Becoming 100% Human

Many hands resting on a tree branch, with the words 'Be brave and be 100% human' written over them
Image from 100% Human at Work
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 28 June 2018

At Virgin we pride ourselves on trusting our people. Our people are our best asset and we have implemented world-class people policies to ensure they know how much we value them. However, as a business there is always more to learn, more to try and more that can be done. No matter the size of your business, it is always worth asking the simple question: can your people be 100 per cent themselves at work? You will never be a truly purposeful business if you are not truly inclusive.

Yesterday, I spent a wonderful day exploring ‘inclusive initiatives’ from the teams at Virgin Media, Virgin Unite, the B Team, Unilever and EY, at a 100% Human at Work gathering. It was a fascinating learning experience.

Holly Branson and 3 people sitting on a sofa
Image from Virgin.com

A little background - In 2013, Virgin Unite called together some of the most forward-thinking businesses in the world, with the hope that these responsible companies would help drive the same value systems in thousands of businesses worldwide. Shortly thereafter, the B Team was born. One of their goals during the next decade is to build the 100% Human at Work network - based on the premise that businesses need to think of people as human beings and not as resources.  

We are embracing this goal at Virgin wholeheartedly. At first glance, the complexity of the issues in a fast-paced and ever changing world, makes the goal seem daunting. But when you take a step back, the best approach to getting started is usually the simplest. If you are the CEO or a member of the leadership team, admit you don’t have all the answers and collaborate.

Holly Branson and Josh Bayliss speaking to two women at 100% Human at Work panel
Image from Virgin.com

At Virgin Management Limited - through our purpose work - we discovered that the most innovative and impactful ideas come from the many rather than the few. We are taking those learnings and applying them to our drive to become one of the most inclusive companies in the UK. 

At the very outset though buy-in across the leadership team is crucial. We have always taken this approach at Virgin with purpose sitting firmly on the desk of the CEOs. This year, we have evolved our approach even further when it comes to developing innovative Inclusive people policies, with each of our V Team members being assigned responsibility for an area of Inclusion and Diversity (D&I).

The six members of the senior team (including our CEO, Josh Bayliss) have taken a lead on one of the following areas: age, gender, LGBT+, ethnicity, disability and social mobility. They have invited people from all across the business to join their groups. No one is forced to participate; if you have a genuine interest or experience to share in one area, you put yourself forward. The groups meet regularly to share ideas and develop innovative strategies within each area.  

A 100% Human At Work event
Image from Virgin

The feedback from our people has been great. They love the fact that it’s voluntary, organic and inclusive. It is flat in structure with no hierarchy in the meetings. They see it as a space to share experiences, knowledge, put forward suggestions and be listened to.     

For the members of the V Team, the responsibility of using these forums to drive our Inclusion goals is included in their annual performance objectives. It’s always good to have a little incentive to drive results and healthy competition! What has been interesting is the amount of enquiries we have had from leadership teams of other companies who want to implement the same team-driven approach to D&I.

Holly Branson  with a Virgin picture
Image from Jackie McQuillan

I’m proud of the approach we are taking and love the fact that everyone has been invited to get involved. But I am under no illusion that our journey will continue to evolve. We have much to learn but we are on that learning curve together. All companies have the ability to be inclusive employers and become companies that are respected, valued and supported by all of their people. All it takes is dedicating time, listening, learning and, being open to different ideas by sharing experiences and innovative approaches with your whole company.