As an HR leader whose influence creates social change, what do you feel has been your most impactful action to date?
I think it was my fierce determination to move the investment banking mindset from a pure results focus regime to one that recognised the importance of good leadership and treating people well. Through coaching and a rebuild of our core values, we started to see more leaders leading with “heart” - humility, empathy, authenticity, adaptability and with more transparency. My team worked over many, many years to build this into every process from recruitment, to performance management, promotions and reward.
At the moment, in your industry, what do you think is the most exciting opportunity for HR to change the world?
Now is the time for HR to step up and hold the CEO and the Executive Board accountable to make changes for the better. For too long HR has taken a followership role, whereas now is the time to take a leadership role. HR is right in the middle of the current agenda and we should lead with a vision for the culture we want to create. Having a diverse and inclusive environment is obviously the right thing to do. It is not hard to invite people to the table. However, the real challenge is making people feel like they belong. Accountability should also extend to our choices of suppliers, partners and influencers and the relationships we create with them.
Which particular areas of social and environmental injustice are you most passionate about, and see that your role gives you the chance to create change?
As someone who was born in Jamaica, I am actively engaged in and passionate about increasing ethnic opportunities and representation everywhere. The representation of Black colleagues is still too few in most organisations. In fact, only 1.5% of the leadership roles in the UK are held by Black people. I currently work with two groups (Inspiring Tomorrow’s Leaders and Aréte Network) led by amazing and inspiring Black women whose vision is to create a world where every disadvantaged girl of African-Caribbean descent has the chance to have a dream and then to fulfil it.
How have you best used your position to create a more equitable and inclusive environment in ways that deliver your business goals?
I have always looked to give others a voice. I have been in the fortunate position of having the ear of senior leadership in large organisations. I tried to use that as an opportunity to give others a chance to have their issues, solutions and ideas heard. In many cases, these individuals had never any meaningful contact with an Executive Committee member previously, so it was important to support them before, during and after the process. For example, we developed a sponsorship programme matching senior females with executive committee members who would act as their guide, door opener, champion and roadblock remover. Not only did the women feel more supported by the organisation but we saw promotion and movement within and across the organisation and started to see the benefit of more diverse thinking.
What is the one specific action you would like to see all HR Leaders take to make a positive change for the world?
There has never been a better time to own your seat at the table – whichever table you can get to, at whatever level you operate in. Be curious about the world beyond your immediate window. Bring people together. Work for the good of the organisation overall. Have a voice. Make the most of the responsibility you have as an accountable partner to keep the organisation sustainable and successful.