All for one

by Iain Hopkins13 Aug 2017
Barclays is rapidly becoming the world leader in diversity and inclusion, but it’s in disability inclusion and accessibility that it’s truly blazing a path

‘A solution for one becomes a solution for many.’ That’s the call to action that Barclays has rallied behind globally for the past several years when it comes to diversity and inclusion. It’s especially pertinent when that solution is designed and implemented for people who identify as having some for  of disability.

The Barclays global D&I strategy has five pillars: gender, disability, LGBT, multicultural and multigenerational. In the UK, all of those pillars are led by senior leaders and direct reports to the company’s UK CEO, Ashok Vaswani.

“Ashok has as part of his remit our retail banking business. He really saw an advantage in establishing Barclays as the most accessible bank,” explains Mark McLane, head of global diversity and inclusion at Barclays.

McLane explains that ‘a solution for one becomes a solution for many’ means fundamentally understanding the needs of the bank’s customers and employees around accessibility. “It means we have more inclusive business solutions that quite honestly some of us may not even think of as being a solution until we see that in action,” he says.

To cite one example, Barclays’ talking ATMs are today being used to help individuals with visual impairment. “As you get older and need reading glasses, sometimes the print at an ATM on a very sunny day can be difficult to see, but once you take your headset out and plug it in you now have a voice-activated machine,” McLane says.

Another example is Barclays’ highvisibility debit cards, which use the principles and technology of ‘personalised’ debit cards. While many people would use an image of their partner or children on the card, an infinitely more practical use might be to make the card red, especially if that’s a colour on the spectrum that can be more clearly seen than others.

“They could also use a big arrow so it looks like a hotel room key,” says McLane. “For visual impairment across the spectrum, being able to quickly differentiate my ATM card from my credit card, to have that sense of independence in banking, is really what it all comes down to.”

A design-thinking approach
It’s not just customers who benefit – it’s the company’s 120,000 employees around the world too. Barclays has made inclusive technology mission-critical. McLane says it may sound simple, but even steps such as ensuring all corporate videos are subtitled can make a big difference.

“It’s putting the work in at the front end, not the back end, not as a bolt-on,” he says. “That’s transformational for the organisation. With something as simple as subtitling videos I’ve had colleagues say to me that in this new hotdesking environment all computers have speakers, but now with my colleagues sitting next to me I can watch a leadership video and read the subtitling. That’s not something I would have thought about in the past, but again you can see it’s taking something that improves the lives of a few that really improves the lives of many.”

In many ways, Barclays has taken a design-thinking approach to its inclusive solutions. “You must start with the user,” says McLane. “Although I’m the chief diversity officer, I started my career in sales and marketing, so I always think of the end user. You must have the end user in the room. But having you in the room is not enough – we also have to listen. We have to take advantage of your voice being in the room. You have to feel like you’re working in an inclusive and welcoming environment to be able to bring yourself to work, bring that difference to the table and know that it matters.”

Global benchmarking
Wherever he is in the world, McLane says the the question he is most frequently asked is ‘how do we rank in this area, where are we furthest ahead?’ “I always respond, ‘First give me a country and then give me a division of the bank’, because even within investment banking, retail banking and corporate banking there are very different cultures and customer bases. So it’s very fluid.”

However, he concedes that certain geographical locations are ahead of the pack. He cites some parts of the UK that are ahead of others on accessibility. The US, meanwhile, pulls ahead from an infrastructure standpoint, possibly due to building code changes. He also cites work that his colleagues are doing in Tokyo around accessibility in employment as leading the way in APAC.

Increasingly, the organisation is taking part in benchmarking in various jurisdictions around the world. For example, it has used the Accessibility and Inclusion Index in Australia to step back and assess where the company falls among its corporate peers.

Similarly, in 2016, Barclays in the UK was the first company to achieve 98% on the Equality Standard by the Business Disability Forum.

“Someone asked me recently at a conference, ‘So, Mark, what’s next?’ I said for me it’s working with the Business Disability Forum as one of its founding members to figure out what is next. How do we raise the bar? What would 98% or 100% look like three years from now? Not to rest but continue to pull other companies along on the journey. Getting to 100% doesn’t mean the work is done; it means we’ve reached a good standard today. Like any benchmark I’ll use the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index of the US, but every three to four years a new milestone comes into play: what next, what are we doing? I think that’s our responsibility to help drive D&I.”

