Volunteering by Senior Leaders

Learning about autism and dyslexia through a short volunteering project

Skills-based volunteering that brings business expertise to charities is a great thing in its own right, but when it also results in valuable learning for the volunteers, it is even better.

That’s the principle we had in mind when designing a three-hour* volunteering project for David Oldfield, Group Director of Commercial Banking at Lloyds Banking Group, and a team of executive leaders from the Retail Division. Their combined decades of business expertise would support three charities – National Autistic Society, Ambitious About Autism and Dyslexia Association of London – with their most pressing strategic challenges through short, sharp strategy workshops.

That is exactly what happened, but the benefits didn’t just flow one-way. The charities gave David – who is also the Group’s Executive Sponsor for Disability – invaluable insight on autism and dyslexia, with a focus on how these issues affect young people looking to gain employment and employees whose line managers may or may not have an appreciation for their challenges.

So while the charities walked away with defined action plans for tackling strategic issues such as increasing awareness of their cause and raising their profile amongst businesses, the bank gained new knowledge on autism and dyslexia, which has fed directly into the programme of work David leads as the exec sponsor for Disability to improve the experience of customers and colleagues with disabilities.

The actions will ensure sufficient focus is given to making colleagues more aware and inclusive of other colleagues and customers who live with these conditions. One example is the work the Group are taking forward with the National Autistic Society to become more Autism Friendly; this includes participation in their up and coming Autism Awareness Hour along with guidance from the charity on our digital and branch formats.

“I really enjoyed being able to support the charities with some of the issues they were facing, and it was clear they got a lot from the session too. It was also a terrific opportunity to gain insight from charities and service users to help shape our disability plans here at Lloyds Banking Group.”

David Oldfield, Group Director of Commercial Banking, Lloyds Banking Group

“Using our business experience to support these three charities was an absolute pleasure. We received a very clear brief from each charity, allowing us to focus on their key challenges and provide a more tailored approach with our advice and guidance. The session also provided an invaluable opportunity to increase my own knowledge and understanding of autism and dyslexia, something that I can now use to better support our Retail Business Banking customers and colleagues. Definitely a very worthwhile and enjoyable use of time!”

Jo Harris, Managing Director of Retail Business Banking, Lloyds Banking Group

“The outcomes exceeded our expectations. The project helped us to identify more business opportunities and gave us insight into how we should engage more effectively with a larger organisation.”

Mark Lever, Chief Executive, National Autistic Society

“This was so well planned and facilitated. I was cynical about what could be done in the time, but you guys proved me wrong – it was amazing – thank you.”

Elizabeth Archer, Policy & Campaigns Director, Ambitious About Autism


*Yes, three hours! We used to be sceptical about the value of such short projects – what can be achieved in such a short amount of time? – but having been given the chance to try this format a number of times with Lloyds Banking Group we’ve seen that with great preparation, design and facilitation, and experienced people who think quickly, you can run highly effective projects that are also very efficient!