Personnel Today Awards 2019: Financial Times scoops Diversity and Inclusion (Private Sector) prize

The Financial Times 2019 Personnel Today Awards
The Financial Times team pick up their Diversity and Inclusion (Private Sector) prize at the 2019 Personnel Today Awards

The Financial Times won this prestigious award by making a concerted effort to significantly increase gender and ethnic diversity and meet changing business goals. In a particularly strong field the runners-up all demonstrated their determination to broaden the diversity of their workforces.

Financial Times

Fundamental to the newspaper’s business model is the need to grow digital subscriptions (in common with most print/web publishers). The FT spotted that 82% of its subscribers were male. Increasing female readership became a clear business strategy. But to achieve a greater diversity among its readership, the FT realised it had to change internally too.

A survey in 2017 revealed that only half the workforce understood the FT’s D&I goals and also that ethnic diversity should be the focus of more effort and investment. Technology was seen as one area where more female employees were needed.

Goals were put in place at board, company and departmental levels all supported by HR business partners. The board committed to objectives such as achieving gender parity in the FT senior leadership team by 2022 (starting point was 37% female/63% male), sharing quarterly progress reports with teams to help them understand how we’re doing and to keep the conversation active and ensuring they, and the FT senior leadership team, have a D&I objective as part of their personal objectives on which their annual bonus is based.

The FT also committed to broadening its talent pipeline through sponsorship and development of early and mid-career talent by offering career coaching, mentoring and a range of training courses and supporting flexibility by providing structured coaching support before, during and after family leave. It also extended paid maternity leave to 20 weeks fully paid globally. The company now requires 50/50 male/female shortlists for all roles to ensure inclusive recruitment practices.

In September 2018, the FT reported that female representation on its senior leadership team had increased to 45%, 53% of people managers were women and overall, women made up 51% of our global workforce.



To ensure a holistic diversity and inclusion culture, AXA UK, part of one of the world’s largest insurance companies, aimed to promote personal stories, showcase senior advocacy and empower its staff to shape our culture.

Highlights of the year include launching its BAME Employee Resource Group, creating mandatory diversity learning module, and running its first We’re AXA campaign. Initiatives had plenty of involvement from the firm’s most senior leaders, with the diversity and inclusion agenda led by the chief financial officer and five executives sitting on the D&I board. Employees were empowered to shape company culture through employee resource groups in the key areas of gender equality, ethnicity, disability and mental health, LGBT+, working families and inclusion for all.

The various initiatives launched in these areas resulted in a 37% increase from 2017 in engagement with National Inclusion Week – with 56 different activities across AXA sites involving 5,165 employees. Employee resource groups have a combined membership of 1,430 employees and play an active and independent role in creating AXA’s culture. Staff feel comfortable to bring “100% of themselves to work” – for example, 88% of LGBT+ employees who took part in a survey said they felt able to be themselves in the workplace and 90% of non-LGBT employees felt confident calling out inappropriate behaviour or discrimination.

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner

As the first global law firm with two female co-chairs, BCLP is deeply committed to taking a strong, visible and authentic stance on equality and inclusion.

BAME lawyers, and black lawyers specifically, are under-represented in the legal profession. BCLP recognises that this is not reflective of society, or of the clients it represents. BCLP initiated Race for Change in 2015. This is an annual event, targeting black undergraduates and recent graduates.

Its aim is to increase the representation of black lawyers in private practice law firms, through creating access to role models, networks, insights and tips around succeeding in law firm training contract and vacation scheme application processes. Race for Change intends to reach a broader population of black students, including those at non-Russell Group universities.

Initially the programme failed to achieve its main objective, so changes were made: the firm introduced a short application process which provided an opportunity to learn more about those wishing to participate. It worked with Aspiring Solicitors and Debut to market the Race for Change event to a broader audience. In addition, it utilised its campus ambassadors asking them to promote via their multicultural networks.

Black lawyers are in a minority in the City, so visible role models are critical. BCLP worked harder to ensure that a greater number of black lawyers attended and spoke at the event. In addition to skills workshops, BCLP’s graduate recruitment team delivered comprehensive sessions focusing on each stage of its recruitment process. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive – those attending were impressive, well researched and keenly motivated to pursue a career in law. In BCLP’s 2018/9 recruiting round, it saw a 333% increase in the number of Race for Change participants invited to assessment days compared with the 2017 recruiting round.

Coventry Building Society

Coventry Building Society aims attract the best talent, remove any barriers and accommodate individual differences where possible. It is acutely aware that not all disabilities are visible and its hiring managers are trained to recognise this.

It has recruited more than 300 people in the past 12 months and as a result of its diversity and inclusion strategy and training, managers have appointed new staff with non-visible disabilities such as autism, dyslexia and epilepsy knowing that the Society is well-equipped to support the individual needs of these colleagues. It has worked with the National Autistic Society to educate managers across the organisation about the abilities and needs of people with autism.

Coventry also rolled out a diversity toolkit to 300 managers helping them to manage diversity in the workplace. On top of this, all employees are encouraged to educate themselves on disabilities through informative intranet pages and workshops. The results include a much greater confidence among managers and staff at managing adjustments. Other areas of the business have engaged in work placements and built relationships with Royal National Institute for the Blind. These efforts have seen the Society accredited as a Disability Confident employer.


The accounting and services giant wanted to innovate its recruitment processes in order to attract students – particularly females – from different social backgrounds and from ethnic minorities, in particular those interested in technology and cyber.

The company set about targeting those who did not have awareness of the firm and who did not go to Russell Group universities. A concept of “curious minds” was developed. Graduate and apprentice job boards were used as well as paid search advertising. Deloitte used its proprietary research tool to identify and target higher education institutions with students who were studying relevant subjects and were more likely to be female and from BAME backgrounds.

