EXCLUSIVE: Barclays addresses diversity and inclusion through leadership and engagement

EXCLUSIVE: Barclays address diversity and inclusion through leadership and engagement

Employee Benefits Reset 2020: The pace of the world has created a need for employers to address diversity and inclusion among their workforce, with movements such as ‘Me Too’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’ being at the forefront of these movements.

Wendy Papworth, former diversity and inclusion lead at Barclays, delved into what businesses can do to improve diversity, with a focus on what Barclays did to address diversity and inclusion during her time with the organisation.

In her session titled ‘Diversity, inclusion and the new world order’, she explained how important education and training tools are in improving diversity and inclusion, using her experience at Barclays as example. The organisation introduced mandatory training on unconscious bias, with a 20-minute refresher session prior to every annual senior promotion meeting. Consequently, Barclays saw an increase in diverse promotions with leaders taking time to critically examine their decision-making process.

These education and training policies can be included in the onboarding process for new employees and mandatory training for existing employees can be effective in creating a baseline level of understanding.

To further sustain and constantly see improvements to workplace diversity and inclusion, it must be part of management culture and the broader organisational culture, said Papworth. “Leadership is more than just the chief executive making a change in mindset,” she explained. “All managers should understand diversity and lead the charge in improving it, otherwise it may be seen as someone’s pet project.”

Papworth explained how the breadth and depth of diversity and inclusion strategies have expanded in recent years, and that now is the time for businesses to embrace this change and be braver than ever in developing diversity and inclusion strategies in the new world order. She added: “Many years ago where organisations once focused purely on increasing their senior female representation, the spectrum of engagement now includes things such as disability inclusion, mental health, LGBTQ inclusion, age and nationality to name a few.”

The three areas that are most important when addressing this cause are: the pivotal role of leadership to change the mindset, developing the right educational tools to ensure that all employees are aware of diversity and inclusion, and encouraging collaboration and culture to engage employees in activities to best understand how important workplace diversity and inclusion is.

There are a number of routes that employees can take to improve workplace diversity and inclusion, however, having it as a performance objective can become a useful tool in employee prioritising the cause. Papworth said: “Having this [diversity and inclusion] as a performance metric gives employees an incentive to improve the situation, making it an intrinsic part of anyone’s role.”

Employers can benefit from utilising their internal support teams to best understand diversity and inclusion strategies across all areas of the business. Papworth explained how Barclays initiated this strategy to introduce policies such as flexible-working before the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. She said: “These internal groups can be integral to change within the business while boosting employee engagement and participation to aid the cause.”

Papworth concluded by explaining how the current state of the world signals the perfect opportunity to push forward a diversity and inclusion initiative: “Employees have a chance to recognise their employees for who they actually are by ensuring that diversity and inclusion improvements are being addressed at every level. Accept that this will take time, do not lose focus or heart, but be committed to making some real change.”