He adds that Barclays has the aspiration of being the most accessible FTSE 100 company. “I always say, I don’t know what that looks like – it’s very aspirational. But knowing that’s what we want to achieve gives us the energy and drive to figure out what next.”
The 10 key areas determined to drive the greatest benefits for access and inclusion of people with disability within an organisation are as follows:

1. Commitment: We commit to best practice on access and inclusion for people with disability as employees, customers and stakeholders.

2. Premises: Our premises are accessible to people with disability, and whenever necessary we make adjustments for individuals.

3. Workplace adjustments: We anticipate the needs of people with disability and have a robust process for making any adjustments that might be needed by individuals.

4. Communication and marketing: Our communication and marketing channels are accessible to people with disability, and whenever necessary we make reasonable adjustments for individuals. 

5. Products and services: We value people with disability as customers, clients and service users and address their needs when developing and delivering our products and services.

6. ICT: Our ICT is accessible and usable by people with disability, and we also make reasonable adjustments for individuals.

7. Recruitment and selection: We attract and recruit people with disability, which gives us access to the widest talent pool at every level.

8. Career development: We value all our employees, including those who experience disability and are committed to their retention and development.

9. Suppliers and partners: We expect our suppliers and corporate partners to reflect and enable us to meet our commitment to best practice.

10. Innovation: We pride ourselves on our innovative practices and continually strive to do better.

Source: Access and Inclusion Index Benchmark Report 2016, Australian Network on Disability

Key tips
McLane is keen to dispel some misconceptions about what it takes to become a truly accessible organisation. “The gravest concern is not knowing what colleagues need to make them successful,” he says.

For example, it’s common to put in place practices prior to the individual starting in the workplace, which McLane deems “well intended but a bit backward”.

“I think this goes back to where we started – about listening. Even through the interview process, asking potential colleagues what they need to be successful. Some of the concern around employing people with disability tends to go right to this idea about infrastructure – ramps, barrier-free lavatories and things like that – which you should have anyway. But sometimes it’s as simple as what time do I arrive at work? Do I have any flexibility to make sure I can leave at a certain time? Is there suitable transport available in the city? Sometimes it’s even simpler – for example, I use a certain type of keyboard. That’s not a big ask.”

McLane, who says his passion for D&I was sparked at Whirlpool Corporation, believes D&I deserves the same level of market segmentation that might occur in a marketing department. The overarching goal, he says, is to attract great talent to an organisation.

“That’s where I fell in love with the work. That’s where I understood the gap – colleagues and customers are not two different sets of people. Colleagues are customers who just happen to work here. If we can start to take some of that discipline around customer understanding into HR and within HR the colleague understanding back into the business, we have a full circle and we’re really adding value to the organisation.”

As a final tip, McLane suggests HR be clear on who is leading diversity, and how HR fits in.

“You need to ask who’s leading diversity for your organisation. My role is helping to build the discipline into the organisation – both into the business and into the HR function. For HR, they must understand they have permission to know they don’ t know everything. It becomes an iterative learning process for everyone. When you start to have that realisation you also take some of the fear out of the organisation – the fear of getting it wrong.”
Mark McLane outlines three key steps Barclays has taken to lead the company towards the highest-ever score in the UK’s Disability Standard.

1. The Barclays mobile banking app is the first banking app to be accredited by Ability Net for its accessibility.

2. ‘Able to Enable’, a campaign focusing on accessibility in employment, is an expansion of the Barclays internship and apprenticeship programs. It reaches out specifically to those who identify as people with disability to help the company become a better employment destination for them.

3. ‘This is Me’, now in its fourth year, started out as a mental health and wellness campaign focusing on colleagues telling their story about how they manage their mental health and wellness and their careers at Barclays. Today it has become more generally about disability globally. In the past three years Barclays also partnered with the Lord Mayor’s Office of London to launch the initiative into the city. In turn, 80 companies in the City of London have now deployed similar campaigns to raise mental health awareness.