Diversity Includes Everyone: A Bespoke Approach

In this episode, I talk to one of my clients, Andrew Myers, a leadership and culture consultant who works with the Medical Protection Society. We explored the impact of taking a train the trainer approach to rolling out my Diversity Includes Everyone training.

We’ve been doing a few of these podcast interviews where I’m catching up with clients of mine and for this conversation, I was joined by Andrew Myers. Andrew is a leadership and culture consultant working inside the Medical Protection Society. I have been working with Andrew and his team for a few months, rolling out my Diversity Includes Everyone training. We’ve taken a different approach to this. Usually, I would go in with my team to deliver this training, but having met with Andrew and his team, he really wanted to build up that internal capability and capacity within the MPS. So we took a train the trainer approach where I went in and I coached his team on how to deliver the training for themselves so that they could build up that internal capacity. I caught up with Andrew to find out how that’s been going and what results they’ve got. 

Before we got into the thick of the conversation I asked Andrew to tell me a bit more about himself and his background, as well as what the Medical Protection Society is all about. 

‘I’ve probably worked in development now for twenty years or more. I’ve been at the Medical Protection Society for just over seven years. Previous to that I worked for law firms and finance companies as well. At MPS we are what’s known as a Medical Protection Organisation. In fact, we’re the world’s leading member-owned, not-for-profit and we are there for doctors, dentists, and healthcare professionals. The purpose of us existing is to protect the careers, reputation and financial security of our members. We’ve got three hundred thousand members around the world. We are there to make sure that things run as smoothly for them as much as possible and if they do encounter difficulties with their practice, they can contact us and we can support them through it.’

As I said in the introduction, I’ve been doing the Diversity Includes Everyone training for Andrew’s team. The training is designed to help people understand that everybody has a stake in creating a more inclusive work environment and that diversity is not about those groups of people over there at arm’s length but everyone has a responsibility. We have a conversation about what we actually mean by diversity and the need to be representative of the communities that we serve or that we work in, and how we have to shift that to be more inclusive. We do an interactive survey, which is always quite eye-opening for participants to understand what their experience is like within the workplace compared to their colleagues.

People often find out that their colleagues are feeling very differently to them since everyone is looking through the lens of their own experience. We then do a deep dive into three key areas that create a more inclusive work environment. We look at unconscious bias, privilege and microaggressions. We wrap up the training by having a conversation about how diversity and inclusion helps an organisation to grow, what the strategic alignment is with your organisation and how it can help bring the organisational values to life. 

Some organisations will have an explicit value around diversity and inclusion and some organisations will have some implied values about diversity and inclusion. That’s what the training is in a nutshell. I asked Andrew, what first attracted him to this training for his and the Medical Protection Society colleagues.

‘There were a number of reasons. We had already started work in various areas on this. We’ve got a Diversity Equality Inclusion forum, which we set up in 2020. It’s a colleague-led forum and that was to get them to contribute their own experiences, learning, share ideas, research and best practice. We’ve also got seven colleague-led inclusive networks that have sprung up. What we wanted to do is help build on that awareness and that understanding and build on the good work that had already been done. 

There were a couple of areas we had identified that needed addressing, which linked into some of the topics in the training. One of them was how we could better support our managers for one, many of them have good awareness and are eager to think about what they can do to be inclusive in the ways they work.

Others recognised the importance of inclusion but were less aware of what difference or impact they could make. Perhaps they were worried as well about openly discussing certain subjects and saying the wrong thing. So, we wanted to help give them a bit of a common vocabulary and understanding and confidence to be able to do some of that. There were other challenges. As leaders and HR we’ve got responsibility to set the tone and direction and strategy for inclusion and as the training says, is the responsibility of everybody in the workplace. And most of that hiring, reward, promotion and decisions around that are made by the managers and the leaders in the business and not by HR or exec. Managers have a big impact and that’s why we rolled it out first to them. But the relationships and the day-to-day working and that inclusion is the responsibility of everybody and that’s why we extended that to roll it out to all colleagues.’

