GIC School, our Learning & Development academy, has dedicated programmes for managers and teams to raise awareness of their roles in creating a more inclusive culture, and to equip them with the skills to do so.
GIC School’s programme for managers provides them with techniques to build teams that deliver sustainable high performance where each team member can unlock their potential. Curriculum topics include building strengths-based teams; fostering inclusion through respect as a core value; creating a climate of psychological safety for idea diversity in decision-making, and ensuring alignment through clarity of purpose.
While managers have a large impact on team climate, team members also have an important role to play. The GIC School programme for team members enable them to find their own unique path to being at their best, and also understand how they can have a positive impact on their team’s climate. Our team coaching approach enables teams to learn the neuroscience of relationships, trust, inclusion and resilience, and engage in honest conversations to work through challenges. They also design their own team rituals to help build capacity in all the dimensions of a high-performing team.
While training helps to raise awareness, building an inclusive culture is an ongoing effort and must be deliberate. How we interact with others on a day-to-day basis enables us to build positive energy, trust and openness. Like any form of behaviour change, inclusion requires individuals to identify key moments in which to build new habits and get rid of old ones, and when these are consistently put into action, change can happen.
Empowering individuals to spark (& sustain) change
While organisations can set up the framework to promote inclusion, what has been truly encouraging to me is the heart and tenacity of individuals in coming up with initiatives to foster inclusivity. This makes a real difference, in bringing this to life.
I have been particularly inspired by my colleagues behind our community programmes – ‘Differently Abled’ and ‘GIC Sparks & Smiles’ – which promote inclusion within and outside of GIC.
Launched by our HR team last year, ‘Differently Abled’ enables interns with physical disabilities to work alongside our teams and contribute their expertise; we also learn from working with them. The idea for the programme came out of GIC Gighub, an internal ‘marketplace’ which enables crowdsourcing of ideas and facilitates the matching of gigs with interested colleagues across GIC.
The cross-departmental initiative behind ‘Differently Abled’ comprised individuals from Communications, Economics & Investment Strategy, HR and Real Estate. They were deeply passionate about the cause, and committed to see it through, overcoming hurdles by being flexible and creative, and they focused on the possibilities, instead of the barriers.
One of our ‘Differently Abled’ interns was Jonathan Tiong, an NUS Communications & New Media undergraduate with spinal muscular atrophy. Due to his condition, he was given the flexibility to work from home in the afternoons. Jonathan’s team involved him in their daily work and team activities, while respecting his physical constraints. He so impressed us with his writing and editing capabilities that he will be joining our Communications Team when he graduates in 2021. It was Jonathan who helped edit my article on Man vs Machine: The Importance of Human Capital on ThinkSpace, our online knowledge sharing platform.
GIC Sparks & Smiles (‘Sparks’) is a youth leadership development programme that empowers committed Singaporean youth from low-income households to make a difference by mentoring others in their communities. It was conceptualised and pushed forth by our Governance and Communications teams.
Since its launch in 2015, over 650 students from different educational institutions have benefited, and collectively volunteered ~17,000 hours to mentor disadvantaged children and youth. These activities have developed the skills, confidence and leadership of our Sparks awardees, while also supporting our community partners in their outreach, and sparked a multiplier effect by bringing benefit to the wider community. Many have continued to serve in the community even after graduating from the programme.
One other programme that I am proud to be part of is the GIC X Change programme. We are still in a pilot stage but it is a mentoring programme unlike others I have experienced. Since August 2019, I joined 11 other GICians and collaborated with close to 20 students from Singapore’s Institute of Technical Education, to design programmes for communities in Singapore. We learnt and applied firsthand what it meant to be empathetic and inclusive when interacting with these students and the vulnerable communities in Singapore. We experienced ‘reverse mentoring’ as the students taught us about resilience given the challenges they had faced and overcome. Through such programmes, my belief that diversity of backgrounds does indeed bring about positive impact and inclusion is strengthened.
An ongoing journey
Becoming truly inclusive is an aspiration for many organisations, including GIC.
This journey that we have embarked on will demand constant learning, dedicated commitment and consistent efforts which impact our day-to-day workplace experiences. In order for lasting change to happen, each one of us must play a part to forge the organization’s culture. It starts with asking what we can each do differently and better, for collective higher performance, and enable each one to be our “best selves”.
What are some of your experiences in fostering an inclusive workplace? What are the challenges that you have faced?
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, my deep appreciation goes to all our women colleagues and friends for your care and support, and to the men among us, who have championed, believed and stood by us. Thank you all for making a difference in our community!
“The diversity and inclusion revolution: Eight powerful truths”, Deloitte Review, issue 22, 22 Jan 2018
“Diversity is just the first step. Inclusion comes next.”, BCG, 24 Apr 2019
“Diversity and inclusion: 8 best practices for changing your culture”, CIO, 15 Feb 2019
“Why Inclusive Leaders Are Good for Organisations, and How to Become One”, Harvard Business Review, 29 Mar 2019
“10 Gallup Reports to Share With Your Leaders in 2019”, 4 Jan 2019