BETH: Welcome everyone to this panel discussion on learning from others. I'm really pleased you have joined us here today, hope you are enjoying the festival so far. I'm Beth Thompson, I lead the research culture work at Wellcome. My pronouns are she/her, I'm a white woman with long dark curly hair and green eyes, wearing glasses and a blue top. I imagine you are here as you care about creating a better research culture. At Wellcome we are creating an inclusive and honest culture for research, making it a better job for people to do within the community and improving research itself. Our Reimagine Research work is focused on creating a shared understanding of what a great culture looks like. Understanding the actions that can take us there.That is what we are here to talk about today. We have a fantastic panel from within research and beyond. I am really looking forward to introducing you to them but before I do, I have some housekeeping. First on accessibility features, you can access the closed captions via the settings function in BlueJeans in the lower right corner screen there. There are live captions that are available. They are shared through a link in the chat for you to get to them.
So, please do make use of those if you need to. Take a look at the chat. We don't have many slides but when there are, you can adjust the size of the slides, the speaker and Michelle, our BSL interpreter's videos, so, hover the cursor over the screen to adjust the sizes from there. Very importantly, how do you take part?
Although this is a panel discussion and we cannot see you all, we want you to join in as much as you can. So we are taking your questions, which I will put to the panel. Please submit them through the Q&A function that you can see in the BlueJeans app. Stick them in there, let me know if there is a particularly panellist to direct your question to, and share your thoughts on social media using the #ReimagineResearch. Finally, please give your full attention. It is tempting online to click on email and multitask but we ask you give your full attention for the hour. Please ignore the other windows, in return we will try to make this as engaging as possible for you. So, before we get going, we are going to take a moment to settle in with a guided meditation from one of our panellist organisations, Heart n Soul. You will hear more about Heart n Soul later but let's kick off with this guided meditation. Cheryl is a Heart n Soul artist, Heart n Soul use her music and meditation when people arrive at a venue. So, with no further ado, let's go to the video.
BETH: So, how did it feel? I know for lots of you that will be an unusual way to open a meeting, just take a moment to share how it felt for you in the chat. I'm going to take a moment to be quiet while you tell us what that was like for you. Nice! Soothing ... lots of comments. Almost fell asleep, in a good way. Fantastic. What a great way to start the meeting. I will now come to each of our speakers. We have one question to get them going, a different question for each of them.
I'm going to come to Cilla first. We will remind the speakers to briefly introduce yourself, tell us your pronouns and briefly describe yourself for the attendees who cannot see the panel. So to kick off, Cilla, can I come to you?
CILLA: Good morning everybody. I'm Cilla Snowball, my pronouns are she/her. I'm a Governor at Wellcome. I'm a white woman with blonde hair. I'm wearing glasses and a yellow top. It is great to be here.
BETH: Thank you, Cilla. So, the opening question we have for you is: What is the dividend we get from creating more diverse businesses within an inclusive culture?
CILLA: It is a massive question, Beth. The diversity dividend is growth in all senses. My background is in business. McKinsey have done deep analysis into the diversity dividend which shows in business that diversity provides greater profit uplift in businesses with diverse leadership over those with no diversity in their senior leadership.
But the dividend goes way beyond the profit. It is all about better culture in organisations, better innovation, better engagement with staff and stakeholders and better retention of the staff base, those issues are obviously vital to performance in any organisation. So, really, I think that diversity and inclusion gives you a better shot at attracting and retaining good people. Engaging a diverse client and partner base, and representing the communities that you serve, so diversity and inclusion literally pays back as a strong business case, there is obviously a moral imperative and performance advantage which is really well worth all of the effort we are putting into it. But the dividend is hard-won. It is not easy. It is not a quick-fix or a switch that can be flicked. It is pain staking. It is a draining, heavy-lifting process that can often take years to get right. So there is a great deal of work to be done to make the workplace culture more inclusive, more diverse and safer.
But the dividend makes that all worthwhile for everybody.