I asked Andrew how many people work for the MPS, and which countries they are based in. 

‘We have about a thousand employees. The majority are UK based, but we do also have employees in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, Hong Kong and Ireland. So, different people in different countries. Again, that was an important factor to us in terms of what we delivered here and we wanted to have that experience for everybody.’

Part of the work Andrew and I have done together was to modify the training content to make sure that it was suitable in all of those markets. For example, the off-the-shelf training that I do talks about the Equality Act within the UK so we had to make sure to reference equality legislation in the other countries MPS operate in. 

As I said in the introduction, Andrew was particularly interested in taking a train the trainer approach. It was quite interesting since usually we just rock up and roll out this training. But through consultation with Andrew, he and his team asked us, “Why can’t we do it as a train the trainer?” I hadn’t even thought about that approach before. So, it’s thanks to Andrew and his team for showing us an alternative way of doing this. I asked him, ‘Why was that approach important for you?’

‘We’ve got about 1000 people but we’re not a big corporate. Because of what we do, and what we’re involved in terms of that sort of protection for doctors, dentists, etc. that care is reflected in our colleagues and in our culture. It’s a very caring, supportive and personal culture. What was important for us, was having that personal approach. We felt that you fitted with us and that you had a very personal approach. Your ethos fitted in with ours, it reflected our values, you understood us and we felt that colleagues would get it. 

I guess how we deliver that out to people is part of that really, it’s an approach that we’ve taken with other training incentives that we’ve done. We have a lot of passionate people out there. And they’ve got a voice. They know what they want to say and are happy to get involved. We’ve seen that already through the networks and the forums that we have. They were quite happy to stand up and say, “I’d like to get involved in this.” 

I think by running it as train the trainer, it builds that capability, I’m always aware that when we work with external partners, we do that for a reason as we did with yourself. It’s to bring in that expertise. We always look at it and ask, “Do we have the capacity to do it? Do we have the knowledge to do it? Where do we need to bring in that expertise?” We knew that we needed to do that here. But we wanted to also build that capacity internally.

I think firstly, because when we have colleagues going out and giving that message, it is a very strong message. They’re talking to their people about this. They’re not HR, and it’s always better I think that people feel this is coming from our own rather than this an HR message. That’s why we wanted it to build that capability now. It also gives longevity so we could continue to roll that out with people that relate very well to all our colleagues. 

We’ve used that sort of approach previously with resilience training. We’ve also got a great programme on menopause, which is run by a number of people. Again, I’m involved in that, but it’s run by people internally that have passion and experience.’

I like this approach Andrew describes. A lot of organisations I talk to ask, “How can we make this sustainable?” And I think MPS have accomplished that by upskilling their people and building that internal capacity. The other thing I liked that Andrew was saying was around upskilling people across the business, because diversity and inclusion is often seen as a HR matter. But actually it should be the responsibility of everybody in the organisation, a bit like health and safety. It’s great that MPS build those skills and capacity across the business rather than messages just coming out of the HR team.

‘It’s a very sort of educated sector we work in, and it’s built on the expertise of specialists. We have a lot of doctors, dentists, and lawyers but there are lots of different people here, and what they want are the facts. Whilst we are not the experts in this, we’ve also made it quite clear that we’re passionate advocates and we’re allies. We wanted people to be reassured that this has come from your expertise and experience and it’s not just something that L&D have made up. Not that I ever do that you understand, but you know what I mean? The expertise comes from a legitimate source and I think that’s taken their interest.’

I asked Andrew if he could explain the process we went through to build up this program in MPS. 

