Talking Equality: Ideas and Initiatives to Transform Public Sector L&D

In our webinar, Emerald Works’ Chief Impact Officer Nahdia Khan chaired a discussion on imbuing public sector L&D with the values of inclusion, equality, and accessibility.

Written by Mind Tools for Business
Published 03 September 2021
Talking Equality: Ideas and Initiatives to Transform Public Sector L&D

The past 18 months have brought budget cuts, remote work challenges, and the need to totally reimagine operational strategies. Employees have been left uncertain about the future of their organizations and their own careers. As such, the work of L&D leaders has never been more important.

Our peer-to-peer ideas exchange workshop saw Nahdia joined by L&D professionals Kate Davis, Learning and Development Consultant at Horsham District Council, and Paul Ferguson, former Academy Advisor at Skills Development Scotland (SAS). In a lively conversation punctuated by questions from the audience, the three delved into how we can all work to create a culture in which everyone feels a sense of belonging, even though the world of work has changed. They also explored how to support, encourage, and empower people to bring their best selves to work, despite a rapidly evolving business landscape.

Embracing equality and inclusion as drivers of people’s development

The public sector has a duty to embed the value of equality in its employees. Only then can it forge a path towards a culture of genuine acceptance and inclusion of everyone in society.

According to Kate Davis, public sector L&D professionals must play their part in promoting equality in people management by communicating its value to both key stakeholders and the workforce at large. Furthermore, she asserts that “inclusion is the key lens through which we build the culture we want to work in.” In practical terms, this means involving everyone in the organization in discussions about fostering acceptance of diversity of thought to strengthen departments and infrastructures.

Kate continued:

Showing people the value of different opinions in an organization is key to developing line manager capability. It gives employees coaching skills and enables them to thrive more easily, because it contributes to a culture of self-awareness surrounding inclusive leadership.

According to Paul, SAS have been endeavoring to nurture a culture of what they’ve termed everyday leadership, the premise of which is that if someone has clarity and competence in their role then they’re likelier to demonstrate ownership and accountability in their job. This is—almost by definition—empowering. And at the foundation of SAS’s culture of everyday leadership are their values of respect and self-motivation. A key enabler of this culture is SAS’s approach to performance management: the organization encourages people to think hard about both their learning and their contributions to the company over the past month—and what those two KPIs will look like in the month to come. “Only then can we truly drive a culture in which everyone has the tools they need to perform to their full potential,” says Paul.

The importance of accessible content in achieving an inclusive workplace

Learning materials must be accessible to all. Take faculties such as subtitles and screen readers. These might be imperceptible to most, but the difference they make to learners who actually rely on them is immeasurably positive. “With screen readers, you want a real voice where possible,” explains Paul. “It’s more relatable, personable. Screen readers otherwise can sound a little robotic—so a human voice makes learners feel more included. SAS embeds this in its learning ecosystem for different audiences wherever possible.”

It’s also paramount to equip managers in such a way that they’re able to bring out the best in their people, says Kate:

If you enable employees to perform well and develop, they feel truly valued, and like they’re part of something they’re making a tangible contribution to. This in turn lends itself to forging a more positive and inspiring workplace for all.

In Kate’s opinion, a blend of self-directed learning and more formal training complete with qualifications is the optimal approach to achieving a workplace such as this. This amalgamation of two quite contrasting paradigms accounts for people’s differences, and empowers them with ownership over their learning. Additionally, she says:

The public sector must do more to recognize and account for time constraints. People are stretched—but it’s nonetheless important to grant them the space to engage in learning, both for their own development and for the good of the organization.

It’s time to embed equality in organizational culture

Organizations even only at the beginning of their learning maturity journeys know they won’t get everything right the first time round—and that’s fine. As long as they learn from their mistakes, they’re set to be on the right track soon enough.

For over a quarter-century, Mind Tools has been adapting to help people step up to meet the everyday challenges posed in their workplaces. Now, Mind Tools for Business by Emerald Works is bringing accessible, on-demand performance tools and resources to empower employees to realise their talents at work—and build happy, successful careers while contributing to a positive zeitgeist throughout their industries and the world over. Check out the full webinar today for rich insights from our two expert guests.

Watch the webinar

About the author

Mind Tools for Business

Mind Tools for Business

Mind Tools for Business brings accessible, on-demand performance tools and resources focused on leadership, management and personal effectiveness that empower colleagues to perform in today’s progressive workplaces. Helping them build happy and successful careers and to contribute positively to the success of organizations, the world over. At Mind Tools for Business, empowering people to thrive at work has been our passion for 25 years.

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