BETH: Thank you, Cilla. There is lots there that I want to come back to explore across all of our speakers. Next, I'm going to go over to Robyn. Robyn, if you can introduce yourself, that will be great. And the question that we have for you is: Can we all be researchers?
ROBYN: Hello. I'm Robyn Steward. My preferred pronouns are she/her. I'm a white woman in my 30s. I have a purple, sparkly hat, glasses, a Yellow Shirt with flowers on it and a jacket, like a suit jacket. And I have a busy background behind me!
The short answer is, yes, we can all be researchers! I want to share with you how and why we do that. Heart n Soul is an arts organisation based in South East London who believe in the power and the talent of people with learning disabilities and autistic people. They have been going for over 30 years. In 2018 we had the opportunity to work with Wellcome. We were winners of the Wellcome Hub Award, which is a two-year residency on the 5th floor at the Wellcome Collection. The idea of the Wellcome Hub Award is to bring together different collaborators like academics, medical professionals, artists and people within the community to do research together.
We started off with a very corporate-looking office space. The first thing that we did was an access audit. So we asked the people using the space what needed to change for it to be more accessible. We also consulted groups from outside of Heart n Soul and we put in place those suggestions, so for example we have an art table, a chill-out room with a sleep pod. a sofa with other seating options and plenty of space to do creative activities.
Also a black board wall you could draw on. We did lots within the project but the thing I want to talk about today was the co-researchers, it was a group of people with learning disabilities and autistic and non-autistic people working together to ask research questions. The reason for that, mostly people with learning disabilities and autistic people are seen as the research subjects. People research us as if were a virus or something that is not human, quite often. We wanted to really democratise the research by flipping the microscope and being researchers ourselves so that people with learning disabilities and autistic people researching the general population and asking the questions.
What informed our work, if you like, is that we wanted to do true co-production. So often people with learning disabilities and autistic people are just tokens, they are, that our involvement is tokenistic. People don't make adaptations for us and use overcomplicated language or they only provide things in one format. And it means that the engagement and the level of involvement is very limited. So this is the ladder of co-production. I drew this but it is not my idea. The ladder of co-production is a way of kind of visualising the construct of the different levels of co-production. So we start with coercion, sort of influencing, if you buy me a chocolate bar, I will be your friend ... yeah, you don't really mean that. What you mean is you want a free chocolate bar. Educating may be someone telling you, this is how it has to be. Informing may be more of a discussion. Consultation may be being asked but are you really being asked or have people made the decisions already? Also, do you have the options open to you? Engagement is helping to shape something but not being directly involved with the decisions. Co-designing is designing things together and co-production is everybody working together from start to finish. That is very much what we did. We started by creating a survey app. The first survey we did was about productivity and working with Qualtrics...[distortion of sound] …a common platform, I can hear a little echo, so maybe somebody has to mute themselves. Qualtrics was not accessible. So we wanted to make it accessible to enable people to co-produce the surveys, to ask the questions in different formats, for example, here is a question that is in a video format but you can have it as a transcript. You can answer it in type or with a photo and the photo can be a picture you have drawn or a photo of yourself. Audio may be a recording of your voice or something else. The video, it can be a Giff or like a video that you make of yourself. We did two surveys and we had over 3,000 responses. To us it was really important that we could ask a diverse group of people. We didn't just ask the typical demographic who answer surveys.
As I said before about co-production, everybody was to be a part of everything from the beginning to the end. So we have with the designing of the survey, the space, coming to the meetings to work together to develop the themes and the questions and we did it through creativity. and then to analyse the response, we also used Machine Learning as we got 3,000 responses in various formats so using Machine Learning to make it possible for us to be able to work in an equal way. And obviously, because of COVID, we all had to move online that presented its own problems as lots of people with learning disabilities and autistic people don't have access to technology or don't have suitable learning materials to help them to be able to use theirs. Technology is not intuitive to all. Now the outputs from the work have been that we have presented at the Computer Human Interaction Conference last year. It was online but it would have been in Hawaii. We also published in the Design for Health Conference that would have been in Amsterdam but was also on online. We submitted to the Journal of Learning Disabilities, we had a Guardian article and we have a website. You can visit the website, if you wish to listen to Gerald's music without the voiceover, you can do that at ... thank you very much for listening to me and for inviting me. I hope I have said all of the things that I was supposed to say.