‘For the train the trainer approach, we went out to the different networks that I’ve mentioned. They were the first place that we went out to say, “Look, this is what we’re doing. This is what we’re trying to achieve, and we’d like people to be involved and partner us in delivering this out to the organisation.” We asked people to put themselves forward to do that from those different networks. There were criteria in that we wanted people that felt confident with being able to do that as much as anything and that they had facilitation skills. The key thing we were trying to say to people though was they didn’t have to be an expert in this.

The message was that “You’ll get some training and Toby’s supporting us through this, but we want you to be confident you can go into a virtual room of people and facilitate this. We got a lot of responses from that and we narrowed that down. We got fifteen people. We took five people from our HR people and culture as we call it. And then the other ten were from out the business and we partnered up together and did sessions with yourself. You delivered two of these sessions, so they all got to see that and to shadow that. Then we had some follow-up sessions where they got an opportunity to ask you questions, Toby about anything that was worrying them. I think at that stage everybody was a little bit anxious because it was all very new. That gave us a chance to bounce off you and get your thoughts on it. 

Then we shared the materials with them and then we shadowed your sessions which were rehearsals and they all got a chance at doing different pieces of the session. This gave everyone a chance to practice that and they got feedback from you which was immensely helpful, even for me. Now, how arrogant is that of me? But I consider myself a seasoned professional at this and I still learned a lot from listening to you and I enjoyed that process. I think everybody did. All the facilitators that did that really got a lot out of it.

We got people to go off and practice it. We partnered them up so there were two people delivering every session and it wasn’t too strenuous for them. They felt they had some support and weren’t totally on their own. What we did is sort of said, “Look, if you want us as two people to get together and have a rehearsal or run through and decide which bits you feel most comfortable with and decide who’s going to do what.” 

Then we got them to go out there and do it, which I think for most of those that don’t usually deliver training was probably a little bit scary and they probably felt nervous about it, perhaps more so because they are experts in what they do and they may have thought “I am not an expert in this and how well will it go down?”

It’s been good and it’s gone down well. I think this is one of the other things that was useful for us because we felt from your approach it was the kind of support we wanted. When we looked to other providers, we didn’t kind of want to do that model of, “Here’s the training. Here are the materials. Hope you get on well with it.” It was important that we had that personal touch, and that’s what we felt from you. 

For example, you set up a WhatsApp group with the facilitators, so if they had questions or concerns they could contact you. We’ve also got some sessions set up with you coming up very shortly in actual fact, where people get a chance, having delivered the sessions, to come back and say, “Well, this is what I’ve found,” or, “This is what I’m struggling with,” or anything else where they can bounce off questions off you.’

I enjoyed working with the team through the process. I think what worked well was that we had fifteen facilitators, but they were put into groups of three. So, each group had a people and culture lead who was kind of like the rep, and then they could then work in their trios and support one another in a learning triangle, which I quite liked. Then as we were doing the rehearsals together, we were creating a live document on the fly, which is where we were collecting all the reflections, the learnings, the best practice and the guidance. 

That document is now circulating. It addresses a lot of the things that I had spotted in the rehearsals in terms of how the content was delivered and the way that the sessions would be facilitated, all of that kind of thing. 

I asked Andrew what his advice and learning would be to someone reading who thinks, “Well, actually this is a pretty good approach for another one of my learning and development programs.” 

‘A couple of things. One thing is that I always feel it means more when it comes from their voice. We ran resilience workshops, we had leaders and managers going out and people who weren’t leaders, managers going out talking about resilience and it just lands better from that. So that’s one of the things I take from this. Also, don’t underestimate building that capability internally by bringing those skills in, you’re also growing those skills within the organisation. So don’t underestimate either how good people are when they do this or how much more it means coming from them. 

I think that’s another thing that’s important, that they’re really enjoying what they’re doing. With a train the trainer approach, they’ve enjoyed being involved and got something out of it as well as learned something. So, it builds their own development.’

What Andrew says about his team learning a lot from me is interesting because I learned a lot from him and his team too. Usually, it’s me just rolling out this training, but in mentoring and coaching the MPS team, they were showing me different ways of doing things. For example, they had a different perspective on implicit bias and came up with different case studies and examples that could be shared in the training. It was actually a two-way learning process. 

