Weeknote w/c 9 September: thinking (and acting) inclusive

On Sunday 13 October I’m running the Royal Parks Half Marathon with a group of people from the school trust that I’m part of. We’re raising money for Lambeth & Southwark Mind, who work to promote positive mental health. All donations very gratefully received! https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=CommunitasTrustRunners&isTeam=true

Making sure that Hackney is an inclusive place to work

Across the Council we are running a series of conversations to look at how we can make sure that we are taking the right steps to promote an inclusive workplace and help all of our people to succeed in their career ambitions. Being inclusive is one of our core values, but it’s important that this isn’t just a word on a badge.

A particular area of focus is improving representation of black and other minority ethnic people in senior roles, and in HackIT we are also determined to play a positive role in increasing the representation of women in technology jobs.

This week I had the first of my discussion groups to meet with people from across our team to look at this. The conversations were very valuable and we covered a wide range of themes. A few of the initial observations I had were:

  • It’s encouraging to know that some of the actions we have already taken are heading in the right direction: these include ensuring that we avoid gender coded language when we recruit, our apprenticeship scheme, a pay scheme that is linked to the market and also fair and equally applied to all posts, a positive stance on flexible working, and encouraging our team to showcase their work on the HackIT blog and other fora as part of building their personal brands.
  • There is more we need to do: for example, looking at ways we can encourage mentoring opportunities to support people in their career development, being generous with sharing our professional networks to help people get connected with peers and professional groups, and the day-to-day micro-actions which can make sure that our workplace is always welcoming, even when people are busy or feeling under pressure.
  • The discussions also highlighted some trickier aspects which will require more thought and sustained focus over the longer term. These included:
    • along with the rest of the Council we have work to do to improve the representation of black and minority ethnic people in our senior roles 
    • while women account for c 50% of the people in our delivery and digital & data teams (including close to half of the senior leadership roles) there is still a noticeable gap in platform – while I think this reflects the industry as a whole (for example, there are a disproportionately low level of women in IT engineering roles), we need to make sure that we are continuing to do the long term work needed to change this
    • and we discussed the role that effective communication has in making sure that people in our team feel included (especially where they are working flexibly or where their work has fewer connections to other teams) – we need to keep looking at how we can strike the right balance as some people commented that they find it hard to keep up with the information that we share about our work but others were concerned that they don’t always feel up to date with what colleagues are doing and how decisions are being made

There are further sessions planned over the next couple of weeks and I’m intending to write up some thoughts and actions more fully after those have completed.

Working with colleagues in other councils to develop our profession

The timing for the start of these workshops fitted nicely with the conversation I had on Friday with colleagues at some other London councils looking at how we are developing our services. It’s good to share our work on this and hear how others are approaching the same challenge of building in-house digital, technology and data capabilities in an increasingly competitive market. The conversation included:

  • Looking at how we create job descriptions that fit with councils’ standards but are also relevant to people looking for job opportunities (the short answer – that’s hard)
  • Sharing our approaches to making sure that our salary models are competitive
  • Increasing diversity in our teams – picking up on some of the points I’ve noted above
  • How we work to shift the relationship of our services and other colleagues from the traditional ‘service provider’ model to strategic partnership
  • Ways to make sure that we are ‘selling’ the opportunities that our work offers in terms of delivering real outcomes for citizens (which is an important reason why I and many others choose to work in digital and technology in local government)

I also…

  • Had some great welcome meetings with new members of our team (although the summer break means that some of those are more catch up than introduction meetings)
  • Chaired the Council’s apprenticeships steering group – which was nicely timed as the team went on to win another award to add to their trophy cabinet later in the week (https://twitter.com/hackneycouncil/status/1172513263726268422)
  • Met with the Council’s Business Continuity Management group, where we checked on the progress with making sure that all services have up to date business continuity plans and discussed where additional focus might be needed to prepare for the possible outcomes of the negotiations for Britain to leave the EU.
  • Joined Matthew for a productive conversation with one of our suppliers, where we talked through some recent challenges and ways that we can work effectively together on forthcoming projects.

Something I’ve learned

I really enjoyed the discussions at the inclusivity workshops this week, but they were both on the same day and after a full day of active listening I was fairly tired. That’s something I’ll give thought to as part of my future diary planning.