Diversity & Inclusion – How Wellington Management is building a diverse talent pipeline


Wellington’s Head of Talent Management and its Head of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) discuss their approach to achieving their strategic D&I goals.


Wellington Management, one of the world’s leading global investment firms, is on a diversity and inclusion mission.  Deeply passionate about engaging all levels of staff across a global firm, Wellington’s Head of Talent Management and its Head of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) both speak enthusiastically about achieving a profound commitment to ensure they are taking a systemic approach to achieving their strategic D&I goals.
As with many professional organisations, this is no box-ticking exercise for Wellington Management: Rebecca Walker, the Director of Talent Management and Development, and Shawna Ferguson, the Director of Diversity & Inclusion, have been working as a partnership with UK-based Sladen Consulting’s multi-ethnic and diverse global team to engage their 2,600 colleagues working in 17 offices globally.
“D&I issues are critical to a firm committed to engage, nurture and retain diverse colleagues around the world,” they explain.  “While D&I was already at the core of our work, a staff survey highlighted how under-represented groups – in terms of race, age, religion, sexual identification, gender and ethnicity – were in need of deeper and earlier investment in their growth and development if the firm was to be sure of a strong and diverse pipeline for the future.  This was particularly true for early-career colleagues within those diverse groups.”  
This need was further emphasized with the more recent call to action that the firm made as a result of the social and racial inequality protests following the death of George Floyd.
Call to Action
Wellington Management’s leadership responded to this call to action with vigour and determination. 
Although the survey highlighted an initial need for staff training, with Sladen Consulting onboard it was agreed that training alone would not help the firm retain and develop this cohort.  A deeper investigation revealed more fundamental opportunities.
Sladen founder Richard Colley saw the issue as twofold:  “It is right that the firm should invest more actively in the skills and engagement of their diverse talent.  But underpinning this is the need to enable their managers to create an environment in which the less engaged, less thriving staff could prosper.  So we agreed to first involve the managers and then the employees in an overall programme.
“This client is super-involved and fully-committed, so we have an intense collaboration. We have been able to face challenges head-on: this is how we made the breakthroughs needed.
“Together, with Rebecca and Shawna’s leadership,  we have built something genuinely pioneering.  It’s a blend of different learning experiences, shorter ‘skill bite’ development experiences, intimate coaching pods led by diverse coaches, and business simulation exercises for managers to work through. 
“We designed this complex set of strands and then Covid hit, so we immediately set about making it work through virtual delivery.”
‘Ground Breakers’ lead the way
Rebecca Walker explains:  “Our urgent need was to inspire greater engagement, develop higher professional skills and stimulate improved business behaviours.
“Together with Sladen, we secured managers’ commitments to more purposefully invest in developing our diverse early-career colleagues.  Then we created a generation of ‘Ground Breakers’ amongst those early-career colleagues.”
A special course is developing managers’ self-awareness to open their eyes to creating opportunities for people to become more included within the firm’s culture.  The manager’s culture is the workplace culture – they create it, and it needs to be more inclusive and sensitive to diversity.   
The programme is sponsored by two of the firm’s leaders who act as influencers and sounding boards for the early-career Ground Breakers. The firm’s senior leadership team are strong advocates for the programme.
Just one element within a systemic D&I approach
Rebecca Walker and Shawna Ferguson emphasise that the programme being delivered with Sladen is just one part of a systemic approach: “This is not a panacea – it is a long-term, deep commitment to diversity and inclusion across the firm.
“The final outcome of Wellington Management’s Ground Breakers’ Academy is  yet to be measured, but the immediate impact on our early- to mid-career diverse talent has already been demonstrated with an increase in overall sentiment around growth and development in the most recent pulse survey.”

Business leaders say it’s lonely at the top, but leading GB yachtsman Alex Thomson really does know what it takes to get to the top all on his own.  Alex begins his fifth Vendee Globe round-the-world solo race on Sunday and Sladen Consulting’s Ken Way has been helping him prepare for the gruelling three month, 40,000 km race.

