#12: Sandy Begbie CBE, former Chief People Officer at Standard Life Aberdeen, former Chief Transformation Officer at Tesco Bank and Chair of the Scottish HR Leadership Group
As an HR leader whose influence creates social change, what do you feel has been your most impactful action to date?
To further the employment prospects of young people who the system tends to leave behind. The postcode you’re born in, the school you attend, many other characteristics impact your life chances. I’ve tried to bring down barriers, to use the great employers I’ve worked for to bring about change, by enabling them to recognise that talent is found in many places.
In 2010 I started work on the Edinburgh Young Person's Guarantee, providing placements for ten unemployed young people. The HR function took five of the placements, because other business areas were unsure, although some managers were open. By the time we got to cohort three, we had doubled to 20 young people, and HR didn’t have to take any placements – we had shown the business the value the young people offer. Once we had momentum we moved to blind recruitment – recruiting without home address, school or qualifications information – we only recruited school leavers on attitude.
The result was that young people with little or no qualifications were employed, and we doubled the number of BAME people, who told us that they felt more confident to apply as the recruitment process seemed fairer.
At the moment, in your industry, what do you think is the most exciting opportunity for HR to change the world?In Financial Services HR had an opportunity in the financial crash in 2008-10, but as a profession we didn’t grab it.
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?The biggest injustice for me is the inequality of opportunity for young people. From the work I’ve done on the Edinburgh Young Person's Guarantee I’d say there are 3 main factors that impact inequality:
How have you best used your position to create a more equitable and inclusive environment in ways that deliver your business goals?
For example, at Standard Life Aberdeen, in the second cohort of the Edinburgh Young Person's Guarantee we recruited ten unemployed young people. We recruited a young girl who had a real attitude and few qualifications. One of the line managers said they didn’t think she’d last six months – I thought she’d go on to great things. She contacted me on Linkedin when the Young Person's Guarantee report was published last year – she’s now a business analyst in a financial services company and she’s just bought her first flat in Edinburgh. Acknowledging that school doesn't work for everyone, there are so many examples of young people being given a work opportunity and grabbing it.