Restarting Our Company Culture

Why We’re Re-inducting our Workforce

In response to the killing of George Floyd and the reignition of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, we refreshed our anti-racism commitments and with the support of Sour Lemons we committed to a new set of pledges as part of our ongoing work as an actively anti-racist organisation. One of those pledges is:

Create a new Induction Process for new staff and freelancers that includes a clear description of our anti-racist values and expectations for behaviour. All existing staff, freelancers and board members will also be ‘re-inducted’ as part of our “restarting culture”

What follows is our General Manager Sarah’s description of why and how we’re doing this and a template for you to use/adapt and create your own Induction Pack and Wellness Action Plans.

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The desire to “restart company culture” was inspired not only by our anti-racism pledges, but also through our continuing efforts to improve accessibility and mental health provisions for our workforce. We’ve thankfully not been given reason to believe our existing culture was ‘broken’ however we know there are always ways to improve and assuming that everyone feels just as supported at work as I (Unlimited’s General Manager, Sarah) do, is not enough. Assumptions are not enough.

Over the last year, I’ve invested a lot of time into researching, organising and participating in training and development with the overarching goal of rewriting the company’s Equality Policy and Action Plan. We’re lucky enough to have able to give our original training budget a healthy boost. It contributed greatly to a learning curve not only for the company, but for me personally, a (relatively) young white woman, building a career in the arts. To take this journey with such a supportive and open-minded staff team and Board was a gift.

I was eager to put what I’d learnt towards tangible actions that would help us review and improve the accessibility our company culture.  I began with asking the question: Are we doing enough to enable the individuals we work with to be their best self?

What became clearly evident was how important the very first interactions between an individual and company can be for laying the foundations of a healthy, safe and supportive working relationship. A carefully designed induction pack opens dialogue at the earliest stage, giving the organisation the opportunity to introduce their mission, values and practices and most vitally, an opportunity for the individual to introduce themselves, their unique preferences and what they need in order to hit the ground running.

I started work on designing an induction pack that encompassed our ethos as a company and harnessed the new understanding and perspectives we had recently developed on accessibility, inclusivity and equality.

The priorities

We required a new process that provided a formal structure to what, at the time, was an informal (but very sincere) attention to the needs and preferences of our workforce. To embed this in company systems and ensure everyone receives equal and fair treatment.

Responding directly to our anti-racist pledge, it was important to Unlimited that the new induction pack establish our values and expectation for behaviour. With thought and care, our Artistic Director Jon Spooner drafted the following in collaboration with the team and Board for inclusion in the pack’s introduction:

Unlimited Theatre recognises that we live in a society and a culture in which inequality and prejudice is a common lived experience for many people. We are fiercely committed to promoting and creating equality and fairness and to reflecting the diversity of our society in our staff, freelancers, Board, artistic output and the audiences we reach. Unlimited is an actively anti-racist organisation (you can read more about the detail of our anti-racist work HERE) and we welcome, respect and value all people from all backgrounds irrespective of their gender, sex, sexuality, race, heritage, skin colour, disability, religion or anything else that mainstream society considers ‘different’. We support and celebrate ‘difference’ and we expect all our employees, freelancers and Trustees to join us in promoting these values; to treat each other with sincere respect; to support and take care with each other; to be mindful of personal experiences and circumstance and, further, to bring attention to, report or call out behaviour that is hurtful, degrading or disrespectful in any way – no matter how ’small’ or unintentional those instances may be.

Another priority in designing the new induction process was to remove the potential of us making any conscious or unconscious assumptions about who we work with. We, and many others, are guilty of this in the past and this is why we’re choosing to also re-induct our existing workforce. To achieve this, I designed an ‘induction form’ (we’ve not landed on a better name for this yet – suggestions welcome!) which replaces common assumptions with questions and aims to spark dialogue on areas that could possibly hinder an individual from bringing their best self to work. As you can imagine, the induction form therefore goes into substantial detail and, in our experience, everyone will complete it to a varying extent.

Initial feedback from our Board and freelancers evidenced a mixed response with regards to the level of detail, with some feeling as though many questions did not apply to them and others praising the variety and depth of questions. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ in this scenario but I decided that the form should facilitate the most detailed level of responses, and so it’s highly important that each individual understands that not all questions will apply to them personally – they’re all optional – and that they should approach it in the context of their relationship with the organisation. We’ve laid out an extensive buffet, but it’s up to each person on what they take or leave.

The detail

To ensure the pack’s suitability to different members of our workforce, I created a unique induction pack and process for our:
• Employees
• Freelance associates
• Trustees

Each pack is broken up into two main parts:
• Induction information – where we talk about us
• Induction form – where we invite the individual to tell us about them

The induction form is where a lot of our research, training, company values and intentions come to fruition. It gives the individual the optional opportunity to:
• self-identify
• tell us about any health conditions, illnesses or disabilities
• create a ‘Wellness Action Plan’ (using guidance and a template from MIND)
• highlight their other commitments and state preferences for communication, working patterns, working environments, socialising, travel and accommodation
• request adjustments and explain how we can help to remove barriers
• tell us what they think about the pack, whether there’s anything they believe we could change or add

The (un)finished product

We’ve put together a template of our new induction pack for you to download, adapt and make your own:
Induction Pack Template – developed by Unlimited Theatre (updated 26 August 2021)

This is not a final draft, but an initial step on the ladder.

In designing the induction pack, we, like many others, experienced the fear of getting it wrong – using the wrong language, asking a question in an insensitive way, not allowing for all possible perspectives – but we should no longer allow this to be an excuse for lack of progress. We approached the process with respect and care, did the research, but most importantly we relied (and continue to rely on) the feedback from those who know us best and will be critical friends – our existing employees, freelance associates and Trustees. They have and will continue to shape the induction pack as we complete the process of re-inductions. We’ve recognised that the pack will never receive ‘final draft’ status, but instead it will continue to adapt to changes in needs and societal progress.

I hope you make your own discoveries in adapting our pack to suit your organisation. I also hope that you’ll share these with us so we can learn together.

Sarah, General Manager