The importance of inclusion

Gerry Mallon is Chief Executive of Tesco Bank

Growing up in Northern Ireland I was always aware of the inclusion issues that existed there.  There were two communities where your employment opportunities were significantly different, depending on which you came from. 

Having watched those differences fade, it inspires me to think about what’s possible for broader inclusion issues in the UK and globally.

It’s one of the reasons I’m delighted to be the new Inclusion Network Sponsor at Tesco Bank.  This role gives me the opportunity to oversee, drive and lead our Inclusion Agenda.  Based on independent insight, we’ve prioritised communication, education, talent acquisition and our colleague networks as being critical to the Bank, and this is helping us focus on being a place where ‘everyone’s welcome’.

My role as Inclusion Sponsor allows me to spend time with our five colleague networks.  These improve awareness within our workplace on issues related to gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability, and the Armed Forces.  Each network is led by a senior leader in our business, and this helps to propel our inclusion agenda and amplify the inclusion work we are investing in.

Truly inclusive organisations need to have inclusive leaders. To ensure I champion my role as not just the Sponsor of Inclusion at the Bank but as a member of the Tesco Executive team, I’ve recently participated in an Executive Mentoring Programme, in partnership with Arrival Education’s Talent Network.

Joining the Tesco Mentoring Scheme

The idea behind the scheme is a simple one.  All members of the Tesco Executive Committee were given the opportunity to mentor an individual from an ethnic minority background in London.

Our role as mentors is to work with talented young people from ethnically diverse and economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and to help prepare them for a career in the corporate world.

However, this scheme is different to previous mentoring initiatives I’ve been part of.  I still got a sense of personal satisfaction from helping to develop someone in the early stages of their career, but on this occasion I think the real benefits were felt by the mentors.

My mentee, Munsifa, is a 21-year-old Muslim of Sri Lankan origin.  It has been a hugely insightful and rewarding experience to get to know her, and I know my colleagues in Tesco feel the same about their own mentoring relationships.  It’s improved the conversations we have about inclusion at Tesco, and given us real insight into how we can build an environment where diversity can flourish, and everyone can feel at home.  Our conversations are based on a clear understanding of our mentees’ lives, the cultures they come from, and the perspective that gives them on the world.

Conversation is the key

The most valuable insight I’ve taken from the experience is that there is no substitute for having one-to-one conversations to understand another persons’ perspective and their lived experience.   

I had open and honest discussions with Munsifa around her experiences, religion and culture.  These are conversations many of us ordinarily shy away from, through a mis-placed sense of politeness or fear of saying the wrong thing.  Thanks to Munsifa I’ve learnt to embrace these conversations, and recent events have underlined just how important it is that issues of inclusion are openly discussed and understood.

Inclusion is everything

As Tesco Bank’s CEO and Inclusion Sponsor, I’m proud of what we’ve achieved so far.  We’ve launched mental health training for line managers, ensuring leaders feel better equipped to support colleagues with their wellbeing and mental health. We’ve improved our performance management processes, with managers asked to think about the whole person and not simply performance based on objectives. We’ve also delivered mindset-shifting sessions, in partnership with Human Library, to help our colleagues tap into their bias. Our colleague networks have helped to drive engagement and understanding around subjects such as menopause, gender bias and suicide. These are often difficult subjects that we must not shy away from discussing.

We are also signatories of the Women in Finance Charter, Race at Work Charter (via Tesco) and we are a Stonewall Diversity Champion.  These are all significant and helpful initiatives which are helping Tesco Bank make real progress with our Inclusion Agenda.

Everyone has a part to play

So, at the start of National Inclusion Week, I’d encourage everyone to consider what conversations you can have to better understand inclusion in your workplace. As a start, this week is a great opportunity to check in with your own colleagues and understand if there is a role for you as an ally.  Through listening and learning, conversations about inclusion are a brilliant way to increase empathy across your organisation.

Published 28 September 2020