Andrew replied, ‘It did feel very organic. With the slides, we’d usually put quite a tight control over people all using the same materials for everything. But If let that move a little bit because I just found that different people used different bits and it helped them express it in the best way. I’d even say that there are two or three different versions of the slides going out there. But the important thing is that the end message that we’ve got across is key and I think that comes out of people’s different perspectives.

Another useful thing was creating the shared document as we went along. It did become a little bit of a bible for referring to and creating the group learning from it. Once people had gone out there and done it a few times they started to have more ideas so we played with it a little bit. We said, “Oh, let’s put a breakout here and then next time, no, let’s try a breakout on this one and just see what worked.” Again, I don’t think everybody does this, but I added another little video of one of the bits that we found and that we just thought, “Yeah, that works so we’ve kept that bit in.” It has been a very organic learning thing for us as well.’

I asked Andrew what results or impact are they beginning to see now from rolling out the training across the whole organisation.

‘Firstly and foremostly, the take-up has been good. That’s always encouraging because people will soon talk to each other and say, “Oh well, I won’t bother with that,” or “Oh that’s good.” Both the managers and colleagues sessions filled up fast. We did mandate it for the one hundred and sixty managers because it was important that they all attend. But it’s optional for colleagues and as fast as we put sessions up they were getting booked up. 

The feedback coming from them is positive. Both in the sessions, after the sessions and in the evaluations. The majority of people have said that they’ve found it insightful and they’ve found it useful. On some things they’ve said, “I’ve never thought about this before. This is interesting.” But not everyone and that’s fine. We have to listen to everyone’s feedback and we have to be honest with ourselves and where it takes us.

I’m encouraged by the good feedback scores. More importantly, we’re also seeing more hits on our academy where we have our materials of people looking for resources on diversity and inclusion. It’s one of the things we signpost to after the training and we can see that happening. I’ve also had people email me as have others in the team with positive stories and feedback as to things they’ve done afterwards and what’s happened for them.

There’s been a lot of anecdotal feedback in terms of individuals and teams saying, where they’ve taken this on board and what they’ve done. One example is some time ago we started what we call inclusion moments, meetings where if you’re having a team meeting for instance and we’ve spent 15 minutes at least of that, having an inclusion moment. It’ll be a subject to do with some sort of D&I thing and we have a pack that people can use. But quite often in our team particularly we find we’re feeding in things that have come up in the news. I think the last one we talked about was pronouns and pronouns on badges.

The idea is to socialise some of these topics to get people talking. In the manager sessions, we were really encouraging when a manager said, “Oh, I struggle with that, or my team struggle with that, or I’m not sure what to do with that.” Then we encourage people to do it and that seems to be happening more, which is good. 

The other thing that we’re doing now with colleagues is we’re saying, “Oh look, are you having these inclusion moments?” And some people said, “Yes, it’s really useful,” and others have said, “No.” So, we’ve said, “Okay, go back and tell your manager can we do this.” We offer to set off the conversation, by bringing in a subject. We are seeing these topics being socialised more and that awareness is growing, which is great.’

To follow the work that Andrew does check out both the Medical Protection Society and Andrew Myers’ page on LinkedIn.

Hopefully, you’ve taken away some fresh learning for yourself and maybe the train the trainer is an approach that you want to take for your own diversity and inclusion training. It’s clearly a great way of being able to build up that internal skillset and capacity, as Andrew was talking about which makes it a sustainable way of delivering training to your people whilst improving the leadership abilities and the culture of your organisation. 

If you’d like to discuss this or if there is any other way that the Mildon team can help you, then please do reach out and have a chat with us. Contact us through our website, which is www.mildon.co.uk or find us on LinkedIn.

Diversity Includes Everyone: A Bespoke Approach - Mildon