For me, it’s simple everybody should have an opportunity to have a voice and succeed without any barriers. A lack of voice is dishabituating, it’s not only limiting for them as an individual, but it also affects your business and ultimately society. When someone feels they don’t have a voice, this is the moment that an ally kicks in.
I have been very fortunate throughout my career in technology. When I was learning the ropes, I’d make the most of my train commute to educate myself on new technologies and practical skills. I believed then and now that a growth mindset is key to adapting as new technologies are developed to meet the ever-changing needs of our customers.
This enabled me to experience a vast variety of technology roles across a broad range from strategy and architecture, development, and programme delivery through to operations. In each role I have been fortunate enough to have many great and inspiring allies and leaders who have helped me to develop and find new areas to evolve my knowledge and understanding of the industry. It is crucial that others foster allyship in their leadership for the benefit of us all and the businesses we work for.
Create a sense of contribution with an opportunity for all voices
In 2021 I set about creating an employee experience programme, where all colleagues could feel that they had a voice and that they should be comfortable bringing their whole selves to work. Our employee experience programme centred on a sense of contribution with an opportunity for all voices to be heard. As a team, we have really come together in a new way of working; we couldn’t simply take the old ways of working and repeat them. We need to use our great technology to our advantage so we can build a workplace for colleagues to thrive.
We accomplished this by building a culture of Allyship. My leadership team all embraced allyship. It became the responsibility of everyone in the team to become an ally. That someone who has your back and will stand up for other’s rights whether that person is in the room or not. We can all be an ally. This behaviour encouraged others to do the same and before we knew it, many colleagues had become allies and joined more of Centrica’s colleague lead networks. We live complex intersectional lives, and at times, may all need an ally. I have been incredibly humbled in winning the ‘Everywoman 2022 Male Agent of Change’ award. It highlights just how far we’ve come in creating a stronger, more inclusive, and collaborative team.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, you don’t know all the answers
Work with the professionals in your business. I worked closely with Centrica’s colleague-led networks to hear the aims, challenges and concerns each network encounters. They often have the solutions too, take the time to ask them and listen to them.
Simply ask! Don’t be afraid to show that you don’t know all the answers and that you’re not the smartest person in the room.
If you don’t have colleague networks, start one. This is not an overnight activity. In the meantime; you could simply host an open-door session where colleagues can be free to voice anything!
Championing allyship to our colleague-led networks
In December 2021, I was delighted to be asked to become Executive Sponsor of Centrica’s Diverse-ability Colleague Network, working closely with colleagues and leaders to improve the working environment for those with disabilities, neuro-diversity and differing abilities.
This network is close to my heart, as a father of four children, one of whom is neuro-diverse, equality, diversity, inclusion and recognising the value that differences bring is at the top of my agenda. As sponsor, and a dedicated ally, I will stand up for the rights of others, providing a platform and a voice in which we will use to create awareness and mobilise support for greater equality.
Use your voice as platform for change
I take advantage the platform, being our Group CIO gives me, to champion and influence and be that ally-voice in the room. Collaborating with those who need support is the only way that I can understand the pain points for colleagues and customers. Once I have this insight, a sense that colleagues feel they belong and valued, for what they bring is very important for me.
2022 Diversity, Equity & Inclusion [DE&I] plan
I reflect often on my childhood when I think about allyship, diversity, equity and inclusion. Having been born in a static caravan, I perhaps did not have the typical upbring that many people may think for a Chief Information Officer. My mum has always been my role model. Having little education, she took it upon herself to train in nursing. She instilled in me and my brother that everyone should have the same opportunities and not refrain from reaching their potential.
In 2022, we increased the focus even further. Most recently, as a wider team, we created our very first diversity, equity & inclusion [DE&I] proposal, focusing on making changes to break down barriers and ensure people feel comfortable bringing their whole self to work. Incorporating aims to ensure we unlock the power and potential of all talent, where we retain and build critical skills and competencies for today and tomorrow. Ensuring that we develop current and future leadership bench strength, design for the future of work, and make demonstrable progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
This reflect Centrica’s inclusion goals to fully reflect the diverse company we want to be, by aiming for all company and senior leaders to reflect 47% female, 14% ethnic minority, 15% disability, 3% LBGTQ+ and 3% ex-service which is in line with census data.
Our plans for DE&I will also attempt to ensure that Centrica remains a great place to work. It is fantastic that this week Centrica was named one of The Times Top 50 employers for women, celebrating companies who are making outstanding progress, advancing best practice, and delivering real impact through dedicated action to champion gender diversity and achieve equality in the workplace. We’re not perfect, and still have so much more that we want to improve, yet by creating an inclusive culture we are constantly evolving.
Other elements of the proposal look to:
- Create true feelings belonging
- ensure every colleague feels that they belong, can be their best self and thrive here
- provide greater transparency and accountability to accelerate Diversity and Inclusion outcomes
- drive leadership accountability with business unit action plans
- Creating inclusive workplace environments
- build inclusive leadership competencies
- educate ourselves on race / cultural differences
- recognise and reward inclusive behaviours
- Greater Transparency – inclusive behaviours
- recognise and reward inclusive behaviours and Inclusive benefits
- reimagine sustainable talent systems to ensure equitable opportunities for al
- #ThisIsMe Campaign
- our colleagues trust and feel safe to share diversity information
- help each colleague to share their #ThisIsMe in the lead up to National Inclusion Week in September
Allyship and building a collaborative, diverse and inclusive culture is an ongoing journey. Respecting and valuing our differences is key to achieving this and I’m passionate about creating a culture that anyone can succeed. If you’re looking to do the same in your organisation, find the ways that maximise everyone’s contribution and value this in all its forms.
Darren Miles is Group Chief Information Officer at Centrica and winner of the Male Agent of Change Award at the 2022 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards.