The government is likely to introduce mandatory ethnicity pay gap legislation in the next few years, as they have already done with gender pay gap reporting. But firms should not wait until legislation is introduced to improve how they attract, hire and promote employees from ethnic minority backgrounds. Companies with the most ethnically and culturally diverse executive teams are 33% more likely to outperform their peers on profitability.
With or without legislation, the gap won’t be closed overnight. It will require long-term commitment from businesses and acknowledgement of the challenges. One key area to address is creating a culture of inclusion by starting a conversation about race at work.
According to the 2018 BITC Race at Work report, only 38% of people are comfortable talking about race. There are different reasons, including not knowing what terminology is appropriate to use, but not talking about race at all is not helpful. Some companies adapt a ‘colour-blind’ approach that attempts to overcome prejudice and discrimination by ignoring race or ethnicity, or by giving it no weight, but this often has a negative effect. It can prevent HR from challenging unfair informal practices relating to work allocation, unconscious bias, and questionable outcomes in recruitment and promotion of BAME employees.
Three ways organisations can encourage workplace conversations about race
Understand the lived experience of BAME employees to inform your action plan
Understand the lived experience of BAME employees to inform a targeted action plan to improve attraction, retention, engagement and career progression of BAME talent
ITV engaged an external consultancy to meet with both ITV BAME and White employees to discover what helps and hinders inclusion of BAME colleagues. The insights identified areas to focus on, including development opportunities for colleagues from ethnic minorities and the lack of BAME role models within the business.
As a result, the BAME network chairs agreed on an action plan to address key areas. Board Sponsor Rufus Radcliffe and network chairs presented this plan to the wider BAME network. Doing so has given new traction to the network and provided focus for the year ahead, which ITV hopes will drive significant culture change.
Additionally, ITV has set up a new Inclusion Council, which will ensure greater management board focus on diversity and inclusion and challenge whether the company is doing enough to drive the inclusion agenda. This process has helped the BAME network to have a much clearer proposition for their members and has increased employee engagement within the network.
Create a network to bring together BAME employees and allies
A network can be a powerful tool to bring together BAME employees and allies, to raise awareness for the importance of ethnic diversity and to start a conversation about race at work
JLL established a race and ethnicity employee resource network, bringing together employees who care about ethnic diversity. The first step in the process was to communicate the launch to all employees and to invite people to join. Here it was important to make clear that the group wasn’t just for those who are BAME, but also for allies. The company also made sure to appoint Executive sponsors, which is critical to set a tone from the top on the importance of ethnic diversity.
The network has clear objectives and participants were divided into smaller project teams to work on key deliverables. A budget of £15,000 per year was allocated to fund key activities. Network activities include marking Black History Month to raise awareness and to provide a focal point for a conversation about race; hosting speakers to explain factors that drive ethnic diversity and what businesses can do to improve it; and ‘my career journey’ sessions where BAME professionals share their experiences, providing role-models to those that are more junior.
The network creates a safe space for those from a BAME background to connect, be a source of support for each other, feel less isolated, and to pool ideas to drive greater ethnic diversity. It also created greater awareness and education on the topic of ethnic diversity, creating more understanding and empathy.
Empower your networks to lead on strategy development and learn from other networks
Empower resource groups and networks to lead on the development of targeted approaches to increase the BAME talent pool. Peer-to-peer learning among networks is another powerful approach to share good practices to attract, retain and promote more BAME talent
National Grid’s ONE Employee Resource Group, an employee resource group focusing on the development of ethnic minorities, was the driving force behind developing a programme to help BAME employees to progress. The group sought to understand the different approaches that can be implemented to help support the development of BAME staff. ONE looked at progression rates and successful initiatives that were introduced in other companies.
In 2017 the Development Programme for Diverse Leaders was introduced, targeting BAME employees who aspire to progress to middle management and above. The goal of the programme is to build a better understanding of the promotion process; create confidence among BAME employees to take the next step on the promotion ladder; or empower employees with a clear, SMART plan of action to get them to the point of being ready.
Further resources on race and equality
In conjunction with the CBI’s race and equality webinar series, we’ve opened up our ethnicity pay gap guide Bridge the gap to all businesses – not just members – for a limited time. The guide features real-world case studies from CBI members and partners, highlighting the strategies and initiatives you can use to close your pay gap.