Meaningful Impact Through Inclusive Capitalism: Meet L&G’s Emma Hardaker-Jones
Emma Hardaker-Jones has been Group HR Director at Legal & General for 5 years. She is passionate about increasing all kinds of diversity – not just the ones that are easy to measure – and seeing HR become an integral part of a business’s strategy.
“Purpose and impact have been a common thread at L&G going back to when we were founded,” says Emma Hardaker-Jones. Though her official title specifies her as Group HR Director, Hardaker-Jones thinks of her role as more akin to a Chief of Stuff.
Confident and forthright, she has a wealth of experience in financial services and HR, with a particular passion for diversity and inclusion. She is known by those around her for her open, warm and honest interactions and belief in nurturing individuals that she sees potential in. Since joining financial services company Legal & General in 2017, her role has expanded to include internal communications, sustainability, real estate investments, as well as sitting on the board of the housing business that L&G bought in 2018.
The expansive nature of her role allows her to continue a legacy of purpose and impact that has been at the heart of L&G since its start.
Growing up, Hardaker-Jones’s parents instilled a sense of integrity and accountability within her: it wasn’t just about doing what looked right, it was about actually doing right. That mindset has followed her into her career, sometimes leading to difficult decisions when she could sense that the right thing was not being done. But those moments have also been the ones from which she has learned the most.
“As a leader, it’s about the actions you take, not the words you use.”Emma Hardaker-Jones
While a core part of L&G’s purpose is to generate return for shareholders, they also recognise that the quality of that return is greatly enhanced by keeping purpose, impact and inclusion at the heart of what they do – and more importantly, how they do it.
“There has been much greater scrutiny – not just on what you do, but on how you do it,” Hardaker-Jones reflects. “As a leader, it’s about the actions you take, not the words you use.”
The organisation has three ‘behaviours’ that are at the core of their business: straightforward, purposeful, collaborative. The words haven’t changed in a long time – even when Hardaker-Jones took over as Group HR Director.
“People wondered whether I was going to review those behaviours, but actually they felt incredibly reflective of the culture we have and want to have.”
Seeing the change
Fostering a culture of purpose is only the first step; businesses then have an opportunity to create a positive impact in the rest of the world too. Inclusive capitalism – the idea that making money and doing good are not mutually exclusive – is a fundamental idea behind creating meaningful impact.
When Nigel Wilson took over as CEO, he began to invest the capital that they held in infrastructure, housing and urban regeneration to create positive social impact. But cash by itself is not enough. Hardaker-Jones recalls L&G’s involvement in regenerating Bracknell town centre: “Planning had been stuck for about 15 years. It took us five years to unstick that. It was as much about connection as it was about money.”
For her, that’s inclusive capitalism in action: “It’s taking the resources you have and looking at how you want to deploy them.”
Inclusive capitalism – the idea that making money and doing good are not mutually exclusive – is a fundamental idea behind creating meaningful impact.
She’s also passionate about making a difference in the UK specifically, recognising that the biggest impact L&G can have is on things that they can actually change. “There are lots of people who are experts in international aid and development. That’s not us. It’s a much better use of our resources to focus on where we can make a difference.”
By creating positive impacts in the UK, she recognises that it also leads to a trickle down of positivity into other areas and countries. But it’s not just the company’s purpose, values and impact that needs to be embedded at the core of an organisation – it’s also diversity and inclusion. Hardaker-Jones believes that a key factor is ‘connecting the dots’ between different roles, divisions and projects to create a cohesive culture throughout.
“There are lots of things that I like about being at this stage in my career, but perhaps the biggest one is that I have much greater confidence in my choices and values,” she reflects.
She attributes her part in fostering a purposeful workplace with core values to her wealth of experience. She recalls the joke on the birthday card her son gave her recently: the reason you work out now is less about looking good, and more about not dying.
“I thought it was so funny. But it also made me appreciate all the incredible things about getting older. I have more confidence in what is important, and in making choices that I think are right.”
Given her previous tenure as a female executive at oil giant BP, Hardaker-Jones is no stranger to the challenges of diversity in the workplace. When she was younger, only 9% of those studying mechanical engineering were female. “I think it’s reached the dizzy heights of 11% now,” she comments wryly.
D&I has a tendency to morph through lots of different iterations – in short, it can be a fad, Hardaker-Jones says. But L&G tries to do things differently by setting an ambition and sticking to it across a variety of levels, not just the top leadership roles, in order to nurture a new generation of diverse talent.
Already two of its four business divisions are run by women and CEO Nigel Wilson has been firm about his ambition to achieve 50/50 gender diversity across the whole organisation by 2025. Hardaker-Jones discusses how CEO Wilson “acknowledges there are risks. But if you don’t take those risks you don’t get the payout of nurturing incredible and diverse talent.”
Irrespective of seniority, L&G look at employees for potential – and then invest in individuals holistically, allowing them to tackle ethnic, gender and socioeconomic D&I. “Because socioeconomic D&I is not so visible, it’s harder to think about how you measure it,” Hardaker-Jones says. “Yet on a personal level, I feel it’s so important for us to do it.”
Socioeconomic diversity is harder to measure and becomes more nuanced as people from working class backgrounds become high earners – but that doesn’t make it any less important.
Hardaker-Jones considers her colleagues, many of whom were state educated and the first of their families to attend university. The CEO, Nigel Wilson, grew up on a council estate in Newcastle and went on to complete a PhD at MIT. “Stories like his are brilliant; we should celebrate them.”
“Fundamentally businesses should be looking at how to embed diversity and inclusion in the fabric of their organisation,” Hardaker-Jones summarises.
“There are lots of things that I like about being at this stage in my career, but perhaps the biggest one is that I have much greater confidence in my choices and values.”Emma Hardaker-Jones
When purpose is personal
Reflecting on the part she has to play in the interconnectedness of business, purpose and impact, Hardaker-Jones firmly believes in the small choices that we make everyday. “We’re defined by the choices and actions we take, not what we say.”
She embraces that at L&G, where her role is valued as integral to the entire organisation. It’s something that she hopes is replicated across more and more businesses as they begin to wake up to the power of HR as a core component of strategy and purpose.
When it comes to personal purpose, Hardaker-Jones is direct and unwavering in what she values: “I feel very strongly about gender diversity. Amazing women like Ruth Bader Ginsburg have made it their mission to create opportunities for those behind them, rather than just focusing on their own success. I want to do the same.”
Authenticity is at the centre of how Hardaker-Jones thinks about purpose – at an individual level as well as organisational. Her advice is simple: “Find a place that you feel is reflective of your values and your own purpose. Find a place where you feel you can contribute. Find a place that you believe promotes potential.”
In the end, her message is clear. It’s not just about finding a purpose – it’s about living it.