Paul is an award-winning and highly respected D&I leader. Today he works on behalf of NHS Trusts to influence government policy on equalities legislation and healthcare workforce policy. He also advises NHS employers on implementing good HR practices, and equality and diversity into their workplaces. Here he talks to us about the challenges involved in working for one of the largest organisations in the world; and also offers his personal tips on being home-based!
What are the big D&I challenges for the NHS today?
I think the big challenge is always around mindsets and behaviours. People are much more aware these days of the legal requirements around D&I – but less good at applying them to themselves and the people they work with. Our biggest challenge is getting people to look at themselves, their attitudes and their behaviours – and then saying to themselves – “how does this affect me and my colleagues – and what do I need to do to make our workplace a better workplace.”
How do you make an impact on such a huge employer?
We rely a great deal on the fantastic champions and D&I experts out in the field – doctors, nurses, managers, paramedics, healthcare assistants – who are really passionate about this stuff. But we also use a lot of social media and electronic communication to get the messages out as widely as we can.
What have been some of your biggest successes?
My biggest personal honour was being given an award by one of our LGBT organisations for improving the lives of LGBT patients and staff. As a heterosexual man, this was a real privilege – to know that my contributions to that community were recognised and valued.
What advice would you give any organisation looking to build a D&I strategy?
Get a big, wide mirror (so that you can see everyone in your organisation) and ask yourself some simple, basic questions about what your organisation looks like. Are there visible disabled people working for you? Do you have any openly gay or lesbian or trans staff? How many black and Asian staff are in senior positions? Then have some honest conversations with your staff – and your customers / patients / clients – and ask them how they view your organisation – and whether they think you are diverse and inclusive; not necessarily just in terms of your demographics – but also in terms of whether you offer flexible working, carers’ leave, prayer facilities etc. You might not like what you hear – but listen, take stock, and then take action.
You’ve worked from home for the last 10 years. How do you manage that effectively?
It took me five years to master working from home! I am hoping to write a book about it one day – and pass on all of the lessons from my mistakes! The first thing to say of course is that I am not working from home – but home based! Some weeks I don’t spend any time working at home – and then other weeks it is more balanced. The best thing I ever did was set up one of the spare rooms in my house as an office. So that’s a definite for anyone working at home – a separate space that is “work”. Aside from that, it’s just (like so many of these things) about getting into good habits. So – not taking your mobile phone to the toilet with you and not (when I am working from home) having lunch at my desk!
And how do you stop yourself from constantly visiting the fridge?
Who says I stop myself??!! (Note to self: time to diet!)