Authentic, enduring people-centricity starts at the top when it comes to fostering an inclusive, purpose-led culture in any workplace, and has been a key focus for David Harris, Head of Banking and Markets at Baringa Partners.
Luke James, Co-host of The Interview, sits down with David, a leading business and technology consultant. With over sixteen years of experience at Baringa spanning various leadership roles, David shared valuable insights on strategically fostering an enduring, people-centric culture long-term and continually embedding learning across organisations.
I’m David Harris, a Partner here at Baringa, where I’ve spent the past sixteen years of my career. I currently lead our Banking and Capital Markets business and also sponsor some key people and firm-wide culture agenda items, like employee experience, wellbeing and workplace awards. At its core, Baringa is a business and technology consultancy founded on being people-centric and purpose-led in how we serve the chosen sectors we operate within - I’m part of the Financial Services Sector. Enabling our people to thrive and passing on an exceptional firm for the next generation motivates me daily as a leader.
I was originally inspired to join Baringa by its founding vision to build the world’s most trusted consulting firm - a distinctly people-focused consultancy versus the usual model – I could see leaders here who brought out the absolute best in their people.
We’ve consciously stayed true to that original ethos over time through constant stakeholder listening, genuinely empowering people across the firm to help shape our evolution, and thoughtfully course-correcting the many “silver pellets” to refine our culture as we’ve organically grown. I saw an opportunity to have an entrepreneurial impact on building something purpose-led, which has driven my progression and commitment over the last 16 years.
It absolutely starts from the top – people-centric leadership across the organisation is critical to set the right tone and environment where this culture can take root. Some of the key traits include attracting and investing in the right diverse talent; creating and articulating a clear and compelling vision that people at all levels relate to; continual engagement and listening to what matters to people; and truly empowering everyone to take ownership of driving solutions.
But one of the most critical elements I’ve witnessed is that constant listening needs to be paired with rapid course-correcting across the countless “silver pellets” that ultimately distinguish an organisation’s culture – from the way we develop our people, recognise contributions, communicate internally, make decisions and everything in between. It’s meticulous ownership of and care for these micro-level details accumulated over 23 years that creates true differentiation.
This is a very important question for us, because one of the ways we distinguish ourselves from our competitors – and this is at the heart of how we describe ourselves internally – is that we ‘put people first’. For this to be true, we need to be ensure that as a business we walk the walk.
It starts with our partnership charter and the way we as partners have committed to govern and lead this firm – embedding this cultural ethos into the fabric of our leadership model and interactions. We have a People Strategy Committee comprised of around eight partners who are relentlessly focused on stewarding our culture, reviewing current initiatives, and innovating on what needs to be true going forward. We make sure to empower both our core consulting business and our enablement functions to put forward ideas and shape our evolution.
One example is how we’ve developed a coaching-based leadership style over the last couple of years through AoEC qualification training – this better enables leaders across Baringa to listen, empower team members, and unlock potential. Our overall vision of building the most trusted consulting firm also galvanises continuous learning and improvement – we constantly reinforce this goal and how to achieve it through structures like our flywheel model which clearly links investment in our people to value for our clients to commercial outcomes and back to attracting and rewarding our people.
We’ve got a lot of initiatives going on at Baringa right now, and we believe that kindness really pays off in an organisation. That’s why we have our Economics of Kindness initiatives, exploring the ways in which being kind to one another furthers the business in so many ways.
As a part of this, and as a part of our belonging and inclusion initiatives, we’ve taken a renewed focus on the intersectionality of our networks, considering equity in addition to diversity and inclusion, ensuring we have a top-level strategic focus on what inclusion really means in practice, and focusing on additional areas such as disability and social mobility. We’ve pledged to nurture an inclusive environment for teams to collaborate, have fun and achieve great things.
Among our many initiatives, we are focusing on our Thrive programme, a bespoke leadership programme for Black, Asian and other ethnically diverse senior management talent, as well as a Neurodiversity 101 module that we’ve just recently launched. Other focuses have included our Active Allyship programmes, work on unconscious bias, and a female leadership programme, too — we’ve got a lot going on in that area at the moment!
I think, first and foremost, people need to feel intrinsically motivated and inspired to personally contribute to shaping a better workplace and improving our culture. Our flywheel model also creates structural alignment, woven through individual objectives across the firm and how we recognise contributions. We make sure to provide open forums through expansive diversity and inclusion (D&I) networks for people of all interests and passions to get involved. And these groups help shape real change – from learning programs to community partnerships and more. Closing the loop between employee voice and observable action is so critical, so people see their input leads to tangible impact over time, keeping them engaged. Ongoing diverse input across the firm makes us a more inclusive, energising place to work.
For me personally, I’m driven by always doing the right thing for people and paying experiences forward. Never pass by a problem you can have a positive impact on. Find opportunities to share wisdom or experiences that made a real difference for you, so that many more people get to benefit. I think if we collectively fuel this kind of flywheel, continually sharing knowledge and bringing out the best in our teams, it creates incredible momentum. My aim is to help accelerate that flywheel every single day in my role.