Just Alex, the boat, and the sea. And the benefit of Ken’s one-on-one mental coaching. Learn more about Ken’s work with Alex here.

Directors, VPs and business leaders are increasingly turning to specialist coaches to help them prepare for the challenges and responsibilities of increasingly powerful jobs.  They need expert input to assist with handling sensitive personnel issues; with getting the most out of their colleagues and themselves; with creating a single team from disparate personalities to achieve a major corporate goal.

Business leaders often talk about it being lonely at the top.  But they’re never really 100% alone. Never really facing a crisis – a real crisis – fully and totally on their own.

And then there is Alex Thomson. Who? Mr Thomson is the UK’s premier yachtsman, and he begins his fifth Vendee Globe round-the-world solo race on Sunday.

For the uninitiated, the Vendee Globe is widely-accepted as the most gruelling, physically and mentally-torturous sporting event in the world. Three months-plus of battling 60 ft waves, days spent plumbing deep loneliness, and weeks of strenuous management of a boat that resembles (and moves like) a ballistic missile on water. Covering over 40,000 km, the VG redefines the word ‘gruelling’ and is the epitome of genuine life-affirming and life-threatening challenges anyone could face.

All this is achieved completely and utterly alone as a solo round-the-world sailor.  No colleagues to swap stories with over a nightcap.  No team to help lift the heavy load.  No sharing of little victories or dissecting daily defeats by the water cooler.

Just Alex, the boat, and the sea. And the long-term and detailed benefit of years of Ken Way’s one-on-one mental coaching. Ken Way is a key associate with UK-based global management coaching team Sladen Consulting. His background in sports psychology has equipped him with some of the most intuitive and in-demand coaching techniques available.

Applying Management Techniques to a Three Month Solo Sea Battle

Alex Thomson is seen as one of the favourites for the VG 2020. He came second in 2016, thanks to a damaged boat, but still managed to break the world record for distance travelled in 24-hours (537 nautical miles at an average speed of 22.4 knots).  He’s a high achiever, like many Sladen clients. In 1999 he became the youngest skipper ever to win a round-the-world yacht race. 

When the Vendee Globe 2020 begins (Sunday 8 November) Alex will take with him a set of bespoke management techniques similar to those applied to top business leaders on a daily basis.  But taken to the nth degree.  Very few corporate VPs are subjected to training where they enter a state of deep relaxation only to be woken 20 minutes later by a 110-decibel alarm signalling a potentially life-threatening problem.  And then taught to relax again to snatch a few desperate minutes of sleep before they’re woken for another vital action.

“On the surface, our corporate clients seem worlds away from Alex’s reality,” says Ken, “but, in truth, the principles are the same.  For top sportspeople and business leaders alike, the need is for discipline and quick-thinking, for negotiating and channelling ambition. 

“As in many fraught, strategic business situations, we’re dealing with the whole gamut of human emotions, from anxiety to euphoria; from fear to boredom; and from despondency and fatigue to some form of ecstasy.”

Ken has worked with Sladen Consulting for a few years now and has the track record of a man who is only called on by the best in their field – and it often is an actual field.  Remember the Leicester City team that shocked the football world by winning the 2016 Premier League at odds of 500-1? Ken helped build their confidence and team ethos.  RAF pilots needing to hone their performance? Ken is there for them, too.  A global bank needing to unite offices around the world to work as one?  Ken’s your man.

Distilling Vital Management Techniques into a 90 Minute Skill Bite

Ken is a key player, too, when it comes to Sladen Consulting delivering its Skill Bites sessions – 90 minutes of distilled and easily-digested motivational and inspiring management technique as favoured by major corporations across the business world.

Ken’s specialisms are Skill Bites focussing on self-motivation and making responsibility count.  Both of which translate directly into his work alongside Alex Thomson.

“My relationship with Alex is really special,” says Ken.  “This is the fourth VG I’ve helped him prepare for and we meet more and more regularly in the lead-up to all his major races.  But the VG is the big one.”

