Iain Gibson, Marsh

Iain Gibson.JPG

What is your role?
HR Director 

Iain's Story
I have worked in a number of areas including IT and Hospitality Management before landing on a career in HR in my late twenty’s. I returned to University in my home town of Glasgow aged 29 to study HR and have since worked as an HR Business Partner, Head of HR and now as HR Director. I have worked for a number of very different and diverse organisations such as Scottish Power, Santander, Prudential, Buro Happold, Royal London Group and now Marsh. 

What factors allow you to bring your full self to work?  
a. How does your environment make you feel involved and included?

Marsh is a huge, complex and global organisation. We take diversity and Inclusion very seriously and our internal code on this (The Greater Good) is a compulsory training module all colleagues, regardless of seniority or experience has to complete. This has set the tone for my work experience with Marsh. In my role I am setting the HR / colleague agenda for the UK and Ireland's 6000+ colleagues. I sit on the UK executive and influence the key decision makers within our organisation. I am included in all key people issues and have always felt I could challenge and welcome challenge back in all areas of the people agenda.

b. Do you think there is improvement needed?  What are your ideas?
There is always improvement needed. We need more role models across all the spectrum of diversity and we need more dedicated resources to help raise awareness; to educate and to help set the internal agenda for us. We need to expand our dedicated Colleague Resource Groups (CRGs) into more areas such as mental health and disability. We need to move more of the activities we currently do out of London and into the regions and we need to find local partners to help us move our local agendas along. 

What was your first motivation to be out at work and how has being out most positively influenced your experience? 
I have always been out at work whether a part-time student job or a full-time career role. I am a 48 year old gay man and I have never not brought my whole self to work. This has been challenging given the times I have lived through, the 80s / 90s were not the most gay-friendly years in the UK. During the course of my working life I have encouraged others to come out at work and discuss / display their differences. I think in my own small way, I have helped enable some to come out and be themselves by showing them you can progress in your career and be out. 

What was your first motivation to be involved with the LGBT+ community? How has this most positively influenced your experience?
Being involved with the LGBT+ comes naturally as I identify personally with our community. I recognise I can help others, in my role, with my seniority within my organisation and with my openness about my sexuality. Attending numerous events on a range of subjects has challenged me and my own perceptions and helped me become a more complete leader and person. 

Can you tell us how the business has been improved by LGBT+ people bringing the best of themselves to work?
All businesses benefit when all colleagues can be themselves, LGBT or whatever their perceived differences are. Our LGBT CRG has had a huge impact on Marsh, from letting LGBT colleagues know they have a voice, to educating colleagues who don’t believe LGBT issues concern them, to allowing 600 straight colleagues sign-up to be our LGBT allies and to helping drive the D&I agenda into our recruitment practices and our development of all our leaders etc.

Do you have any advice for someone who isn't out at work yet?
Yes, come out. All organisations have policies, practices and help for you. If you come out, what is the worst thing that can happen? You leave an organisation that does not support you and find another that will and that will allow you to be you, and relax and focus on your job and not on the exhaustive pretence of being someone you are not. Change always happens, come out and shape your change to make yourself happy, no one else can do that for you. 

What advice would you give to your younger self?
Wow, that’s hard. I think to be less forgiving over workplace practices that I encountered in my early years. I was too forgiving and allowed too much to slip past when I could and should have stood up more and said this is not as positive a place for all people to work. Which could have helped less confident LGBT colleagues. 

Can you describe the moment you realised you were a role model?
I’m not sure I am!! I suppose it was when I started to lead large teams of HR professionals and work on the HR leadership teams of large organisations. My opinions and actions affected more and more people within HR and across the organisations I worked for. 

What do you do on a day to day basis to be a positive role model?
I never hide who I am. I am not gay first and foremost; rather I am an HR professional, a senior leader and try to be a patient and compassionate person. I challenge where I see issues and call out other senior leaders who are not creating the environment to get the best out of all our colleagues, LGBT or otherwise.  

What advice would you give to someone who wishes to be a good role model?
Be yourself. Try and be the best version of this. If this resonates with others and you can influence then you are a role model. 

What are you doing outside of your organisation to be a good role model?
I attend LGBT events and other events on subjects that concern me; I support a local LGBT sports club; Along with my husband, I try and set an example of a positive married gay couple amongst our friends, family and within the small Cotswolds village community where we live: challenging stereotypes and perceptions. 

Who is your most memorable role model and why?
A previous HR Director I worked for. He was straight, married and white. He ticked all the boxes of perceived advantage in the UK today. Yet he was passionate about D&I, he really cared about all the colleagues in our organisation. He pushed and pushed at the boundaries to keep the business moving in the right direction of  diversity, inclusion and tolerance. He was also a great laugh to be around and got the absolute best commitment from his team.  

How did you feel coming to your first Link event?
It was great, as it was the Christmas event we held in Marsh and I got to meet loads of people. Plus my husband had been invited which was fun we could do something together. 

How has the Link network helped you?
It has helped continue to raise my knowledge of LGBT issues and kept my determination to get more support across all our UK offices to help all our colleagues. 

What do you think Link can do in the future to best serve the new generations?
Do more in the regions and continue to develop an on-line presence.