National Inclusion Week with Julie Amory, Director of HR
National Inclusion Week takes place to raise awareness of inclusion at work by uniting to share learning, best practice, successes and challenges. This year’s theme is unity and the official hashtag is #UnitedforInclusion. Inclusion and equality are an ongoing priority to us as a Trust and we have developed an EDI strategy that encompasses and directs our responsibility to build an organisation which truly values equality and fairness. Learn more about the work around our EDI strategy here.
To celebrate National Inclusion Week we spoke to Julie Amory, our new Director of HR. Julie recently joined Haberdashers’ Academies Trust South as the Director of HR in the Central Services team. She is responsible for the Trust’s people-related policies and strategies, of which Equality, Diversity and Inclusion is a priority. We spoke to Julie about her experience in HR, joining Haberdashers’ Trust and the importance of inclusion in the workplace.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your professional background?
I have worked in HR at senior level positions within various public and not-for-profit organisations. Prior to joining the Trust, I was the Head of HR (Schools) for Haringey Council, being responsible for the HR practices in over 86 schools with over 6,000 staff. I have worked in all aspects of HR, having worked as Head of Learning and Development at a local authority, and as Group Head of Diversity at one of the largest housing associations in London and the south-east.
Although all my roles and organisations have been uniquely memorable, the two that define my professional background the most, are London 2012 and Hackney Council. The day I joined Hackney, staff were on strike, the Council had a £15.5m hole in its general fund and a spending moratorium in place, which meant that even office supplies were in short supply! It was this time in Hackney that taught me how to be resilient, and to achieve even when resources are limited. In my time at Hackney, as their diversity lead, I had the honour to work with and learn from Lord Herman Ouseley, gay-rights activist Linda Bellos OBE, and Barrister, Lincoln Crawford, who was a member of the team of counsel to Lord Scarman’s inquiry into the Brixton riots. Working with these forerunners of diversity taught me how a passion for equality can change the status quo. And then there is London 2012, which was an amazing experience, and one that will stay with me for a lifetime.
What attracted you to work at Haberdashers’ Trust?
The Haberdashers’ ‘family’ has an excellent reputation, and I saw this role as a perfect opportunity to apply the skills that I have gained throughout my career to assist the Trust in achieving its ambitious people, and EDI goals.
What excites you most about your new role?
The Trust has created five main strategies that define its vision for making ‘Every school an excellent school’. It is tremendously exciting to be a part of the change and to have joined at the beginning of that journey. Not that this is going to be easy, but that is also part of what excites me about the role. There is an excitement that comes from setting the direction and being part of the cultural change, tackling the bumps and detours along the way. Although the destination is important, it is the journey that shapes and defines us; who couldn’t help but be excited by that.
Tell us about something that you are passionate to change?
I have read the culture survey and the area I am most passionate about changing is the perception of hierarchy within the Trust. I understand that organisations that don’t operate flat structures are, by their very nature, based on a hierarchy. They have layers of management to assist in ensuring that there is a clear chain of command; something that is necessary in sectors like education, which are highly regulated and therefore benefit from having clarity as to where responsibilities lie. But organisations that are too hierarchical can lead to a stifling of creativity, innovation, and silo working. It can also lead to senior leaders operating in an ‘echo chamber’ as staff fear questioning the status quo. To achieve our strategy aims, we need to be brave, open to doing things differently and that is easier to achieve when staff feel free to provide constructive feedback on how we all can make things better.
What does inclusion mean to you?
When I worked at the London 2012 Olympics, we had a strapline that we used, ‘Everyone’s included’. It was, however, not just a strapline, it was what drove us to make London 2012, the most inclusive Games ever. It meant challenging ourselves to ensure that we sought to find and hear everyone’s voice; to hear their views and to seek to ensure that everyone felt that the Games spoke for them. Inclusion is about recognising that we are individual and that no two people have the same views, perspectives or experiences but what connects us all, is the desire to be heard. This is what inclusion means to me.
Tell us a bit about the Trust’s work around inclusion?
The Trust has devised an equality, diversity and inclusion strategy. This strategy is the beginning of its work around inclusion. That’s not to say that we are starting from zero as there are numerous examples of how Trust employees already make inclusion part of their work. My role is to harness those examples, and to tap into that energy and drive to make the work environment one that champions good diversity, equality and inclusion practices.
The best workplace inclusion practices that I will share are that diversity fosters different perspectives and can lead to real innovation and increased performance. Another great workforce inclusion practice is perceptual positioning. Although unconscious bias training has its place, my preferred approach is perceptual positioning, which is where you try to put yourself into someone else’s position. The best example of this is Jane Elliot’s Blue Eyes and Brown Eyes experiment. For those who have not seen this, I encourage you to check it out on You tube. In her experiment Dr Elliott is noted as saying, ‘keep me from judging a man until I have walked a mile in his moccasins.” Seeing the world or on a micro level, a situation, from the other person’s perspective can help increase understanding, defuse conflict and is more likely to move us to understand that we have more in common with each other than we may initially realise.