City of London-based social mobility charity The Brokerage discusses the actions major corporations can take to stimulate change in their organisations.
Over the last few weeks we have seen a wider public debate in the media around white privilege, institutional racism and the link between race and social mobility.
Many corporates have come forward with supportive statements, but many are still looking for ways to act practically and make meaningful change.
We see a genuine intent to want to do better but a collective uncertainty of what to do next. Here is some practical guidance, informed by conversations with corporate partners and our young people of what employers can do next.
We know it isn’t easy so we are here to help, with advice, training and most importantly the voice and insight from our young people.
- Pause and think before you put out your stand. You want to ensure your support is authentic and backed-up with concrete action. Don’t feel you need to rush and put out a statement to show your support. Yes BLM needs your vocal support but it needs to be thought through and you want to be able to commit to something that you can actually implement. It’s okay to say that you need time for further analysis. And if you are already working with a charity such as The Brokerage why not talk about that – this already demonstrates you are committing to change.
- Get someone to hold up a mirror to your organisation. We often hear that “thankfully we don’t have an issue here”. You are doing everything right? You might want to check with the people that you need to include that this is really true. Again, ask about the lived experience of black people in your organisation or work with organisations like ours to find out what it looks like from the other side.
- Look internally first. Giving money to charity is helpful and noble but not if it comes instead of having a long and hard look at your organisational practices first. If and when you do give, ensure it is to a charity which will help you bring talent in for the long term. Don’t rush to support “black communities”. The best way to do that is still to recruit, include and progress black people in your organisation.
- Put your existing black staff first when thinking about talent development and target setting. It’s great that you want to set targets for black senior leaders but what about your existing staff at all levels and across the organisation? Think about and ask your black staff directly how you support and invest in them, enable them to bring their whole self to work and progress them within your organisation.
- Put experience and action before D&I policy. You might have a D&I policy and a D&I committee and everything else that “good HR practice” recommends and yet your managers “can’t find the BAME talent” and the black experience of your organisation isn’t positive. Ask what it feels like for black and ethnic minority colleagues to be in your organisation (their lived experience) and how you can make it better. Think about how you can tap into the understanding and empathy of your colleagues by exposing them to this experience plus The Brokerage can help bridge this gap with workshops, training and support.
- Review where you recruit and grow your own. Many corporates tell us that they “can’t find black talent” for their (very) specific job roles or at the level they want. There are only two solutions to that: firstly, to look where you recruit and use specialist brokers (like us) and secondly to grow your own talent. You need to have black people accessing your organisation via entry level roles such as apprenticeships, traineeships, graduate schemes etc in order to grow your own black and diverse talent.
- Give black colleagues a safe space. Many black people will have had a lifetime of holding back, filtering what they say and keeping a low profile. Or they have spoken up about this in the past and have had to pay the price for this. Either way, be aware of the fact that you are now asking them to do something that has never worked out in their favour in the past. Also not every black person wants to become an activist, so don’t expect every black person to lead the debate. Start by thinking about what you can do and how you can help them feel comfortable to speak out – if they want to.
- All BAME isn’t the same and there are many shades of black. Our young people were very clear that they don’t want to be categorised into one group e.g. BAME. The lived experiences of all groups vary, companies should not assume that one size fits all and not all black people have the same lived experience either.
- Remember the link between social mobility and race. It’s great that you have black people working in your support functions, but what you really want to look at is how you promote diversity and social mobility in your professional roles, where access and progression is still difficult for people from non-privileged backgrounds.
- Set targets and track progress. This must mean a pragmatic and realistic plan of how the targets will be achieved and monitored. You will need to include a longer-term view as to how you can bring more black people into the organisation (growing your talent pipeline) in addition to reviewing your recruitment practices. We can help here too – providing guidance on what needs to be in your plan, and how to keep it on agenda. Short term fixes may not be the answer, but by keeping focused and holding yourself accountable your organisation can be part of a genuine change in addressing racial inequalities in the workplace.