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Social inspiration: a PACT approach

This is a guest post by Mehvish Shaffi-Ajibola, Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Socially Inspired, an organisation offering a unique approach to supporting organisational change by focusing on human relatedness professional services.

Within the workplace, we have been grappling with the issue of racism and race inequality. While it is important to understand the root causes of these issues within the workplace, it is equally essential for individuals to reflect on their own dialogue and behaviours. In doing so, we as employees/workers within society can identify our own biases and prejudices that may contribute to inequalities and work towards correcting them.

About me

I self-identify my ethnicity as Pakistani and although British my identity is deep rooted in my South Asian heritage and the African culture I have been immersed in as a result of marriage. However, my identity and life experiences do not preclude me from engaging in uncomfortable conversations and practicing self-reflection on my own biases and prejudices. We all have an equal responsibility to challenge and dismantle systems of oppression and move towards a more equitable workplace. Taking personal responsibility for addressing inequalities is not only important but essential for creating meaningful change.

In today's world, where organisations are under constant scrutiny for their actions, the need to interrogate power, accountability, connection, and trust has become more crucial than ever before. Not only was this part of the reason I took part in the PACT Pioneers programme, it was also my drive in creating Socially Inspired, an organisation focused on developing a healthy, happy, and productive workplace community whilst also addressing inequalities.

Moving beyond 'wicked' problems

As founder of Socially Inspired, and as a HR & OD professional, I wanted to move beyond the wicked problems associated with racism and race inequality and focus on creating real change by addressing institutional and systemic race inequalities. The PACT principles provide a useful lens for thinking about this, focusing, as they do, on the human aspects underpinning organisational change.

For example, at Socially Inspired, we want to help organisations promote longevity and performance at various stages of the employee lifecycle. Thinking about how we can improve assurance and accountability will help us do this. We want to create happier workplaces. Giving senior leaders the capabilities and competencies to create authentic connections amongst work colleagues will help bring this vision to life. And finally, we want to promote workplace equity. Helping organisations understand what trusted working relationships look like will support the development of spaces where all staff feel they belong.

Looking to the future, organisations will face a range of challenges as they try to adapt to our ever-changing society. Supporting environmental sustainability, responding to changing worker demographics, and meeting the challenges posed by technological innovations such as AI are just some of the issues organisations need to think about. The PACT can play a crucial role in driving positive culture change, and so help organisations adapt to this new world. Here are four ways this could happen:

1. The role of public organisations in embracing power, accountability, connection, and trust

Socially Inspired collaborates with various organisations, however the PACT has a significant impact on public organisations. By virtue of their position as a public entity, organisations have a significant responsibility in embracing power, accountability, connection, and trust. They are accountable to the public, and as such, their actions are closely scrutinized. By embracing these four key areas, public organisations can demonstrate their commitment to transparency and accountability, which can drive positive culture change. For example, public organisations can create avenues for feedback and engagement with the public to ensure that they remain accountable and responsive to their needs.

2. The vital role of HR & OD professionals in addressing institutional and systematic racism and inequalities.

HR & OD professionals play a vital role in creating positive culture change within organisations. They have the power to shape workplace policies and practices, and support leaders in creating positive cultures – all of which can address institutional and systematic racism and inequalities. By recognizing HR & OD privilege to create meaningful impact and role modelling, practitioners can influence and drive positive culture change. There have been an increasing number of high-profile cases in which organisations have identified as being institutionally racist. This revelation can aid an organisation towards necessary healing though it may also have to work with organisation’s reputational damage. However, HR & OD professionals can advocate for diversity and inclusion within their organisations by addressing the concerns at the earliest opportunity before they become significantly detrimental by creating avenues for open, safe, and transparent conversations, creating employee feedback to support healing and learning, and by promoting fair hiring practices.

3. The need for socially intelligent and responsible workplaces

The workplace is where we spend a significant portion of our lives, and it is essential that both organisations and individuals are socially intelligent and responsible for behaviours and actions. Social intelligence involves the ability to understand and manage relationships, and it is crucial in creating a fairer and equitable workplace. In focusing on creating socially responsible work environments organisations are equipped to address inequalities when it arises and drive positive culture change and improvements. For example, socially responsible workplaces can offer flexible work arrangements, provide opportunities for career development and growth, and promote work-life balance. In doing so, organisations become an employer of choice, rather than necessity, and can improve retention.

4. Embracing power, accountability, connection, and trust in driving business performance and sustainability

By promoting fair decision-making and addressing inequalities, organisations can create a more engaged and motivated workforce, which can drive productivity and innovation. Additionally, by demonstrating their commitment to transparency and accountability, organisations can build trust with their stakeholders, which can enhance their reputation and sustainability.

Future successful organisations must focus on the PACT if they are to exist and be relevant in tomorrow’s society. HR & OD professional will play a significant role by leading organisational development and design and supporting leaders to be intentional and conscious. My aim is that Socially Inspired, working in collaboration with organisations and leaders, will support ways to embrace power, accountability, connection, and trust to build fair and equitable workplaces by taking a fresh look at how to:

  • foster a culture of transparency and accountability by creating avenues for feedback and engagement with employees, customers, and stakeholders

  • promote diversity and inclusion within the workplace by creating a diverse and inclusive workforce and promoting fair hiring practices

  • create opportunities for employee growth and development by providing training and development opportunities

  • establish and maintain ethical standards by adopting codes of conduct and enforcing them through appropriate mechanisms

  • collaborate with stakeholders to drive positive culture change by creating partnerships and engaging in dialogue

In recognizing leadership and organisation responsibility and privilege, organisations can create fairer and more sustainable workplaces that benefit their employees, customers, stakeholders, and society as a whole.

For more information about Socially Inspired click here.

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