Many of the specific techniques that Ken works on with Alex remain a tightly-guarded secret. Techniques which may, hopefully, contribute to Alex Thomson being crowned winner of the 2020 Vendee Globe.  For the businesspeople with whom Ken and the Sladen team work, the challenge may not be quite as gruelling or lonely, but it is often equally as critical in terms of achieving an important goal and raising performance standards.

“Part of my job is to give Alex mental exercises that enable him to flatten out the highs and lows so he can concentrate on the vital task in hand – and as this is the Vendee Globe, there is always a task in hand!

“As in business, people have to manage the situation and manage their emotions. Excitement has to be enjoyed but also controlled because the next challenge is around the corner and there is no time for complacency. 

“In some ways, racing yachts is similar to managing many of the businesses I have worked in – lots of emotion and a double-dose of energy” explains Ken.  “But the Vendee Globe takes it all to the max!”

“Coaching is not just data and processes, it’s relationships”

Leading Pharma Director discusses the special relationship she has with her coach.

Teresa Rodo is a powerful person: she is Head of Global Healthcare Operations (GHO) at Merck KGaA, the leading science and technology company based in Germany. She works across 18 manufacturing sites globally, with a staff of 7,000 people. Almost since the day she joined Merck she has been working with Richard Colley, the founder of Sladen Consulting, the UK-based specialist consultancy with a reputation for delivering creative, effective, fun and powerful training and leadership services.
Together they make a formidable partnership.  When talking about Richard and Sladen Consulting, Teresa talks about “chemistry”, “unconventional” and “priceless”.
Teresa has known Richard since early 2017 and they quickly developed a deep and productive working relationship based on trust, friendship and respect for each other’s talents.  Since then, Teresa has accessed many of Sladen’s portfolio of services, for herself and for her teams, but at the heart of the relationship is Richard’s commitment to helping Teresa and her team to build on their own talents and values.
“A ‘safe place’ for me to bounce my thoughts off”
“Richard and his team were already working at Merck when I was introduced to them,” she says.  “I had a new job, needed to integrate fast and to put my stamp on the GHO.  Since then Richard has become a true sparring partner – we talk all the time even when we’re not engaged in a project. He is a ‘safe place’ for me to bounce my thoughts off.
“He asks a lot of questions – a lot! And he can be challenging.  More than anything, he gets me to ask the right questions of myself.”
Relationship Starts With 1-on-1 Coaching
At the start of her new job Teresa engaged Richard for a three month 1-on-1 coaching course, based on his reputation within Merck.  Out of this came her firmly-held mantra of being open, approachable, and empowering her colleagues.
She says: “Every one of the 7,000 people I work with knows that he or she has a direct line to me. And I have empowered them to take projects forward without my hand on the tiller – they can make decisions and they know I will not play referee. But they have my back and know I won’t be a bottleneck.”
This works because her teams have also worked with Sladen Consulting, to enhance their collaboration and leadership skills and to hone their ability to embrace their own empowerment.
Teresa has a confidence and ease about her role because she knows that every member of her team has invested in the same vision and co-developed the same road forward, many of them working directly with Sladen Consulting in the process by developing together a ‘rich picture’ which visualises the present and shows how the future would look like. 
Together, Teresa and Richard also organise and facilitate the annual ‘Make A Difference’ Conference for up to 200 Merck leaders.  An interactive two-day event where Teresa and her colleagues check their progress and focus on their new goals, the conference has become a ‘must attend’ occasion where people experience everything from ‘skill bites’ to enhance soft skills training to in-depth Q&As about strategy.
“Discussions can reach a very personal level,” says Teresa, “so people really open up.  But that’s Richard’s forte. 
“The real value of Richard and his Sladen team is that rather than just delivering ‘the fish’ to satisfy our immediate need, he ‘teaches us how to fish’ so we  can work more efficiently and independently now and in the future.   
“He has a sixth sense for how I am doing and that is the basis of how we work together.  It is not just data and processes, it’s relationships.  He is priceless.”


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