BETH: Robyn, thank you very much. I love the ladder from all the way up to co-production. I think it is a fantastic way of visualising how we can be inclusive in how we do our research. I find it fascinating that in a sense, Heart n Soul is doing something that feels radical but it is something that should be much more the norm.
Next, I am coming over to Jon Elliott. Jon, tell us who you are, and the question that we would like to hear from you about, Jon, is why does AstraZeneca invest in leadership?
JON: Thank you, Beth. Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, where ever you are in the world watching this. So, I'm Jon Elliott. I lead on science policy at AstraZeneca. I have a background in science in mainly. My preferred pronouns are he/him. I am a white male in my 30s, with a shaved head to hide a receding hairline! Wearing a mustard shirt and jacket. So, the question that Beth has asked me to think about was why do we invest in leadership. I think that Cilla teed it up nicely. I will come on to the more stark business benefits but the first thing to say it does take investment. These kind of things don't happen naturally. Or if they do, they happen in small pockets you are really committed to your workforce for reasons, in some cases for business outcomes you do need to invest in this and see it as an investment. So some of the things that we do, we have, right at the core of the corporate strategy, three key priorities. One of those is to make AstraZeneca a great place to work.
We know from our engagement exercises, that one of the key determinants of making our business a great place to work is the leadership experience that many of the people in the organisation face or experience. I think that the second thing I would say is that you know, whilst I'm talking here about AstraZeneca, there is a lot across the industry that we share in different sectors and to some extent within my experience within Government as well, which we may tease out a little later on in the Q&A, that the second point I would make is that we, I mean, what I should finally say, we have a series of structured and informal programmes that build our leadership cadre and it works. So, the, of the top three career levels of business sense 60% are promoted so those are people who have built the skills and that we are now confident can lead teams. So the second thing to say is that we are a science-led business like many others across the sector. It means that it is a highly competitive sector for our scientific workforce.
People move around within the industry, some back to academia, some elsewhere and if a business like ours is not getting the leadership culture right, we will lose good talent. If we lose good talent it has a negative impact on the bottom line, so there is a strong business case for investing in leadership amongst the scientific cadre. Finally, I would say, and this is probably a bit more individual to us as a business, is that our scientific approach is very theme-focused. We rely on our teams to deliver. If they are not well-led, then they will not. We are not looking for a single bright spark leadership but for the team effort and much of that is global. So we will have teams based jointly in two, three, even four sites, internationally and the leadership style will have to be tailored for the audiences.
So, we are looking at a complex leadership environment, one that we invest in, because if we don't, we won't see the results.
BETH: Thank you, Jon. That is a pretty compelling case. A reminder to the questions that may have come to mind as you listen to the speakers in the Q&A. Do direct them to someone in particular, if that is what you are interested in, if you are interested in hearing from them. Finally, last but not least, to Suraya. Can you tell us, Suraya, after introducing yourself, how has the RAF built in investment in leadership?
SURAYA: Thank you. I'm Suraya, pronouns are she/her. I'm a mixed-race woman, half white, half Asian. I normally a have long dark hair. But I'm in uniform, I'm at work, so my hair is tied back, in a light blue shirt. So, how has the Royal Air Force built a system that invests in leadership? I really like what Jon has said, it ties very much into what the RAF has done. Leadership is a key attribute of the Royal Air Force. Irrespective of the role, if you are a pilot, a logistician or an engineer, it is your professional responsibility but we are all officers first. So leadership is absolutely the thing that we invest in, that we value. We select our people into the Royal Air Force bade on their innate leadership potential. We really start developing it from the very first day that they join. If you join as an officer, you spend your first 6 months in training, learning how to be an officer and learning how to lead effectively. It does not stop there, you carry on with training interventions all the way through your career.
