Stonewall names Accenture & EY Star LGBT Performer

15 December 2014

Consulting firms Accenture and EY have been named a Star Performer by lesbian, gay and bisexual rights charity Stonewall, recognised for providing equality on the work floor and support for lesbian, gay and bisexual employees. The eight chosen organisations will work together with Stonewall to develop best practice for the future.

Stonewall is a lesbian, gay and bisexual rights charity in the UK founded in 1989 by a group of women and men who had been active in the struggle against Section 28 of the Local Government Act*. To bring together top-performing organisations who have consistently demonstrated exemplary practice to support lesbian, gay and bisexual staff, Stonewall recently launched its 'Star Performers' network. 


Star Performers
The eight Start Performers have ‘taken workplace equality to the next level’ and have consistently been ranked as top 10 gay-friendly workplaces in the annual Workplace Equality Index. The organisations chosen will work with Stonewall on pioneering initiatives and will lead the development of best workplace practice in the UK and around the world. The Star Performers will mentor other organisations and help them develop strategies to transform workplace cultures across the country, and by doing so, pave the way for these organisations to follow.

Among the eight organisations, three players from the consulting industry are to be found: management consulting firm Accenture, business advisory EY, and IT giant IBM. The other organisations named are: Barclays, Gentoo, Goldman Sachs, Home Office, and Simmons & Simmons. All organisations have set a number of in-year goals to help drive the agenda forward in their workplaces. An overview of the key goal per Star Performer:


Accenture will work with Stonewall on pioneering research into the impact that staff LGBT network groups can have on driving business and creating value for clients.

Barclays will launch a global campaign to engage straight allies and will hold events and awareness raising activities to increase the visibility of LGBT people around the world.

EY pledges to strengthen its commitment to LGBT equality by increasing the visibility and reach of its LGBT network group to regional offices in the UK and Ireland.

Gentoo, a social business who provide housing in Sunderland, has committed to an ambitious programme to support older LGBT people in their homes as well as to help tackle domestic violence in same-sex relationships.

Goldman Sachs - Home Office - IBM - Simmons&Simmons

Goldman Sachs will work with their offices in India to build momentum around their network group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff.

Home Office pledges to continue to improve the situation for LGBT asylum seekers by continuing its work with Stonewall and LGBT staff to review how those fleeing persecution are treated.

IBM will increase awareness of LGBT equality in offices around the world through a global mentoring programme.

Simmons & Simmons will, over the next three years, revolutionise how they engage with their suppliers and support them to improve their approach to workplace equality.

LGBT leaders
Recently 12 professionals active in consultancy were named a top 100 LGBT leader by OUTstanding in Business, including four consultants from EY and Accenture.  

Ey and Accenture LGBT leaders

* Section 28 of the Local Government Act was a legislation designed to prevent the so-called ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools.


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Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.