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Case study: Exemplary disability management at Barclays

Barclays offers some top tips on getting your disability inclusion strategy right

Barclays Bank has broken a diversity and inclusion record by becoming the highest-scoring organisation in a disability management measure's history.

The Business Disability Forum (BDF) awarded the company 98% after assessing its approach to 10 workplace practices including physical accessibility and adjustments – the largest score given since the Forum introduced its disability standard in 2004.

Only three other organisations have achieved more than 90%: Lloyds Banking Group, assistive technology firm Microlink and the Office for National Statistics.

Barclays' head of global diversity and inclusion Mark McLane explained the company’s approach to HR magazine.

Give senior leaders focus

Barclays' diversity and inclusion strategy has five pillars: gender, disability, LGBT, multicultural and multigenerational. Each is led by one senior leader.

“I'm asking them to do one thing and really lead on that aspect, instead of trying to have senior leaders do everything around diversity,” said McLane. “Ashok Vaswani, our CEO of Barclays UK, has been leading the disability pillar for the last three years. It's that consistency and focus that also brings to his business the focus around accessibility.

“Ashok, as part of his responsibilities, has made the statement he wants Barclays to be the most accessible bank. Having that level of sponsorship really gets the work started and empowers others to look at disability across the piece.”

Constantly monitor your practice

Barclays couples each of the five pillars with a 'listening group'. These are employees, organised by region, who speak to colleagues about how well disability targets are being achieved and what more could be done.

“I also ask them to do some horizon scanning – tell us what's out there. What are some new technologies that we might not be aware of? This informs our strategy,” adds McLane.

“We also ask our colleagues to force-rank the work. If we have the resources to go after one or two things, what would be the most important this calendar year for us to focus on? But the list continues to refresh so it's ongoing.”

Centralise your reasonable adjustment process

McLane says since centralising reasonable adjustment requests the system has become less pressurised. The bank introduced an online catalogue of more common reasonable adjustment tools, such as keyboards or computer mice, which staff can order without having to go through an occupational health assessment.

Engage with new technologies

McLane explained that he has had Braille on his business cards in the past. Recently the bank started putting a QR code on the card, with instructions in Braille, so contacts can automatically upload his details onto their phone. They can then use voiceover technology to hear his contact details. “It's not new technology, but it's a slightly different application,” said McLane.

He also gave two examples the bank has implemented for customers: “In branch if you need a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter we can now call that service up on an iPad as opposed to having to make an appointment to come in with a BSL interpreter,” he says.

The bank has also introduced talking ATM machines that allow customers to plug in their headphones to hear instructions, rather than read them on-screen.

Measure your impact

Barclays encourages its workers to self-identify if they have a disability or are LGBT through an employee opinion survey. Over the past two years the number of staff self-identifying at the bank has increased from 3% to 6%. “That tells me we're building real trust in the organisation, and colleagues are really understanding the importance around self-identification to help us understand the make-up and need of our colleague base around the world,” suggested McLane.

Weave changes into what you’re already doing to reduce costs

McLane explained expenses incurred by implementing disability accessibility do not have to be high if they are incorporated into daily processes rather than considered an add-on. He gave the example of adding subtitles to Barclays' in-house video communications, which used to be done post production but are now considered standard.

Be consistent

“A one-off workshop or article is a nice starting point,” said McLane. “But you have to have consistent delivery of consistent messaging for the work to become part of what you are. And for the ownership of the work to transfer into the organisation and not just be a departmentally-driven campaign.”

Consider non-visible disability

Finally, McLane emphasised that mental health and wellness should be included in workplace disability efforts. Barclays encourages staff to share their stories about how they managed their mental health and wellness as part of its This Is Me campaign. “If you looked across Barclays’ head office you would see individuals across the bank that represent part of the disabled community with a visible disability. You wouldn't see disabilities that aren't apparent,” he said.