Laurence Beard, Remediation Analyst and Rajendra Singh, Digital Product Owner.

Accelerating inclusion: behind the revamp of Barclays’ internal colleague directory

28 February 2024

What does it take to make “one of the most used applications” at the bank as inclusive as it can be? Barclays’ Laurence Beard and Rajendra Singh share how they overhauled Barclays’ internal colleague directory and introduced a new name pronunciation feature – with diversity, equity and inclusion in mind.

For colleagues working day-to-day at the bank, Barclays’ internal colleague directory is part of the furniture. Serving as a ‘phonebook’, the application allows colleagues to manage user profiles, search and find each other’s details and locate branch and office information in one convenient place. It’s “one of the most used applications at the bank”, according to Rajendra Singh (he/him), Digital Product Owner – and an essential resource for connecting with colleagues.

Singh is part of the bank’s Digital Colleague Experience team that undertook a refresh of the directory to improve user experience. As they were reviewing the tool, Singh and his team realised that the changes needed to go beyond technical updates.

“We started digging and realised it needed a revamp,” he says. This not only involved making the technology behind the directory more secure and reliable but also adding new features to make it more inclusive – in line with the bank’s wider diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategy.

“Based on feedback and colleague research, we found that the application wasn’t meeting certain accessibility and inclusion needs,” he adds. “This motivated us to ask ourselves: ‘How can we make sure that every single colleague can use this?’”

“We need to make sure that we have the right systems in place”

Remediation Analyst, Laurence Beard (he/him), says that when he joined the project, working closely with different groups of colleagues and hearing their perspectives inspired him to consider how DEI features could be added to the directory.

“It gave me insight into the different ways that it could be accessible that I hadn’t previously considered,” he explains. “We realised there was an opportunity to do more to help colleagues interact with each other virtually. This led us to add a name pronunciation feature.”

This new feature gives colleagues the option to add an audio recording of the pronunciation of their name to their profile on the directory, as well as to write out the phonetic spelling. “To create an inclusive culture where people get these things right, we need to make sure that we have the right systems in place to support colleagues,” Beard explains.

For Singh, this feature is important to support a diverse working culture at the bank. “Barclays is a global organisation, and our colleagues have wonderful names from many different cultures,” he says. “It’s not unusual to come across an unfamiliar name and be unsure how to pronounce it.”

Ensuring that colleagues feel seen and heard has become even more vital with so many people working remotely. “Not wanting to offend on a call, colleagues might ask how to pronounce someone’s name,” Singh adds. “However, this might not always be possible – whether it’s because of a noisy environment, or because you’re unable to get the little nuances in the pronunciation right.” Now, the new feature enables colleagues to listen to others’ name pronunciations as needed.

Since moving all colleagues over to the new directory in July 2023, 348 people have recorded their names. Beard and Singh hope this number will increase as awareness of the feature rises across the bank. “Ideally everyone will have their name pronunciation in the directory,” says Beard.

Rajendra Singh, Digital Product Owner, with the phonetic spelling of his name.

Singh says he realised changes to the directory needed to go beyond technical updates.

“It helps me feel seen and valued”

Colleagues have welcomed the new additions to the directory. For Maya Welford (she/her),  Behavioural Finance Specialist, the name pronunciation feature has improved the way she interacts with others at work.

“I’ve appreciated being able to listen to how someone’s name is pronounced before I have a meeting with them,” she says. “In turn, I’ve also had meetings with people who mentioned that they listened to my name before speaking with me. It goes a long way and helps me feel seen and valued.”

Martech Senior Product Owner, Luwito Tardia (he/him), adds: “It’s a great solution to ensure respect with regards to our names – and to help colleagues avoid any awkward situations.”

Iain Mavers (he/him), Director, Private Bank and Wealth Management, describes the tool as “a really useful function, especially for a business that has a global footprint with colleagues from a variety of backgrounds, locations and cultures”.

The directory’s new features have helped to enhance Barclays’ focus on inclusion, adds Sionice-Louise Phillips (she/her), Group Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Business Partner. “We work in a global company where relationships are important, she explains. “As is the need for all colleagues to feel comfortable bringing their whole identities to work.”  

“We kept true to the vision that we had”

When developing the new directory, the team carefully considered colleague feedback to ensure a range of other accessibility requirements were met. “We realised we couldn’t add one DEI feature while overlooking others,” says Beard.

As part of this effort, the Digital Colleague Experience team worked with Barclays’ Central Accessibility team and disability, mental health and neurodiversity employee resource group, Reach, to add other inclusive features to the directory.

Colleagues who are unable to use a mouse, or prefer not to, can now access the directory with only a keyboard. The phonebook has also been designed, developed and tested with assistive technology in mind. For example, it is compatible with screen readers, which help people who are blind or partially sighted to access and interact with digital content.

The directory also has a field where colleagues can write any other accessibility needs that they would like to be considered, as well as an option for people to add their preferred names. “Through this project, we have helped to support the bank’s strategic priorities around building an inclusive and equitable culture,” says Beard.

“This was a great accomplishment for us. We kept true to the vision that we had – which was that every single feature on the directory must be usable by every single colleague,” reflects Singh.

“What’s great about Barclays is that it’s given us the opportunity to give colleagues the same high-level consumer experience that we give to our customers and clients,” he adds. “We can only get the best out of colleagues when we take into account their culture, race, identity, experiences and accessibility needs. We’re all in it together – and we want to make a positive experience for everyone.”

Laurence Beard, Remediation Analyst, with the phonetic spelling of his name.

Beard says, “ideally everyone will have their name pronunciation in the directory.”