Written by
Carole Layzell

Published
05 Apr 2018

Taking everyone on a digital journey at Barclays

05 Apr 2018 • by Carole Layzell

We’ve learned that it’s all very well launching new technology, but you have to take your people with you.

It might sound laughable now, but four or five years ago, when we invested in iPads for frontline staff in call centres and branches, it was a very new tool. We knew we had to guide our colleagues on a digital journey, giving them the confidence to use technology and the skills to future-proof their careers, wrapping those digital skills with a human element so they could bring the technology to life for customers.

First and foremost, we agreed that we would leave nobody behind in the digital revolution. That’s something our chief executive, Ashok Vaswani, is very vocal about. 

Developing Digital Eagles

To address a broad range of abilities and attitudes towards technology, in 2013, we gathered 18 volunteer staff members and they came up with the idea of ‘digital eagles’ going out and training frontline staff to use their iPads. With 1,300 branches, plus our call centre staff, 18 people were never going to be able to get around the country, so we agreed that whenever a digital eagle visited a branch, they would identify somebody equally as passionate and inquisitive about helping to develop digital skills. 

These people didn’t have to be strongly IT-literate, but they had to want to learn and share their knowledge. Through this, we grew our population of Digital Eagles exponentially and now have thousands around the country.

The framework, our online learning tool Digital Wings, was launched for staff, but is now available to anyone in the UK, online or via an app. It’s a digital learning journey to achieve and accredit different levels of understanding of all things digital, from Skype all the way through to artificial intelligence. Organisations such as Accenture, IBM and Microsoft provided content, which we put into a gamified tool. Users can learn at their own speed, earning badges.

A lot of what our Digital Eagles do is future-proofing colleagues’ careers. By giving them digital skills, we’re saying “we’re investing in you for the future”. Whether or not they choose to stay working for Barclays, it supports employee engagement and attrition; we have huge benefits from people continuing to engage and challenge themselves.

Do we insist candidates applying to Barclays have specific technical skills? No. But we encourage a digital-savvy attitude. We are creating an immersion programme for staff, the next level of Digital Wings. The pace of change is relentless, so content has to keep refreshing. 

The Digital Eagles scheme is nonhierarchical: whether you are the chief executive or a cashier, you are equally a Digital Eagle. Customerfacing initiatives include ‘tea and teach’ where we invite people into community centres or branches, make tea and say “we’re here to help you with digital skills”. We do a code playground for children and we’ve worked with WeAreTechWomen, encouraging more women into the industry. We leverage our full reach of networks to support people in different walks of life.

We’ve also been working closely with government around digital safety, creating ‘digisafe’ content and related TV adverts. Last year, we had over a million different types of engagement around staying safe online and we work with charities and the police. In 2016, we launched our Digital Development Index, a study which sought to understand the UK’s position around digital policy, in relation to other countries. When you look at the report for the past year, cyber offences make up half the UK’s recorded crime.

Another recent innovation is our Eagle Labs network. We developed 14 labs in old branch space and aim to grow that to more than 50 by 2020. Entrepreneurs can rent a co-working space and we provide tools for digital creation such as 3D printers, laser cutters and lab technicians. We help people to start businesses at a pace they would never have been able to before. 

Preserving human skills

We’re an omni-channel business, but there are times when human intervention is required. During disasters (such as the Florida hurricane), we’ve used digital to reach out to customers who may need our help. If you put digital alongside customer experience, it can be powerful.

We’ve done customer experience training for staff with the empathy lens on. Banks are known for rules and regulations, but rather than “computer says no”, which might have been the response 10 years ago, we’re saying “let’s walk in our customers’ shoes”, empowering and upskilling staff to find solutions.

Ultimately, we’d like to have a positive societal impact around digital; not just for our own staff, but for our customers and the wider population