I've been in the service for 27 years, I'm still undertaking training opportunities that develop my leadership style. I think how the Royal Air Force trains, or developing leadership has changed a lot. I think that the old school way of thinking about it was that leadership was a natural ability. I echo Jon's comment it does not happen naturally. I think that we recognise that. Leadership is something that has to be developed. I think in the Royal Air Force, our view of what effective leadership is has changed very much as well. I think that perhaps ten years or so ago, we admired that sort of charismatic directive, probably a masculine style of leadership and tried to make all leaders look similar in their leadership style. But as, really, as what Cilla said, it has resonated, the effective leadership comes in all shapes and forms and diversity in our leadership, in the way that we lead is just as important as other factors.
So, we have tried to really cultivate a much more inclusive leadership style.
One that encouraging people to lead in their own distinct style, one that absolutely promotes diversity and inclusion within the organisation, one that actively tries to value and to empower our people and actually, bizarrely, for a hierarchical organisation that has rank, we want to engender a culture in which people can challenge. We have learned this lesson the hard way.
Looking back at the Iraq war, the Chilcot Inquiry into that, the fact that some people had the right answer but they were not able to speak up because of the culture of the organisation. So, again, the way in which we invested in developing the leadership is really looking at how to encourage a more effective leadership, absolutely but inclusive leadership and one in which everyone has a voice.
BETH: Thank you, Suraya. I think the sense of investing through someone's career, is really interesting. Partly because of the high contrast to the way it is often approached in academia where we throw people into leadership positions with limited training but also then don't invest in the leadership going on from there.
I'm really struck from the four of you, so far, about the strength of the themes on diversity and inclusion and leadership and how tightly interwoven those things are. And I think that they are both areas, where from the work we have done on research culture, we can see that much of the academic community has a lot to learn. I'm going to kick off with a question but I can see we have some coming into the Q&A.
I'm going to encourage everyone else to get their questions in, so that the last half an hour of this we can start to explore some of the things that everyone who is listening wants to hear about.
I wondered if first, I can come back to you, Cilla, based on what you have heard from Suraya and from Jon and Robyn, this idea that we can't expect people to be ready-made as leaders, people may have natural talent to nurture but it is something that needs to be developed. Through your career, what have you seen work in terms of both hiring people, selecting them and then bringing them on and nurturing them on the journey?
CILLA: It is interesting how the three, well, really the four of us were saying the same thing in different ways. We all want to work in organisations where talent is well-contributed, with development and development-led. The leaders of today and tomorrow need to be equipped to serve, as Suraya said, they are made, not born, I think in every case. So you need really tight succession planning and serious investment in leadership training from day one. I think that we are all aligned on that. Some skills come naturally but most can be taught.
You're never too experienced to learn new ones. It is very arrogant and foolish to assume that you don't need any leadership training. So much can be learned from others.
I think that good leaders have both IQ and EQ. It is not about being in charge. It is about taking care of people in your charge ...Poor line managers are often cited at the main reason that people leave organisations. So I think that you have to invest, I think networks play a part in organisations and in sectors, I think that mentoring and sponsorship will play a part in leadership. And I think that leaders do need the right balance of support and challenge. You know, command and control is giving way, I think Suraya said, it is old school but it is giving way to much more flexible workplace structures and leadership, requiring humility in leadership and lots of self-awareness and transparency and cultural sensitivity, where the employees are heard and valued. If you look at most surveys of most organisations and sectors, you know, this is fear about speaking up about bad stuff. That is a key barrier that we have to unlock. We have to make leaders aware of and to encourage an open dialogue about stuff that is not working well and stuff that is, so that we can learn and move on. Failure to speak up, is perpetuating bad behaviour and holding leaders and organisations back. So, that's a very long answer to your question but I think it is hard work and we have to invest, as Suraya says, from day one, in this.
