Posted by Sharon Kyle Sustainable growth
Proud to be here - our Head of Culture and Inclusion
7th September 2015
With a sense of excitement and pride I joined Virgin Media almost a year ago in a new role heading up Culture and Inclusion within our internal People Team. It’s one of those job titles where people say ‘you do what?’! Basically I get to work on all the interesting (and sometimes challenging) stuff looking at how we can ensure we have a working culture and environment that is engaging, interesting and inclusive for our all our people, and that in turn our people feel empowered to give their best and contribute to our business success.
“That sounds totally vague and fluffy” said my long suffering fiancé. So let me help bring (some of) my job to life, because honestly, I think I am one of the luckiest people in the world.
Let’s start with the Culture piece. When I was interviewing for my job here, I could really sense something different about the company compared to some other places I have worked (naming no names of course!). Good different. It’s difficult to explain but it’s all about the people. There is a real heart to the company, coupled with a sense of fun, even slight irreverence, and an attitude that screams “we care about what we do, and we are proud”. On my final interview I was sat next to a Red puppet – our mascot representing the Virgin Values – sitting on some Virgin Atlantic style flight seats. Surreal yes, but that pretty much made my mind up that this was the place for me.
Of course it’s not all puppets and fun. On a serious note – we have over 13000 people working for us across the UK, in a wide variety of jobs, from a broad diversity of backgrounds, in a fast moving, fiercely competitive and ever changing sector. And as well as being proud, our people are the first to shout if something is wrong or needs to be improved.
Our people also tell us if they feel excluded which brings me on to the second part of my role – Inclusion. Or if you like, diversity and inclusion. Psychology 101 lesson alert – people tend to feel most comfortable with people like themselves. This can mean people who are different in some way (the only male in a group of females, the only person in the team with a disability, a team member who doesn’t have English as their first language, someone deciding whether or not to ‘come out’ at work) may find the workplace more of a challenge. Couple this with the fact that our society is becoming more and more diverse (ageing population, multiculturalism, decrease of traditional family structures, decline in some religions, increases in others etc etc) and you potentially have a challenge.
So a big part of my focus in my first year has been understanding more about the diversity we have across our company, where it is working well, and where we can improve. And this is not just about the diversity and inclusion of our existing teams but also ensuring we can attract a broad diversity of people into the company, understanding that these people also represent our customers and communities.
Still too fluffy? Let me give you some practical examples. 51% of the UK population are women, and research shows women make or influence up to 80% of purchasing decisions meaning women are at least if not more important to us as men are in terms of existing and potential customers. Inside our company 30% are female, and in some areas (engineering, sales) this is significantly lower. If we are to truly understand and represent the needs of 51% of the population it would make sense to ensure we are aiming for a more gender balanced workforce.
Another? Currently over 11 million (just under 1 in 5) people in the UK have a disability and this is expected to increase to 1 in 4 by 2030 partly due to our ageing population. We do not currently know enough about how many people in our company may need support for an existing or future disability, and because of this we are missing opportunities to learn from their experiences and perspectives which may equally influence how we interact with and design products and services for our customers.
That’s just two of many possible examples. So what are we doing about it? One of the great things about Virgin Media is the collaboration across the company. So just as sustainability is not just seen as the job of the sustainability team (read this interesting article from our chief people office on this very topic), neither is inclusion just seen as the job of the HR/people team. To show our commitment to ensuring we have a working culture which helps us engage & empower, value & celebrate, and attract & retain teams which are just as diverse as our customers and communities, we have put our inclusion goals at the heart of our sustainability strategy and supported this with a leadership committee with representatives from across the company. And we are making great progress.
My three top highlights of the year so far
- Kicking off the first ever inclusion of the Virgin brand in four major gay Pride parades across the UK with over 250 of our people taking part. The London group were even greeted by Richard Branson.
- Establishing a disability working group who so far to date have helped us shape a roadmap to improve accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities inside Virgin Media. Only last month we had the inspirational gold medal winning Paralympian Richard Whitehead take part in the filming of our brand new disability awareness training.
- Hearing all 8 of our Executive Committee stand up and tell the company how personally important increasing the participation and representation of women at Virgin Media is to each of them as part of an ambitious International Women’s Day event back in March.
There’s so much more to come in this space and with a sense of pride I look forward to many years of both fun and challenge with Virgin Media!
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