Embedding Diversity and Inclusion at The London Clinic

Jag Chohan, Senior HR Business Partner of The London Clinic discusses why she likes working at her organisation and how they embed Inclusion in the workplace.

I love working at The London Clinic, independent hospital and charity, because of the visible diversity. We employ people from 34 nationalities and deliver care to people from all over the world. The challenge for me about 18 months ago was to introduce the concept of diversity and inclusion for the first time in an organisation that has a strong and wonderful British heritage, yet is truly international in its reach.

With no inclusion agenda, celebrating National Inclusion Week for the first time in 2018 was the moment where inclusion was given the spotlight it deserves and where afterwards, organisationally we saw a shift in culture by raising awareness. We hosted a series of events, including Women in Leadership, Personal Journeys, Gender Identity and Celebrating International Food.
This year, we did a Clinic wide dance flash mob to the song ‘Candy’ by Cameo where our CEO danced with us. Embedding doesn't mean being all serious about D&I, but to me it’s about celebrating, having fun and bringing people together – that is how you get people engaged and interested. We created Arabic phrase cards so that our employees can say key phrases in Arabic to our Middle Eastern patients, to show that we care about their culture.

There is no science to making D&I work, but someone needs to drive it and lead the agenda. It takes one voice to make a difference and to put D&I onto the corporate agenda, but you have to be passionate, and keep going until its engrained. I care deeply about this topic because its personal, and I understand the moral and commercial reasons as to why we should embrace difference – but you have to remember that not everyone else does and so respecting that it is a journey is key.

Secondly, a supportive Executive Board team that really ‘get’ what you are trying to do. This gives you the motivation to want to continue. I am not saying that everyone is going to agree or understand why it’s important culturally or commercially straight away, but all you need is that one person on the board initially to believe in what you are doing and that it’s the right thing to do.

Having supportive people around you is important. Like me, if you are the D&I Lead in your organisation you need strong support around you and colleagues who share the same values as you. Take people with you on the journey so that when you are not around, the work continues.

I like the concept of D&I disruption. You have to be brave and do things for the first time – in fact this is one of our organisation’s values, to be pioneering. That is essentially what we did at the Clinic when we changed our Union Jack flag to the rainbow Pride flag outside of our main hospital this year to mark the Stonewall anniversary and Pride month. I felt like it was the year to do it, and rather than going out to seek everyone’s permission sometimes you just have to go for it and have faith that it will be successful – and it was. It bought people together and although symbolic, if it impacts even one colleague and gives them a sense of belonging, or courage to be open about who they are, it is a job worthwhile.

Confidently applying for the National Inclusion Standard accreditation was bold – but we did it and we were the first and only independent hospital to get the Bronze award this year. Essentially, embedding D&I involves some form of disruption; it is healthy to do this so that you push yourself as an organisation. For example, we are launching our first BAME reverse mentoring programme for the first time with our Executive Board team as the mentees.

My vision is for the Clinic to be the number one inclusive hospital in London. Quality of care improves when you have diverse teams that serve a diverse patient population, but it is deeper than that; each patient is an individual who has placed their trust in us and so why wouldn’t we want to respect their culture, faith, language, sexual orientation or any other difference they come with? We now have a firm foundation and we are still on the journey; I am very excited for the next D&I chapter at The London Clinic.