BETH: Thank you, Cilla. That really chimes with a question that has come in for Suraya in the chat. It says: The Forces officer select on leadership and then the skill set. This feels the opposite of the academic model when we select for skills and effectively hope that they become leaders afterwards. What advice or lessons can you give us on how to retro fit that kind of leadership selection?
SURAYA: Oh, that is, how you retro fit. It I am not so thank you, that is a difficult question. Of course, you have to do both. So we recruit with quite a technical organisation. And we recruit people on the basis of their technical ability as well. We have a series of aptitude tests, we have academic bars that people have to get through in order to be selected into different branches. But absolutely, along with that we have, we assess their innate leadership potential. Of course, as I said, the first six months of training is not on the professional skills but the officer ability, the leadership ability. It is absolutely key. And of course your progression through the organisation and your promotion depends on not just how well you do professionally in your core role but how well you lead.
If you have a look at the various different career paths that are available to you in the Royal Air Force, if you happen to be you know, very, very good at logistics or an amazing pilot but not a good leader, there are opportunities for you to stay and to serve but you become a deep expert but you don't get promoted or move into the leadership roles. I think it is really, really important to have both of those streams. Of course you need the experts, you need the people who are absolutely amazing at the jobs that they do but then you need the people to lead and to drive the organisation in a certain direction as well. And going back to Cilla's point, I absolutely, whole-heartedly believe in the value system. One of the things that we try to ingrain in the officers is that leadership is about service. You are serving the people you lead. Yes, your job is to lead the organisation but it is to serve those in your charge, in essence. Yes, an ethos and core values that underpin all of our leadership, which is respect, integrity, service and excellence. I think that really helps us to strike the right balance there.
BETH: Thank you, Suraya. We have fantastic questions coming in, I know we will not get through all of them, which is such a shame but to be less polite about something that you said at the beginning of that, perhaps we should not be thinking of retro fitting but do something more drastic and academia should think about whether we change the way we put people into the positions in the first place and what we do about it. I can say that as I work for a funder. So, let's come to a question aimed at Jon and Suraya but I would like to bring Robyn in on this as well. I will come to Jon first, then Robyn, and then see if Suraya would like to come in after. How are leaders to behalf in the way that the employers would like to?
JON: That is a difficult question to answer. One of the key things about a good leader is the ability to flex style. I think, to people who respond in a different way. So, I think that one of the tools that we need to equip our leaders with, is the ability to recognise that. I think that when I, my first leadership experience was inside government. I got so many things wrong.
Even after, going through necessary training before they would let you loose on having a group to be responsible for, purely as I didn't understand that everybody reacts differently to a different stimuli. So I would ask somebody to do something, they would not do it, then try to sit there and disassemble why, it was a clear instruction in my mind. So, think that is my key point from that question. Is that we need to recognise that there is not one leadership style. That everybody responds to, or that everybody is comfortable with. That should form part of the standard training. Before you are given the great responsibility of having to lead people.
BETH: Thank you, Jon. It is such an important point that you will make mistakes as a leader. We all do it and we have to get comfortable with that and then learn from it. I think that the vulnerability in itself is a really important attribute in leadership. Robyn, can I come to you with the same question: How do you think individuals should behave as the leaders that they would like to have?
ROBYN: I don't really understand the question ... do you mean, if you are saying that people should say how they would like leaders to be...[distortion of sound] … you could think about how people have treated you when they have been a good leader in the past and how people have treated you when they have been a bad leader in the past and when you are the leader you do what is on the good list and try to check the things on the bad list so you don't do those things.
BETH: I love that. It is a really practical approach to it. And it is something that I try to do, it is to look at the people that I see leading well and learn from it and sometimes try it myself to see what happens. Suraya, can you come in on that one as well?
SURAYA: Yeah, it is a really good point. I think that leadership is something that you never, ever master. You hopefully get better at it with more experience. This idea of self-awareness, it is absolutely key. In fact, we just have re-written our manual of leadership, the way that we teach it, it starts with know yourself, lead yourself. And then lead more teams and you move up from there. But that knowing yourself bit is absolutely key. The only way we can improve as leaders is to really reflect on what we have done well and what we have done badly, what we can do better the next time, to look at other people, the people around you, above you, below you, to find inspiration, to look at things that worked well, things you would not try that way, to be humble about it, to recognise you don't have all of the answers as the leader. I see it as being something that we really need to give time and thought to, as leaders, to continue that development pathway.
