Do You Have a Kindness Policy?

alt Where is diversity on your agenda? At the heart of how you do what you do? Buried in a pile of risk assessments in compliance? On the 'Can't see the ROI' list?

Two big reasons to give this some thought are just around the corner. Firstly, the introduction of sex discrimination legislation and secondly, Jersey is to stage its first ever Pride event. Oh. There is a third reason too. Because, as a business community, we should.

This legislation is creating a lot of work, right? Race discrimination last year, now sex. Both age and disability in the pipeline. I can hear the creaking of HR departments, swelling in jittery anticipation.

Businesses have been scurrying around training colleagues and updating policies. If this is you, then you will have probably managed the risks. But, you may also have missed the opportunities.
alt Ranelagh students

I was a guest at Ranelagh Primary School in London recently. Renowned as a model of social inclusion now, to set the scene, only ten years ago it had bars on its windows and pupils ran a daily gauntlet of pushers and bullies. Unsurprisingly, the school underperformed. Badly.

Roll on ten years and I was enthusiastically greeted by Amelia, aged 11 and Winston, aged 9 who had been trusted with the responsibility of showing me around. Beaming with pride, Winston breathlessly shared everything he loved about his school. Being a tour guide is a big deal when you're nine and Winston was anxious to fit it all in. So our tour sprinted past colourful shrines to a myriad of religions whilst Winston shouted over his shoulder how cool he thought Diwali was. He was proud to introduce me to a number of smaller children who he was helping to learn English too.

Incredibly, 45% of the student intake at Ranelagh have no English at all when they join. But the school has fostered an immersive atmosphere of inclusion, where every student appears to love taking responsibility in playing their part. The school had integrated disability too and Winston spoke wisely and affectionately about his 'disabled' classmates, seemingly unaware that his descriptions were concentrating on the things these children could do ("see that girl there, her name is Sophia and she can write with her foot"); and not the things they couldn't. After sharing lunch with the rest of Winston's class, Amelia returned. She told me about her role on the school council and shared some of her dreams for the future. She was captivating, I have never met such an engaged and interesting 11 year old.

I left Ranelagh School that day feeling for the first time I really understood the social benefits of diversity done with power and compassion. Ranelagh was producing rounded, tolerant and assured young people. Lovers of life.
alt Here in Jersey we have a strong sense of community. This sense of 'togetherness' is never better illustrated than in times of triumph or disaster. Because we are all so 'connected', and not just via LinkedIn, successes are celebrated more widely and tragedy felt more deeply. I am proud to call this home.

But how far does that spirit permeate through our places of work?

Many businesses will have diversity or equality policies. But what do these actually do? Tick a box? Would they be more effective and more difficult to ignore if they were called something else? Kindness Policy? Social Inclusion Policy?

The benefits of a workplace culture that welcomes diversity are numerous and emphatic. Better retention, more innovation, more attractive to new recruits, more creativity and better, more robust decisions. Yet still I know of many policies gather dust.

Whilst I don't pretend to have all the answers and we are certainly not perfect, your co-operative is trying its best. Our purpose is to make a real difference to the communities we serve. We see ability, not disability. But most of all we have a moral identity. And we care.
So, let's all accept that we won't find a financial ROI measure. Human spirit has a different and richer set of rewards.

alt

I applaud the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities for finding the courage to set up the hugely important Pride festival. These are our friends, our family members and our colleagues. They are members of our diverse community. They enrich us. And they have been unseen for far too long.

I will be there, holding the hands of my two children, joining in this important celebration of inclusion. I know Winston would approve.

Hope to see you there.

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