Friday, May 24, 2024

Chauncey Barnhill


One of the first diverse employees Chauncey Barnhill hired at Wells Fargo was an autistic woman whose struggle with social interactions prompted her to eat lunch in the bathroom. That was more than 10 years ago. She still works for the bank, has been promoted several times, has lived on her own and now counts co-workers as friends.

“Just the joy of seeing someone get a paycheck and the confidence that brings and how they stand a little taller and look you in the eye,” says Barnhill, a senior vice president in Charlotte. “That’s the biggest reward in the world to me.”

The woman’s success also meant her father, a peer of Barnhill’s, could worry less about his daughter’s future. “He hugged me as a grown man, just thanking me for giving her an opportunity,” says Barnhill. “That moment just motivated me to want to do more in this space.”

In his operations job, Barnhill oversees about 350 employees at four U.S. sites and 150 workers in the Philippines. His team processes about 260 million images, which include new-customer packets and loan applications, a year. Barnhill says he has hired more than 100 people who are either neurodivergent — meaning brain differences affect how their brain works — or those with mobility issues, sight or hearing impairment. While these employees may need some accommodations, he adds that all new employees need some help.

Wells Fargo initiated its STRIDE program, which stands for Success Through Identifying Diverse Employees, in 2019. It has hired about 15 workers with a goal of them becoming full-time bank employees. Barnhill sees the program as an extension of his inclusive hiring approach. “Each year we want to employ more than we did the year before.”

Expanding the potential workforce helps Wells Fargo by filling jobs in a tight labor market. Many workers hired by Barnhill often have less absenteeism and fewer HR issues. He recalls a worker who rode two buses and a bicycle on his commute, often arriving
30 minutes early.

“Having to overcome diversity just to get through day-to-day builds a certain set of resilience skills that translate well into the workforce,” says Barnhill. “There’s a desire to show they can do it, that they’re just as good if not better.”

Barnhill knows how it feels to be different. Born with limited hearing in his left ear, Barnhill learned to position himself to be closer to classroom teachers. Early supervisors at Wells Fargo deemed him less engaged on job reviews, which Barnhill blames on being self-conscious about his disability and a difficulty to gauge the volume of his voice.

He kept his hearing issue a secret at first, fearing it would hurt his advancement and not wanting preferential treatment. Over time, he felt comfortable speaking about his experiences. It also prompted teammates to disclose more. “My peers started saying, ‘I don’t have a disability, but my son or my daughter has a disability.’”

Barnhill, who has an MBA from Liberty University, is on the boards of the Disability:IN North Carolina advocacy group and the N.C. Commission on Inclusion. “No matter what I’ve done as far as titles and things of that nature – the work that I’ve done in this space is what I will be most proud of,” he says. “It’s what I want my children to remember me for.”


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