BETH: Thank you, Suraya. I will come back to Robyn.
ROBYN: I wanted to echo that thing about self-awareness. When I started to work with Heart n Soul it was the first time I had ever had a job. Obviously, I get paid for the work I do, sometimes people think somehow as I have a disability, I'm a charity case, that does not deserve to be paid like everyone else. I get paid the same as everyone else. It was the first time I had a job where not being good at reading and writing was not a problem. That, so often, in past situations, I am self-employed but many people working on presentations, focus on maybe I missed something in the engagement but not really what I am communicating, that people are very hung up on the spelling, grammar and the punctuation. As important as it is, I think that people forget that there are seem people like me who genuinely struggle with it and find it difficult. It always made me feel useless and stupid as people were constantly pointing these things out. And I'm like, "I know that! But I'm not learning these things ... so." Sorry, the laptop, the power chord fell out. Sorry. I'm not, NOT, intentionally learning the things that you are telling me but really, don't you think I am communicating something? To look past the spelling and the grammar. That is what Heart n Soul have done with me. What it means is that there is a lot of things within the team, even if somebody who, I mean we don't have a leadership structure but if somebody has to do something, like a public speaking event, I'm comfortable speaking to 1,000 people or however many people, it does not bother me. So I volunteer to do those things as I know that is my contribution. I know a lot of people find that difficult. I find it easy, so I do that. equally the ease I have with public speaking that is how a lot of people find spelling and grammar, so when I have to write anything, I get someone else to spell check it and to dot punctuation.
But what my team tell me is that public speaking is just as valuable as being able to read and write but my experience is that whilst it may be as valuable, most people are very focused on the spelling, grammar and the punctuation, so the self-awareness is important but also, you have to be aware of how your biases affect the way that you judge somebody. That, like, is the person actually good at what they are saying? Do they know what they are talking about? If they do and the slides are spelled wrong, does it matter? It probably does not, really. Maybe they are the only person with that idea. I this I when you are leading, I think that some of it, some of the important thing about leading is to be, to inspire others, to recognise their own skills and to not feel that they're somehow useless in any way. There must be a lot of people like me out there that find reading and writing difficult. They have got into the world of employment and they are probably not going up the career ladder, in fact I know there are people out there ... actually, if you look past the negatives, you may see that there are positives that far outweigh the negatives and you can mitigate the negatives like the spelling and the grammar. Most people find that stuff easy, and before you say it, yes, I have heard of spell check and Grammarly, most people get through that but then most people find it difficult to speak in front of 1,000 people!
BETH: You have made an important point about making leaders get the best from people. You said that beautifully. I will take us tonne a different topic within the leadership theme that relates to a couple of questions about responsibility and accountability. So, first, let me pick up one about what happens with there is bad behaviour. What, does there need to be more accountability for bad behaviour within academia, some of you may be able to talk about that but I would love to know, what happens when things go wrong? If someone is found to have bullied or to have harassed someone? How should we deal with the difficult things and what can academia learn about that? It is fair to say, it is not something that is a strength of ours? Cilla, can I come to you first on this. I will let the rest of you wave if you wish to come in on it.
CILLA: The reality of leaderships are that you will make think-tank takes, some are fixable, some are fireable. Learning is the essential part of leadership. On the issues that you raised leaders have to creature a culture of candour, transparency and safety, building a culture where it is safe to speak up. As I said earlier, too much bad stuff goes unreported. Leaders must be responsible and accountable, or safety, a good culture and training people on how and when to speak up but in every organisation, this is a barrier, however good their culture. So I think that there are lots of ways to deal with this. At a company level, as an individual level, at a sector level when you can look at the issues across the sector. But I think that we do have to show rigour. You know, it is a privilege to be a leader. If leaders make mistakes, they must be held accountable. It should be in their job description and in the key performance indicators but on the fixable mistakes, I think that you need to have the courage as a leader to admit the mistakes and to learn from them. On the big ones, they are fireable, none of us are beyond reproach, we are all accountable for our actions. So I think that you have to deal with them openly and to recognise when things go wrong. When they have gone wrong retrospectively, it is much more difficult. It is where keeping a culture alive where people can speak up is so important.