User experience of the online candidate journey was re-evaluated and adjusted and graduate programme templates were developed. Animations were created and launched across social platforms, part of an approach that created engaging experiences where people could actually feel, touch, hear and see what curiosity is, showcasing how the graduate programme could turn a curious mind into a successful career.

The campaign attracted 41% of applications from female candidates and 47% of applications from BAME candidates. The quality of candidates also increased, with a 249% increase in candidates having accepted their offer, compared with the previous year. Deloitte saw 36% of cyber applications and 35% of technology applications coming from female candidates and 44% of cyber applications and 50% of technology applications coming from BAME candidates. Recruitment events saw substantial upturns in attendance.


Following on from the #MeToo movement, and in recognition that all employees should be able to bring their whole self to work, IBM decided to reinforce its policy of zero tolerance for any kind of intolerance, bullying and harassment.

Its solution included training sessions using real-life case studies and scenarios, and employee and manager education that was offered in both face-to-face sessions and digitally. This allowed every employee regardless of location or level of seniority to be included.

Also, a team of dedicated team of specialist HR advisers was trained to manage and respond to any cases that were brought to them. It was made a mandatory requirement that every IBM employee completed training on the issues and training was also run for IBM’s major client project teams working off site. The business emphasised that it expected clients to adhere to the same standards of behaviour.

This initiative has now been adopted globally, and training has been adapted to take account of cultural differences and norms. Employees now have the confidence to step forward if they are the recipient of, or a witness to inappropriate behaviours with most cases being dealt with swiftly, professionally and discreetly with a significant reduction in potential tribunal cases. To date some 93% of employees and managers have completed the training.

Lloyds Banking Group

Lloyds Bank believes that colleagues who feel included and valued also perform better, make better decisions and are more engaged. The Group committed to achieving 40% of women in senior positions by 2020, and has so far achieved 35% (with its community banking division last year achieving 43.7%).

But it takes the view that to truly be inclusive takes more than just achieving a metric. Cheryl Bosi (retail and community banking people director) returned from maternity leave a couple of years ago and noticed that there were strong similarities in the development needs of her female colleagues that reflected her own challenges as a working mum of two holding a senior position within the bank.

An external partner (Wondrous), was engaged to assist with research, and more broadly to help identify how best to design activity that was transformational for those involved. The intent was to form a group of advocates (both men and women) to act as role models and share learning about these challenges throughout the organisation. Some of the themes captured by research focused around culture, which was largely perceived by women to be male-dominated, with leadership portraying a need to work longer and harder to be successful.

The objectives of the ensuing programme included: becoming committed to creating an inclusive culture; becoming more confident in advocating the business case for gender diversity; balancing the “tilting platform” for inclusive leadership; and equipping people with the skills to model inclusive leadership and sponsor the changes the company is making.

Wondrous worked with HR to design a nine-month programme which ran from April 2018 to January 2019. The approach moved away from class room/course-like activities and encouraged participants to engage in pods; building strong relationships as a smaller group and encouraging individuals to be their whole self.

MTR Elizabeth line

Operating Europe’s most significant new railway, which will have 41 stations in Greater London and 200 million passenger journeys each year, needs exceptional staff who are representative of one of the most diverse communities in the UK. The company wants a diverse and inclusive workforce to be central to MTR’s culture and currently has around 1,100 employees, half of whom are train drivers.

It has launched many initiatives to ensure its workforce is representative and diverse. These have demonstrably succeeded in removing barriers to bring under-represented people into the workplace; created an environment where differences are valued and utilised; and improved the diversity of the workforce. MTR has put in place engagement, attraction, retention and development strategies for candidates from under-represented groups and carried out direct interventions to improve diversity of applicants, such as offering work placements and supporting pre-employment training.

So far, 12% of MTR train drivers are women – double the industry average and fourfold increase on two years ago. In the 10 new Elizabeth line stations, 75% of customer experience assistants are from black and Asian communities and 40% are female. Nearly a third of train drivers (31%) are from BAME communities, compared with 8.3% nationally and over 75% of the workforce lives in the local community. MTR has employed people who are homeless and has added in extra support mechanisms to help support them with their everyday challenges. Its MTR Ambassadors – employees charged with engaging local communities – made a staggering 30,900 engagements in 2018.

Further achievements have seen MTR create a pioneering partnership with trade union Aslef, enabling joint working on a range of initiatives, alongside a zero percent industrial action rate.

Savills (UK) Limited

The property firm has been fighting the perception of the sector being populated mainly by older, privately educated white males, with an approach that the company says is about a lot more than ticking boxes. The first step in this change was making D&I a business-critical priority.

The firm already had some D&I groups, but these were informal and operated independently. For the new strategy to work, these needed to cover all areas of diversity and work in harmony with each other. Following extensive consultations with employees and senior leaders, six D&I groups were created: Gender, age, disability, ethnicity, LGBTQ and socio-economic.

To drive change, a diversity steering group was set up, chaired by the UK MD, with a member from each group represented on the committee. Working together identifying what was important to them and what they wanted to support over the past year has led to them transforming D&I at Savills with countless initiatives, activities, policies and ideas. Among the changes was improvements in family leave policies including maternity/paternity and shared parental leave. It has also forged relationships with schools, appointed mental health champions, created a formal link with Stonewall and participated in Gay Pride events . Savills developed a tool to compare people from different educational backgrounds from a level playing field using contextual data about candidates’ applications.

Benefits of the strategy have included seeing a distinct narrowing in the company’s gender pay gap, a doubling in female representation on the board, and a major rise in female directors returning to work, as a result of maternity coaching.

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