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Tesco Bank Chief Executive Gerry Mallon on diversity and inclusion

This article is being published from the BSB by a guest writer, Gerry Mallon, Chief Executive, Tesco Bank.

At Tesco, one of our three key values is that we treat people how they would like to be treated.

Written by our colleagues over 20 years ago, this statement is as true today as it was then. It asks us to put ourselves in the shoes of others and treat them with respect and dignity always.

It’s one of the reasons I’m delighted to be the Inclusion 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’.

Strength in Diversity

The diversity of the people in our company is what makes us stronger and our commitment to supporting our black and other ethnic minority colleagues is genuine and deeply held.

To mark Black History Month in October, colleagues across the Tesco Group, including our Multicultural Network, shared their experiences with each other; reflected on the outstanding contribution vibrant black communities and culture have had on society and their perspectives; and considered how we can better educate ourselves on challenging racism all year round.

Tesco is a signatory of the Race at Work Charter and we are working to implement its five calls to action to tackle barriers that ethnic minority people can face in recruitment and progression. We are also enabling and driving open conversations around subjects such as inclusion and racism, conversations many of us ordinarily shy away from, through a misplaced sense of politeness or fear of saying the wrong thing.  Through the delivery of  mindset-shifting sessions, in partnership with Human Library, and an inclusion speaker series, we are creating a safe environment for colleagues to tap into their unconscious bias while exploring and stretching their knowledge about inclusion related subjects.

Delivering on our promise

While I am proud of all we have achieved to make Tesco Bank a place where everyone’s welcome, I am acutely aware that it isn’t enough to simply say, ‘we are delivering initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion’. This is an area where the work of the Banking Standards Board (BSB) is invaluable.  As an independent organisation promoting high standards of behaviour and trust within the UK banking sector, BSB provides us with context for the challenges the industry is facing from a diversity perspective and where the opportunities lie to make a difference.

Truly inclusive organisations need leaders and colleagues who take collective responsibility and hold each other to account.

Growing up in Northern Ireland I was always aware of the inclusion issues that existed there.  Employment opportunities were significantly different, depending on which community 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.

To build on my own experience, and 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 recently participated in an executive mentoring programme, in partnership with Arrival Education’s Talent Network.

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 was to work with highly 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 was 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 21 years old, Muslim and of Sri Lankan origin.  It was a hugely insightful and rewarding experience to get to know her, and I know my colleagues in Tesco felt 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 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 person’s perspective and their lived experience.

I had very frank discussions with Munsifa around her experiences, religion and culture. Thanks to Munsifa I’ve learnt to embrace these types of conversations, and recent events have underlined just how important it is that issues of inclusion are openly discussed and understood.

As Tesco Bank’s CEO and Inclusion Sponsor, I encourage all our colleagues to consider what conversations they can have to better understand inclusion across the Bank. Listening and learning as well as actively enabling open dialogue about inclusion within your workplace are brilliant ways to increase empathy across your organisation.