IP Inclusive Week needn’t be a one-off project that you have to complete by 17 November. Even better might be to use the opportunity to make some lasting changes to promote diversity and inclusion (D&I) in your organisation.
Here are some suggestions.
Tweak your internal systems
Commit to some internal changes to reduce the risk of unconscious bias, for example in your recruitment and/or appraisal procedures or your meeting protocols. Even simple things can help, like using gender-neutral language, or a more diverse range of images, in your company documents. Do you begin your letters “Dear Sirs” by default? Do your support staff job adverts depict mainly female staff? How many non-white faces are there on your website? Do your social events make people of certain faiths or from certain backgrounds, or people with particular mental or physical health conditions, feel awkward?
Get to grips with your D&I data
Start gathering diversity data, as a benchmark for charting future progress. Next time you pitch for work you may well be asked for it. And, of course, commit to using the data you’ve collected to make concrete improvements.
If you’d like to know more about D&I data collection, we’ve a seminar/workshop on 5 December in Gloucester: it will include a talk by a data protection lawyer, and explore the benefits, the challenges, and what IP Inclusive and its Charter signatories should be doing by way of data reporting.
Organise some training
Even if it doesn’t take place in IP Inclusive Week, at least get a date in the diary for some internal training. General guidance and awareness-raising on unconscious bias is a good place to start, especially for those whose decisions have a direct impact on other people (for instance, in recruitment, appraisal or work allocation). Workshops on inclusive leadership can be helpful for managers. Mental health “first aid” training can also have a big impact on staff wellbeing: see our report of the IP Inclusive/CIPA pilot course we ran in June 2019.
You can also schedule D&I training into existing events such as staff retreats, CPD and development programmes, and induction processes for new starters.
Remember that IP Inclusive events can be valid CPD, if relevant to your practice. IPReg at least have made this clear in their published guidelines for patent and trade mark attorneys.
Introduce passports (yes, passports)
Encourage your team members to create individual “passports” with information that will help both employers and colleagues to make them feel included and to offer them appropriate workplace support. Do they have any mental or physical health conditions that would benefit from workplace adjustments? What warning signs should you look out for when they need additional support, and what can you do to help in those situations? If they need to take time off, how can you help them settle back on their return to work?
Passports are often used in this way for disabled employees, but they could have a much wider value. They could contain information about dietary requirements, for example; allergies; aspects of someone’s religion or faith that affect their ability to participate in certain situations. All things which, if acknowledged and understood by colleagues, can help make people feel more included.
We’re hoping to post more information about this soon on our Resources page, but if you’ve already trialled a passport-style scheme, we’d love to hear from you.
Consult with your staff
Open an internal consultation, for example on the inclusivity of your working environment, stress-busting and other wellbeing measures, the extra support your staff would appreciate. Nothing beats hearing these things from the horse’s mouth and engaging everyone in the follow-up. Run your consultations in individual groups or teams if appropriate.
There are other ideas in our blog post here, for example setting up an internal D&I committee or a staff network, or introducing a pledge or code of conduct for workplace inclusivity or diversity “allies”.
Not sure where to start?
…then book yourself a Steps to Inclusion D&I review with IP Inclusive partners Focal Point Training. This will help you identify areas where change is most needed, and take properly tailored, practical steps to maximise the improvements you achieve.
The importance of follow-up
Whatever you commit to for #ipinclusiveweek, the most important thing is to make sure the good work continues afterwards. Plan follow-up measures to build on the changes you’ve implemented, to evaluate their impact, to develop them further, and to keep staff on board well into the future.