BETH: Jon, over to you.
JON: Cilla is exactly right. It is something from the very top. So about the organisational culture. It needs to be writ large this is not acceptable, and when things go wrong there will be consequences. I think then it is also about your processes, so, it is for everyone who leads people in our business and I'm sure it is in many other companies of our size, you will be, your performance will be monitored and you will be, your ability to progress through your career will be severely hampered by the recognised inability to lead groups. Then the final point is that you need to be very honest about where your problems are. You do that through collecting data, speaking to people, and qualitative and quantitative data, we are very proud of monitoring a whether our employees consider our organisation a safe place to challenge. It will be that we have seen the numbers going up recently, so we are doing something right which is great but only until you do that, can you really start to get a handle on where your problems are. I think that is one of the areas, there is a lot of obviously, cultural issues to the cultural problem within academia but one of those is being prepared, which seems paradoxical for a group of people who are committed to understanding the mechanisms of the fundamental forces of nature! But it is actually collecting data on where the problems are, asking yourself, what is the size of the issue that you are looking to face?
BETH: Thank you, Jon. Suraya?
SURAYA: I completely agree with Cilla and Jon. It comes down to culture. And certainly, the military has been on a journey. You don't change culture just by, you know, it does not just happen. Education is absolutely the key.
Yes, you have to take a zero-tolerance stance to the worst kind of behaviours to weed it out, to make sure it does not continue in your organisation. but we've invested a lot in additional training and education. We are all products of our experience you have come through a system in which those behaviours were almost put on a pedestal, and allowed to flourish, it is very difficult to change. We have things like by-stander training. We have annual training for people to raise their own awareness in terms of be diversity and inclusion, and unconscious bias and things like that to try to make people more aware of the way that they are and what is and what is not acceptable behaviour. We have brought in reporting tools like 360-degree reporting and 180-degree reporting to improve your awareness as a leader in terms of how you come across to the team. How something even well-intentioned can impact on somebody. And ultimately, the idea of taking responsibility for your actions and creating an environment in which people can genuinely speak up but also people can make mistakes and that is OK. We all learn from mistakes, we probably learn more from making mistakes than we do from getting things right all the time. So it has to be a really conscious effort. There has to be education involved in order to get people, in order to change the culture of the organisation so that you can embrace the styles of leadership and encourage that kind of culture.
BETH: Thank you, Suraya. We have so many more great questions here than we are able to get through in the short time together. I will take one more ... I hope that some of the conversation can continue online afterwards. But I think we have would need 24 hours to get through the rest of them, at least. One final one for all of you to reflect on quickly, then we will have a lightening round to close. But one of the questions here is change is notoriously difficult. Our research staff are impatient. Can you identify key approaches to affecting real change and how long it took to bring it about? It's a tough question! Robyn, I will come to you first.
ROBYN: So, when we first got, or discovered the Hub Award, and decided to apply, we had to tell Wellcome that actually, the application process was not accessible to all of us. That there was ten of us who put together the application with the core team and we are all equal within the team. If it was not accessible to one person, it was not accessible to everybody. So, Wellcome changed what they did, and they offered us the opportunity to do a video of what we were saying. We still, within our team, we had people who were very competent at reading and writing and could translate the questions into more easy-read format and we made a video for the application. Now, I am not sure if it is true across all of the grants that are on the funding programmes that Wellcome has but definitely the Hub Award, it is a deeper option that people have of being able to use a video.
