate the use of Te Reo across your organisation and look into training programmes for it
- Provide toolkits and training specifically for managers
To further support our Founding Partners and Change Makers, we’re going to provide those organisations with a suite of tools to have at their fingertips, including tailored and resources, policy templates and an overarching 12-month plan with milestones to be sure that they’re achieving what they need to.
If you’d like to get involved and become a Founding Partner or Change Maker, feel free to reach out to [email protected] to learn more.
What we’re going to do.
1. Develop a working group
We’re identifying a small working group of engineering and architecture firms who we’ll use as a sounding board and to help develop ideas and resources for you. This diverse group will bring their unique perspective to the challenges we’re all facing and will ensure that the tactics we share with you are primed and ready to implement.
2. Provide data and outcomes
Many of you have asked for transparent data on where your industries stand. We’re continuing to collect responses to our Founding Partner and Change Maker survey, and will share the results with you in the coming weeks. We also plan to provide you with a sample survey that you can use to understand and benchmark your workforce and gather information on how your employees view diversity and inclusion.
3. Building a case for change
We know that you have stakeholders and managers you may need to influence, which is why we’ll provide you with information and statistics to back up the benefits of diversity and provide evidence of the need for diversity and inclusion.
4. Expert contacts
Many of you have expressed interest in a cross-industry directory with contact information on people who are subject matter experts. We’ll work to create an intuitive list of Founding Partners and Change Makers who are willing to consult on a variety of topics. In the meantime, check out Architecture+Women NZ’s database of female architects around the country.
5. Tailored resources
We realise that large and small organisations have a different set of needs when it comes to resources. We’ll aim to tailor the resources we provide to suit both ends of the spectrum, especially when it comes to the toolkit.
6. Policy templates
Crafting a comprehensive policy is much easier with a well-designed template. We’ll give you the tools you need to be able put your thoughts into action.
7. Unconscious bias training
A huge number of attendees at our Auckland workshop noted that they planned to roll out unconscious bias training to employees. We’d like to help with that, so we’re looking to partner with an organisation like Diversity Works NZ to provide tailored workshops and training courses exclusively for Founding Partners and Change Makers.
8. Harassment survey
There’s no doubt that harassment has been a big topic across virtually every industry lately. There’s clear interest in getting an understanding of where our industry’s stand in terms of providing safe work environments. We plan to create a survey that will offer a look into the experiences men and women have within our industries.