As it’s National Inclusion Week, it seems fitting to explore how music can overcome some of the challenges associated with diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
We often refer to diversity and inclusion interchangeably but it’s important to understand the difference. In the simplest of terms, diversity relates to the makeup of an organisation, be this the ratio of men to women, the mix of cultures, or those with disabilities and so on. In the main part, this can be controlled by an organisation’s approach to recruitment – the profile of the people it hires – as this directly contributes to how diverse a business becomes. Inclusion on the other hand is less easy to change or affect. It’s about the way in which an organisation is able to connect its people, creating an open and inclusive environment to bring about change.
Inclusion gives employees a sense of belonging and freedom. Get it right and businesses have loyal and engaged employees who feel valued and will contribute more. Get it wrong and you can end up with a disengaged, undervalued workforce which may lead to increased employee turnover and lost productivity. The barrier to success of inclusion is how to create a sense of belonging so that it’s part of everyone’s day to day awareness.
At Music in Offices one of our guiding principles is to advocate the importance of how accessible making music can be and the fun that can be had as a result of creating a shared experience. Our programmes are truly accessible and require no previous musical knowledge or experience, just a bit of an open mind.
Over the past few years we have seen the workplace change beyond recognition. No longer is a team the group of people who work in your immediate vicinity, reporting to the same line manager. Teams can be cross-functional, virtual and global now which makes our working lives more interesting but also challenging, especially when it comes to inclusion. Music making can help unite people – it’s a collective activity which encourages proactive involvement and interaction from its members. Ultimately our work breaks down barriers, connecting people on a human level – making music together is a wonderful inclusive experience. Our musical programmes bring people together, from the most junior to the most senior. When you sing or play together each voice is as important as the next.
We manage choirs for some of the UK’s leading businesses and we see time and time again the difference being part of a choir makes to its members. Take Deloitte for example, 80% of our pupils said that having music in their office made them feel more positive about working for Deloitte. To us, setting up a choir and developing it overtime is like a microcosm for what business leaders often want to achieve with inclusion programmes and policies – a workforce that is unified, connected and empowered. These are all things choir members feel when they sing together. It is engagement, brought about through their shared experience.
We’ve all seen recently in the Paralympics, that regardless of personal circumstances or physical ability, what we can achieve if we are given the opportunity and the right environment to shine. All too often, and especially at work, we create barriers between each other. The human spirit is what defines us and in our work we try to nurture this.
Whether it’s choirs or group development workshops, through music we focus on ways of breaking down barriers and biases, whether they be hierarchical or cultural, by connecting and including people who wouldn’t otherwise meet or interact, creating a truly inclusive environment, using music as a universal language.
In development workshops we do this by expanding the analogy of a music ensemble or a conductor and applying it to the business world, highlighting the role of the conductor in being an example of an inclusive leader by ensuring everybody plays their part with a sense of autonomy and trust.
Ian Dodd, a member of the Engage for Success, Inclusion and Engagement special interest group reported in 2013 that creating an inclusive, engaging culture which embraces cognitive diversity is a vital driver for finding innovative solutions to the complex problems that businesses face, particularly in the current difficult economic climate.
In a world where change often seems to be the only constant, if businesses want to drive innovation then they need to focus on their environment and approach to inclusion. Advocating music as a means of self-expression is a fantastic way of doing this. Not everyone in the business will become a member of a choir, or attend a group development workshop, but by being a business that embraces the arts, allowing employees to feel more like people, whether it’s singing in a choir or playing an instrument, is hugely beneficial to the culture and ultimately, the bottom line.
If you’ve found this interesting and want to hear more about Music in Offices, please follow us on Linkedin for more updates or feel free to contact me directly.