What do you do to spread the HR and other policy workload?
Clients very often ask me to help bring  their equality in employment and service delivery policies to life so that they don’t wither on the vine but that staff, customers and stakeholder truly engage with them –day in/day out. Not box ticking. Not some nice glossy cover –but action this day and beyond!
And one popular and cost effective way is to spread the equality and diversity load by engaging trained staff as champions, advocates, representatives or stewards. Titles vary between  different clients and sectors! The most popular with my clients tend to be “Champions” or “Advocates” so I have used one of these labels below.
Whatever the title, it is very important – critical in fact – that the “job description” and “person specification” boundaries are understood by everyone. It is equally important that post holders have the capacity to undertake what is usually a volunteer role. Capacity includes time away from paid duties and, of course, appropriate personal training and development to carry out the duties attached to the post. I have profiled below a typical range of the duties that trained post holders might expect to encounter. This is not prescriptive nor am I suggesting that every one of my clients will require all these duties to be undertaken!
  1. Arrange private meetings with staff, volunteers and or service users as needed to discuss any issues they may choose to raise;
  1. Actively listen and record in sufficient detail the significant issues raised during meetings;
  1. Keep confidential the content of meetings;
  1. Give advice on what the Equality & Diversity rules are;
  1. Suggest appropriate action, offer support and act as intermediary between staff and HR where required;
  1. Using their discretion notify Human Resources if significant issues are raised;
  1. Assist HR in reviewing policies and providing training related to E & D where appropriate;
  1. Promote Champions role to staff, volunteers and service users as appropriate.
  1. Acting as a scrutiniser/mentor on the completion of Equality Impact Assessments or whatever process the client has in place to equality proof employment and service delivery policies, procedures and practices
There are obviously safeguards in place to protect the integrity of processes and the various organisational boundaries needed. Not to mention the ability of any post holder to do their “day” job!!!
Generally, I have found thus far that Champions generally provide an avenue for anyone to seek guidance on equality and diversity issues without needing to be concerned about the potential for escalation of an issue.   The Champion is not generally an employee relations expert but is someone who understands the in house corporate culture and environment within which they work.  The impartial yet empathic nature of the Champion should help reduce the potential for an emotional discourse. It is important for the Champion to remain impartial and to not align themselves as a confidant or representative acting on behalf of the person approaching them – unless an advocacy role is envisaged.
Arising from these duties, membership off Equality and Diversity Steering Groups or Dignity at Work/Service Working Parties can sometimes be taken up by a Champion post holder. The remit for such forums is increasingly much more proactive but that’s the subject for another posting later on! Suffice to say, there should be a focus here on:-
Some clients might have other dimensions linked to other policies plugged into the foregoing or considerations around socio economic considerations, social inclusion/exclusion and narrowing the achievement gap.
What’s your experience with all this kind of work – spreading the load!