Creating a sustainable diversity and inclusion culture

Hilda Koon, Assistant Principal at Manchester College, participated in the ETF’s Diversity in Leadership programme in 2018/19. The programme includes a coaching element. She was selected as a ‘game changer’ and invited to develop her own equality, diversity and inclusion focused project. Here, Hilda explains more about the project and reflects on how her participation in the programme has supported it.

The aim of the project is to establish a long term and sustainable diversity and inclusion culture in the department which will, in turn, influence the college through daily communications and transactions. There are three strands to it:

  1. A curriculum review that aims to ensure that the intent, content, delivery model, assessment methods and success measures promote diversity and inclusion. This strand is led by the Head of Quality in the department involving all teachers and is fully integrated in the college quality framework, process, and schedule.
  2. Work around culture and language that aims to develop a common language/vocabulary for managers, teachers and learners to consistently and confidently articulate diversity and inclusion matters in day-to-day communication, reporting and presentations. Language is the key to the embedding and influence of a culture.
  3. Coaching development that aims to support frontline managers to become more aware of internal and external resources to effectively utilise all diversity and inclusion opportunities. Coaching will challenge and educate these managers in terms of their mindsets and people management skills. A coaching culture is the most sustainable way to influence and effect any changes for diversity and inclusion.

Personal impact of coaching

The coaching has led me to become more self-aware and other-aware in terms of diversity and inclusion opportunities. It has helped me to identify both internal and external resources, and therefore able to explore more options. I am much more optimistic for the future and more ready to ‘play’ the long game.

The focus has shifted from what I can do to change the situation or condition, to who else can be part of this journey and how I can invest in others in the long run. I have shared my learning with my direct reports and have secured two coaching places for a couple of frontline managers for the following ETF Diversity in Leadership cohort.

I noticed that I am less directive and more able to invite contributions and ideas from others. I am delegating more and giving my managers more scope to complete actions in their own way, enabling them to achieve more.

Wider impacts

The impact on the college isn’t quantifiable yet. However, with a refreshed and much more diversity and inclusion focused curriculum in my department, I am confident it will influence curriculum design in the long run when we take on opportunities to share our progress and success. With a more ‘trained’ teaching team and management team, the diversity and inclusion agenda will become much more embedded in the daily operation of the department and our communication with others.

One of the results of this period of coaching is that I have now secured five places for the director and four heads of department to complete a mini-Master on Leadership of Learning. They will form a study group to share their learning and apply it in their work. I will join this group to listen, prompt and support.

The project has provided a clear focus for the many day-to-day reporting and quality matters in the department. Amongst the managers, I have noticed a slight shift in their focus: achievement rates are no longer the only measures they are concerned about; now, learners’ progression and the barriers they face are being discussed more frequently. We are formulating success measures for these diversity and inclusion linked items. These will be shared with our teachers at the start of the next academic year, and they will become standing items in team meetings.

We hope to measure effectiveness instead of efficiency, across the three strands of the project:

  1. For the curriculum review we will look at any increase in progression rates for learners and their feedback on their understanding of the intent of the curriculum.
  2. With our work on culture and language we will be assessing the adoption of diversity and inclusion language in team meetings and appraisals, and whether learners and teachers are confident articulating the purpose of their teaching and learning, as well as instigating some learner-led mini-projects that will allow them to demonstrate their ideas for next steps.
  3. And for curriculum development we’ll be looking for an increase in the number of diversity and inclusion projects led by front line managers as a result of focused coaching, and at a CPD series for frontline managers to share knowledge and formulate common ‘coaching’ type questions for day-to-day people management scenarios.

The success of any project can be affected by changes in the sector, the management structure of an organisation and financial constraints, but integrating this work across these three strands means that there will be multiple influencers at all levels, which makes its approach sustainable.

The value of coaching

Coaching was the most impactful element of the programme for me. The workshops were a great introduction to what is possible when diversity and inclusion become the culture of an organisation. Coaching really helps to challenge participants to put theory into practice. With the support of my coach, I have re-evaluated my perspectives on obstacles and opportunities, re-discovered internal resources, and explored and connected with external ones. It’s also helped me clarify the scope of the follow-up project and taught me new skills that I can use to ‘coach’ my team.

In fact, I’m so convinced of the value of coaching that I’ve started on a ILM Level 7 Coaching and Mentoring programme, put two of the frontline managers in the department through the ETF Diversity in Leadership programme, and have brought it in as part of professional development for all the managers in the department for 2021/22.

I now look forward to taking the next steps; taking the opportunity to network with other participants of the Diversity in Leadership programmes and establishing individual coaching for my staff.