Diversity and inclusion shouldn’t be an AFTA Thought, say legal duo

Two local law firms, DGB and MSB Solicitors collaborated this week to help deliver innovative training to professionals from across the North West and further afield.

Training consultants AFTA Thought, who specialise in experiential, drama-based training delivered a session on diversity and inclusion, hosted at MSBs city centre office in Silkhouse Court – which boasts a full training and events suite and waterfront views.

DGB Solicitors have been working with AFTA Thought for 2 years on a programme of training  that they feel is relevant and that really speaks to staff about diversity and inclusion, bringing real experiences to the table. No PowerPoint presentations, no awkward roleplay – simply a recount of real situations that may be affecting workplaces across the country brought to life by a talented team of actors.

Principal at DGB, Debbie Black said:

“I was introduced to AFTA Thought by Karen Hughes, who heads up business development at DGB; and I immediately wanted to work with them. Of course, there is a clear moral case for delivering effective training around diversity and inclusion, but there is also a very solid business case, which is often overlooked.

“People are a key asset in any business and should feel valued and have a sense of belonging. A happy workforce is a more productive workforce and equates to less sick leave, better retention and importantly loyalty and advocacy from your team.

“The legal landscape is changing and we must move with it in order to best protect the interests of our staff.”

Mary Austin from AFTA Thought said:

“Good drama has the power to change hearts and minds. It can challenge perceptions, improve understanding and create recognition and empathy in a safe, positive learning environment.

“I hate to say it, but diversity in the workplace can be a box-ticking exercise and often the policies we have in place as employers don’t protect our people from other people and their conscious or unconscious bias. As human beings, we can have unconscious bias – bias that we don’t even know that we have – and it affects how we see the world and how we behave towards others. The characters you see brought to life through our training programmes are not bad people, often they are simply not aware of their prejudices or simply not educated in how to manage their behaviour.

“It is everybody’s job to promote equality and diversity, not just the job of HR. If we don’t educate and empower those who don’t understand, those individuals are a liability to your firm.

“Our training programmed are designed to engage employers to recognise, reassess and remember. Recognise behaviours that are unproductive or that do not promote inclusion, reassess how you ensure inclusion across the company and always remember best practise.”

Joanne Dalton, partner at MSB said:

“We’re delighted that we could host this unique session at MSB and thank DGB and AFTA Thought for the opportunity to work with them.

“At MSB  we have worked hard to develop a culture of understanding and empathy, but it is not to say that you don’t see prejudice rear it’s head from time to time. I personally found some of the scenarios astounding and as practise manager, it made me realise written policies are simply not enough as to how we manage diversity and inclusion at MSB.

“I found it refreshing that the course was delivered using actors, as I felt it got to the route of issues far better than any power point presentation or  manual. Communication and training are so important in any organisation and this was demonstrated today.”

Louise Singh, professional support and employment lawyer from Weightmans who attended the session on Wednesday said:

“The use of actors to demonstrate sensitivities in workplaces was fresh, engaging and incredibly powerful – it really drew you in and I was certainly able to recognise some of the behaviours. The morning for me has reinforced the idea that policies alone are not enough to protect staff, we need better communication across the board in order to ensure our teams are well enough educated and our environments are inclusive.”

Jessica Peacock, who travelled from The Law Society in London for the event, said:

“The Law Society have established a diversity and inclusion charter and there are a group responsible for running a series of events annually to look at research and assess issues for different firms across the country – we are focussing currently on this idea of ‘unconscious bias’ and the potential consequences for employers.

“Afta Thought have come up with a great way of delivering sensitive training and getting people from different firms talking about equality and diversity. There can sometime be a fear of addressing equality and diversity and an element of employers burying their heads in the sand, but delivering training in this way and engaging people in a protected environment really succeeds in opening up the discussion and getting to the root of any issues.”

Mary Austin added:

“There’s no better way of understanding the choices people make in difficult circumstances than seeing them unfold before your eyes. Our team of writers and facilitators has more than 25 years experience in adapting drama for training, creating relevant and recognisable situations that get to the heart of your issue.

“We make it about you, we take time to understand what you want, research it with you and compose a strategy that has an impact on your business.”

For more information on AFTA Thought visit http://www.aftathought.co.uk/

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