I don't think it took that long. It was probably, I don't know, 3 months or so. I don't really know. I don't think that was Wellcome's fault. Emails going back and forth. It was a decision that was made by a lot of people. In terms of once we got to the Hub. If we said something was not accessible. It was often changed that day or that week or very quickly. But I think that also, within our team, when something has not worked, we have regular, so we don't do written minutes as it is not accessible to everyone but we have very regular team meetings and if something is not warning we have a discussion about it and find something else that we can try to work with. We try that, if it does not work, we change it and keep changing it. Sometimes it can be quick, sometimes it can take longer. I think that being clear about why you want to be more inclusive, like, what do you want to do that, who is it you are trying to include, I think that is important. There was a question in the Q&A about staff not wanting to have leadership training and I think that you can, you can say to them, well, have you ever had a bad manager? I bet everyone has had a bad manager. How did having a bad manager make you feel? And they can write a list or draw a picture and then to say that do you want to make people feel that way, if the answer is no, then the leadership training may be a good thing. I think that leadership training does not have to be a course. I almost think that courses are overrated. I think that you learn by doing. It maybe you start off being in charge of the stationery order. It may not seem like a leadership challenge but you have to do everything that your employees do. To listen to what the colleagues want. If they prefer sticky note, landscape versus portrait, it may not be a big deal for you but if it is for the person, it is for the team. As a team you have to galvanise the team together. Then to navigate the form and the team's expectations about when is a stationery order to turn up, who is delivering it? To deal with the logistics of how it is going to get to them? Has the email gotten lost to the stationery department, so forth? Then the unpacking to ensure that everything is recycled properly. You are not maybe doing the recycling but you are leading people to ensure that the job is done properly. It may not seem much but I think that people not good at leading maybe they have not done the small things, that they are beneath them but the small things add up, you become a better leader with the more experience that you have.
BETH: You put that so well, Robyn. It is a really tangible example of change and making things happen. That I will suggest, I don't come to the rest of you, on this one but I will go to our lightening question that we have to close this. I'm hoping others will share with us in the chat what they think about the question as well. What I will ask is for each of you to, on the panel, to give me an answer in one or two sentences. What is the one action we should take in all of our organisations to create a better working culture? That is our final before we go. Jon, can I start with you?
JON: I'm going to be rude and say two things, I will say measure and I'm going to say set expectations.
BETH: Thank you, Jon. You are allowed two as you were so brief. Suraya?
SURAYA: I would say that it is making sure that everybody has an opportunity to speak. So, even the simple things like running a meeting. Making sure that the person who is sat at the table and not said anything, that they have an opportunity to contribute. Making them feel valued. That is an important part in cultural change in an organisation.
CILLA: I think have a plan for the D&I measurements and the action that is at the heart of your organisation. City stick to the plan, measure it, hold you accountable to it, make it safe for everyone to speak up about it.
BETH: Last but not least, Robyn?
ROBYN: Ask people what they want and give it to them. Make sure that you genuinely listen to people. Simplify your language. Use littler words instead of big, complicated words.
BETH: That is something that we can all do. Thank you very much, thank you for the answers to the questions that we have been listening to. A huge thanks to the panel. Such an interesting discussion. I'm sorry we don't have longer to carry this on and to keep learning from you. Thank you to all of you behind the scenes, for making this work. You are not seeing them today, so I wanted to thank you. We have 3 live workshops coming up tomorrow. Please get involved in those. You can catch up and watch back anything you have missed on the Wellcome website. Thank you all so much. Goodbye.
Panellists from a variety of sectors share how their organisations have built or benefited from a positive working culture – and what this could mean for academic research culture.
- Chair: Beth Thompson, Wellcome
- Cilla Snowball, Women’s Business Council
- Jon Elliott, AstraZeneca
- Robyn Steward, Heart n Soul
- Suraya Marshall, Air Commodore, RAF.
From 3:30 to 7:25 of this video, the panellists share a guided meditation which includes sound. This sort of sound is usually relaxing but some people may find it triggers unwanted thoughts or imagery. Please skip forward to 7:25 if you do not want to watch or listen to this segment.