The banking sector relies on making sure it finds and applies the best candidates. The major players all agree that a diverse workforce (including disabled people) is crucial to that end.
It would be easy enough for major banks to suggest that just being a ‘Two Ticks’ employer is enough, or that saying, for them, ‘everything is about diversity’ and that therefore they have no specific policy, since to do so might be seen as ‘positive discrimination’.
There are arguments for and against positive discrimination but that’s not the point of this article. Glancing around information made available by the top organisations in the field indicates a more mature and complex response to the challenges that organising a diverse workforce throws up. The emphasis is clearly far more about feedback and understanding, rather than some kind of patronising quota system.
With the best will in the world, without setting up specific working groups regarding diverse strands of disability it would be easy to overlook individuals with something to offer who would feel denied of a voice. It’s healthy to talk about the challenges that people face, disability notwithstanding. Ultimately, it’s called ‘management’. Targets towards diversity aren’t helpful in as much as they can provide false positives towards achievements. Targets that are too low would clearly be pointless but equally, targets that are too ambitious are likely to lose the head of steam essential in keeping people engaged in moving towards them.
Meaningful, cultural change needs to be the broad aim where diversity is concerned and a realisation that everybody is different.
HSBC hit the nail squarely on the head by suggesting that “diversity brings benefits for our customers, our business and our people. The more different perspectives we have, the better equipped we’ll be to meet the demands of our hugely diverse global customer base” backed up by another encouraging statement by their Group Chief Executive,
Stuart Gulliver, who says “I am passionate about diversity because I want my colleagues to be themselves when they come to work, and I want our millions of customers around the world to see themselves in HSBC”.
Lots of banking and financial institutions are recognised as amongst the leading lights where it comes to disability confidence. Lloyds, for example, recognise the importance of engaging with disabled colleagues in making them feel supported. Indeed, public commitments towards their own ‘Helping Britain Prosper’ scheme include increasing the engagement of disabled colleagues to a score of 70% by 2020 and to maintain a ‘Gold Standard’ in the Business Disability Forum’s Disability Standard. (To date an estimated 17,000 Lloyds employees have used their in-house process to help disabled colleagues get the required adjustments they need to succeed in their roles.)
Happily the sector is continuing in its eagerness to learn. Santander for instance, provide support for disabled candidates and employees and have created rooms for quiet contemplation at their head office, and have established employee networks to identify and drive improvements. All of this feeds into their Talent and Reward programmes which support employees to deliver their best. Santander provide benefits including flexible working, on site gyms, and a 24/7 advice helpline to enable people to balance their lives at work and home. In other words, the organisation has created a dialogue that focuses on seemingly small ideas that can make all the difference to an individual’s ability to perform at work.
If future historians dig up ancient copies of Able Magazine and see that the ideas we’ve spoken about still exist, it might well be down to the sustainable attitudes of organisations in the financial sector. NatWest put it simply on their website, saying: “We prize fairness, want to attract and retain talent and enable employees to reach their full potential. So we encourage employees to bring the best of themselves to work, to recognise and celebrate differences and to be respectful and curious about diversity”.
Tackling diversity is an ongoing part of any sustainable business plan. To ignore it is to divorce business from its customers, who by their very nature are every shade of ‘diverse’ imaginable.
One of the major financial institutions we haven’t yet mentioned is Barclays, fortunately, they were happy to tell us how diversity informs their operation.