I&D: 60 second interview – Patricia Obinna, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Transport for London
60 second interview — Patricia Obinna, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Transport for London
As part of our plans to drive forward a more inclusive vision of doing business in London, we’ve launched a series of short interviews to find out what some of our members are doing to improve inclusion and diversity (I&D) within their own organisations. Today we hear from Patricia Obinna, Patricia Obinna, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Transport for London.
Q. Why is having an inclusive and diverse working environment important to you?
If you’re asking me from a professional perspective, the benefits of diversity are well-publicised – diversity, especially at the most senior level of an organisation, leads to better decision making, greater productivity and more creative problem solving, which in turn leads to increased profits. Inclusion results in a more motivated and engaged workforce, and is better for the mental health of employees.
On a personal level, having an inclusive workplace is important because a workplace where everyone feels respected and valued, somewhere where they feel like they belong and can have the career that they want, strikes me as the only fair and just approach to working life.
Q. What are some of the steps that TfL is taking to push this agenda forward across the organisation?
We are adopting a multi-faceted approach to creating an inclusive workplace under our new pan-TfL diversity and inclusion strategy, Action on Inclusion, which we launched at the end of June. There are so many actions and commitments set out in our 7 year strategy, but here are a few of the key steps that we are taking as part of our detailed action plan:
Using the existing Senior Leadership communication channels to discuss leaders’ accountability for driving the requisite change of culture by leading in a more emotionally intelligent and inclusive way;
Ensuring that all senior leaders have an inclusion objective as part of their annual performance objectives in order to keep inclusion at the forefront of their minds;
Promoting active allyship in order to ensure that everyone recognises that they have a part to play in changing the culture of the organisation. Allyship is also important because it encourages everyone, not just those directly affected by discrimination and unacceptable behaviour, to understand their individual responsibility and their collective power of being part of the solution;
Mandatory organisation-wide training is being rolled out to underpin our zero tolerance approach to discrimination and unacceptable behaviour by educating colleagues about what not to do in the workplace;
Looking at our recruitment practices, career progression, reasonable adjustments process, reviewing our policies and our Estates strategy, amongst other things, to ensure that inclusion is integral to every business decision that we make;
New inclusion index questions will be used in our annual employee survey to measure progress against our stated aim of creating a more inclusive workplace and there are scorecard measures to measure the business’ progress against the corporate commitments in the strategy.
Q. TfL recently celebrated pride across the capital’s transport network. What did you do and hope to achieve?
We wrapped a number of our services (a London Overground and an Elizabeth Line train, a double decker bus and an engineering locomotive) in a new distinctive, vibrant livery to demonstrate our commitment to celebrating diversity. At the same time, we used our network to amplify the important voices and rich stories within the diverse LGBTQ+ community using our corporate message of “Every Story Matters”. Our hope was that people travelling on our network would connect with the different stories and our poster campaign while they were travelling around and would perhaps be encouraged to share their own stories, but in any event they would hopefully choose to stand with us to celebrate our people’s and London’s diversity.
Q. When it comes to improving diversity at a senior level, what does TfL do to support people from under-represented groups in their journey to the top?
Our new approach to talent is that everyone is considered talent (as opposed to the traditional model where managers categorise individuals) and we are using a talent readiness process to enable individuals to have meaningful employee-led quality conversations with their manager which involves our people self-identifying whether they are either “Stretch” (finding and taking on new challenges and experiences), “Strengthen” (looking to develop and grow in their current role) or “Move” (development with a view to moving into a new lateral or promotional role).
We have also reimagined our performance and development processes to give our people more ownership over their progression; this is supported through conversations about their wellbeing, ambitions, skills and experiences. Targeted development interventions that support under-represented groups on their leadership journey which continue to be developed include:
‘Getting ready for senior leadership programmes” that offers senior sponsorship, 360’ feedback with one to one coaching to develop personalised development plans, deputising for a Director and presentations to senior leaders.#
‘Emerging Leadership’ programmes for those early on in their career journey or taking the first steps into their leadership journey that includes provision of a senior mentor, a portfolio of development modules equipping them with the skills and confidence to succeed and leadership challenges.
Individual mentoring and coaching interventions.
Inclusive succession plans for diverse pipelines into identified critical and hard to fill leadership roles.
Our executive recruitment processes have been adapted to include:
Spotlight sessions that provide an opportunity to learn first-hand about the role being advertised with transparent guidance on the application and selection process and an opportunity to ask questions
Support with interview preparation
Detailed feedback on outcomes of application and assessment with advice provided on developmental gaps and ongoing career development
Diverse and independent recruitment panels
Engagement with Colleague Network Groups for promotion of opportunities to members
Q. What is a key piece of advice for organisations just starting their inclusion and diversity journeys?
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that one-off initiatives will be enough to bring about real, sustainable change. Instead invest the time and effort to prioritise inclusion because creating an environment in which diversity can thrive is key if you want to attract, develop and retain a diverse, talented workforce.