A News story by 1 March 2024

Our Director of Partnerships and Organisational Development, Karen Rose reflects on what belonging means and how at E-ACT are creating a culture of  belonging through daily activities.

After a fantastic day with wonderful colleagues at our E-ACT Ideas Conference on leading Equality Diversity and Inclusion (alongside our Diversifying Excellence in Leadership Programme.) I’ve been reflecting on what belonging at work means.

Like many, I am sure, I’ve had roles in organisations where I have felt connected to the mission, and the team, and roles where I have felt less so.

Belonging, at its core, encompasses the need to connect, to feel valued, and part of a community. For students, a sense of belonging in the classroom can significantly impact their emotional well-being, and engagement with learning. I believe it is the same for staff, but it’s not just me- the Harvard Business Review says, ‘High belonging was linked to a whopping 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days.’ So, it’s not just a nice to have- it’s an organisational essential.

When we feel safe and can be (as Brene Brown would say) ‘our imperfect, authentic selves’ it is easier for us to ask for help, reflect on where we can do better, and thrive on our own, and our team’s success.

Diverse classrooms and teams mirror the complexities of society and provide the diversity of thought that allows us to make our organisation better. Group think is notoriously dangerous for organisations and has been studied since the 70s. Resisting it isn’t always easy to do, so I am so proud that at E-ACT we are creating the spaces that allow a wide range of voices to be heard.

So, what have we been doing?

At E-ACT, we truly believe that to be a strong, forward-thinking trust, we need to listen and act as a collective. That’s why we have developed our ‘Your Voice Matters’ initiative, which has allowed all staff to share their views on a range of topics over the past 18 months through a series of anonymous surveys. This feedback shaped a range of priorities around wellbeing, workload, development, and communication.

Colleagues from across our trust have attended various events and are members of working groups that are centred around sharing best practice and create a sense of belonging. Our working groups have collaborated to ensure feedback is listened to and most importantly actioned! Over 100 colleagues attended our first Women in Leadership conference which was inspiring for all.

We still have lots planned! Our latest network that’s been created is our Staff Disability Network – which was created in response to suggestions from colleagues. This network provides a platform for open and honest discussions about disability-related topics. We want to foster a sense of community and support among staff members who may be facing similar challenges.  

 

Whilst not directly about EDI, many other colleagues collaborate through our subject and thematic networks, whether that’s about Fluency, geography, curriculum or many more- these are all designed to ensure that the best ideas across the country are shared, developed and cascaded – peer to peer, creating a sense of community and belonging for practitioners who are sometimes the only specialist in their academy.

Recent events

On Monday 26 February, as part of a range of events on our national INSET day we brought together over 70 staff and externals to take part in a comprehensive programme that offered:

  • Leading Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, for managers and leaders across E-ACT and beyond
  • And our Diversifying excellence in leadership programme.

A huge shout out to our Education Director, Marcus Shepherd who has not only pulled together the programme, but has also developed some really strong partnerships that have brought in external experts to support our ambition.

The day was full of inspiration, energy and ideas for how we can continue to make things better. A key point for me was the reminder that inclusion is everybody’s business, it’s not down to those who are different or marginalised to educate others- we must all play our part. It’s not always easy to have people challenge our assumptions, or flag things that we can’t see. But if we want things to be better tomorrow than they are today, we need to listen, reflect and accept.

Organisational Psychologist Adam Grant says: ‘One of the clearest signs of learning is rethinking your assumptions and revising your opinions.’ This is something we’re also working on at an executive and leadership level through coaching groups, helping us to challenge our ways of thinking and creating the psychological safety to say- maybe my way isn’t the only way.

I will leave you with a thought from someone more eloquent than me:

“We will all profit from a more diverse, inclusive society, understanding, accommodating, even celebrating our differences, while pulling together for the common good.”

–Ruth Bader Ginsburg