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Taking “AIM” at Workplace Inclusion


Monday 27 May 2019

If we think of it like this, diversity is being invited to the party and inclusion is being asked to dance. Legally, it is well established that you cannot discriminate against someone under the nine protected grounds under equality legislation. This covers access to employment and beyond, but this is the bare minimum. As employers, services may wonder what they can do to take real steps towards true inclusion in the workplace, supporting those who find it difficult to enter the workplace or challenging when they get there.

Firstly, it should be recognised that everyone has different needs. In recognising this, try to offer equality for all and offer everyone the same opportunities. This sounds easy, but is it really easy in practice? Will it cost employers a fortune? Will it be a lot of hassle for everyone else? Of course, it is important to consider both the human and business impacts of any initiative. But, as argued by the Chartered Institute of Professional Development, 'To be competitive, organisations need everyone who works for them to make their best contribution and be valued. Considering diversity and inclusion in its broadest sense helps organisations to develop an open and inclusive working culture.' (CIPD 2019)

So how can we be more inclusive? Maybe, we need to look closer to home. What lessons can we learn from the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) to help lift those barriers to the workplace? AIM is a model of supports designed to promote inclusion. It takes a child-centred approach that enables children to meaningfully participate in preschool. Dwelling on this, I found myself thinking that we could look at AIM to find simple ways for all individuals to meaningfully participate in the workplace - ways that allow us to recognise differences and varying needs, and promote an inclusive culture.

You don’t have to do everything in one go. Simple changes, easily implemented, can make a huge difference. Universal Supports 1-3 under the AIM model can be used as a guide - adapt them accordingly. These supports are:

1. Inclusion Charter where services are invited to develop their own inclusion policy. The Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Charter and Guidelines can be accessed here;
2. Inclusion Leaders;
3. Formal and Informal Training.

An Inclusion Policy is a very simple way for a service to set out its approach to inclusivity clearly. There is no 'one size fits all'. The policy should be based on what works for your service. It is important to ensure that it is reflected back across all other policies and that they are fully cohesive. Checking in with your staff and getting their feedback is always advisable. This will help to ensure that the policy achieves what you want it to achieve.

Secondly, you can look at nominating someone to lead on inclusion in the workplace. Ideally, this person will have experience in this area; for example, they may have undergone AIM training. The LINC programme has formal training options for the role of Inclusion Co-Ordinator (INCO). This person is ideally placed to bring inclusion to the workplace agenda and ensure that it is always on the map for both children and the staff. The INCO's role is to lead out on inclusive practice by sharing learning and good practice, supporting staff, and engaging national and local developments. They can then track your progress and ensure that practices are in line with your inclusion policy. By empowering the INCO in this way, you allow them to set the tone and show what inclusion looks like in practice. This person can also act as the main contact for staff who have concerns and want a safe place to go with these concerns This element of engaging with staff will help inform your inclusion practices and ensure that they grow and develop.

As with any initiative, this is only as good as the training people receive. It is important to recognise that you can’t assume people know what you mean by inclusion. By implementing workplace training on the policy (again, the INCO can lead on this) as well as regular informal training by way of performance conversations, you can help to embed the new culture. Staff will then see that behaving in an inclusive way is an important part of their job.

These are small steps to get you started, but they can help to bring about bigger and sometimes unexpected results that benefit everyone.

For further reading on the Access and Inclusion Model, please see here.


Gillian Moore is the Manager of our newly launched Early Years Employer Service. With over 10 years’ experience working in HR and a prior legal background, Gillian’s focus will be on supporting Early Childhood Irelands members as they navigate the complexities of running a service and helping them have confidence in their HR and business practices.

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