In what was formally Lloyds TSB group, the organisation recognised equality and diversity were becoming increasingly important areas, particularly as they needed to reflect the communities the bank was serving.
As part of an overarching disability and equality framework, the bank integrated some specifics regarding disability, including a reasonable adjustments process, targeted training for employees with disabilities and a colleague support network.
But it was not until 10 years later that the programme really found its feet, according to group disability programme senior disability manager Graeme Whippy.
“The big change was in 2010 when our former executive sponsor for disability and director of group operations Mark Fisher said, ‘Fix it – there are process issues here.’
“So basically my colleagues and I were given a blank sheet of paper to design something from scratch that was truly effective and what we put in place then is now used as a model elsewhere in other organisations and has won awards,” he says.
The cornerstone of Lloyds’ approach to workplace disability is the personal development programme, which is about getting employees with disabilities to feel comfortable in their own skin, says Whippy.
Run by Phil Friend’s disability and training consultancy, the programme offers assertiveness training so staff feel confident enough to approach managers to get the support they need. Whippy explains the programme helps colleagues to separate their disability from who they are as a person: “The way Phil Friend puts it is you have to be completely confident in your disability; you have to understand it inside out before you can expect anybody else to understand you.
“So it’s very much about getting the colleague in a position where they feel confident in who they are, put them in a position where they can have productive conversations with their line manager and colleagues, and really just help them get on the road to being happy and fulfilled and having a good career,” he continues.
From there, individuals have the opportunity to join the career development programme which aims to move forward from what employees have learned and look at where they wish to position themselves within the organisation. Career aspirations, identifying personal goals and mentoring are important here, Whippy explains.
Staff are encouraged to come forward and join the programme of their own free will, which is meant to empower the workforce, and no individuals are required to prove they are disabled or have a health condition, unless there are extenuating circumstances to take into account.
“It’s very much done on trust,” says Whippy. “And it’s not just really for people who might have a disability with a big D – for example, people who are severely visually impaired, hearing impaired or mobility impaired. A lot of colleagues go through the process who have probably what would be seen as more minor conditions, probably not even covered by the Equality Act.”
Lloyds believes if it does not take the steps to address these issues, employees are not enabled to be fully productive and any minor conditions that already exist could only worsen.
Since 2010, when the bank’s approach to disability in the workplace was ramped up, Whippy says about 19,500 employees have referred themselves to the process of getting the workplace adjustments they need. Of the 95,000 workers that Lloyds currently employees, it is now approaching the 20% mark for cases that have been opened so far.
But the organisation did not know back in 2000 – when its approach was launched – and it still does not know how many disabled employees the company actually has on board, Whippy adds.
“There’s some work being done by Kate Nash of Kate Nash Associates which is looking at the problems of disclosure and recognising that organisations don’t tend to know how many people they employ who have got a disability because it’s such a fuzzy area,” he explains.
“I expect to see a reduction eventually but given that we do have staff turnover and given that people do have conditions and these do get worse, as well as the range of conditions that you find, there probably will be a steady run rate for an ongoing basis.”
And while the personal and career development programmes are not cheap to run and only take on about fifty to sixty employees a year, Whippy says they deliver clear business benefits for the bank.
During his time at the business, executive sponsor Fisher made it clear to Whippy that the bank should carry on providing the training to its employees, regardless of the economic downturn and cost-cutting environment.
“He [Fisher] said although we could spend the same amount of money and train a lot more people, what we’re actually doing is investing in a smaller number of people for bigger impact,” Whippy explains.
“Because if people go on this course, not only will it benefit them but they will also feel valued, they will feel like the organisation wants to support them, and they will tell people about it. It creates this cultural ripple spreading outwards throughout the organisation.
“That’s the business case: we want to keep the talent that we’ve got and not waste the experience and the money in recruiting somebody to replace them. So it’s actually quite an essential component of our retention strategy.”