• Dennis Lindsay CMgr FCMI

Why building back better means moving the dial on race

Author: Denis Lindsay CMgr FCMI, Partner at Cambridge Management Consulting and Diversity and Inclusion Lead, CMI South West Board.

In December 2020 the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) published Moving the Dial on Race: A Progress Report on Workplace Inclusion. This research showed that senior leaders need to do more to build inclusive cultures and support ethnic diversity in their organisations, with the private sector and small and medium size businesses (SMEs) in particular, needing to scrutinize their existing initiatives.

The recent Parker Review update found that the UK’s top listed companies continue to struggle with ethnic representation on their boards, for key functional roles. Responding to the Parker Review update, CMI’s Chief Executive Ann Francke OBE said many businesses that had improved diversity had seen benefits including better financial performance and an increased ability to attract and retain talent. “This will boost the performance of companies and play a key role in ensuring that they are able to build back better,” she said.

In fact, there is a mountain of evidence demonstrating the tangible business benefits for choosing diversity and inclusion as a strategy for business growth. For example, the McKinsey & Company report Diversity wins: How inclusion matters finds that the business case for inclusion and diversity is stronger than ever. With the most diverse companies more likely to outperform less diverse peers on profitability.

Research from Saïd Business School shows that building back better will be fuelled by purpose driven organisations that maximise the utilisation of all of their assets, including all of the talent available to them.

Many UK businesses are simultaneously beginning to realign their trading and export opportunities beyond the European Union, in a changing world order of growth economies, following a year in which Asia handled the pandemic better. Therefore, companies will need to become a full reflection of the communities that they are serving, wherever those communities are found, whatever they look like, and however these communities access their products and services.

However, we are also aware of the systemic race inequality in the UK labour market which has meant that people of colour are more likely to suffer the consequences of the Covid-19 economic crisis. Responding to the consultation by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, CMI highlighted research showing that:

  • In 2019 most ‘Minority Ethnic’ groups still earn less than White British employees, with large variations between different ethnic groups and regions - in the South West the gap was found to be 6.1%.

  • In April 2020 those who identified as Black, Asian and ‘Minority Ethnic’ were 14 percentage points more likely to have been unemployed than those who were ‘non-BAME’.

  • The likelihood of a previously furloughed worker not being in work in September 2020 was particularly high for those from a Black, Asian and ‘Minority Ethnic’ background (22 percent versus an overall figure of 9 percent).

Clearly, organisations need to be doing more to improve the representation, retention, and progression opportunities for people from diverse ethnic groups. It is a collective responsibility to create inclusive workplaces, it simply can’t be down to individuals or one department alone. For this reason, CMI’s practical guide on workplace inclusion has been made freely available to all managers, leaders and organisations as part of our commitment to realising our vision of better managed and better led organisations.

Senior leaders now need to demonstrate their commitment to creating an inclusive culture with a well-resourced, concrete action plan in place. Line managers also need to be equipped with the right tools and empowered to play their part in creating an inclusive working environment, and to be able to talk about race with their teams. CMI found that while most managers (85%) said they feel comfortable to talk about race with their team at work, significantly fewer (50%) have reported actually talking about racial justice and equality in society with their team, and even fewer (34%) reported talking about their organisation’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Specific training on equality, diversity and inclusion is a key requirement for managers, since nearly one in four managers said that diversity training was not yet in place. This number increased to nearly half of managers working in SMEs. However, the significant move to remote working is allowing more people to undertake diversity and inclusion training than before. To support employers to meet this opportunity, CMI has launched a digital Bitesize programme on Equality, Diversity & Inclusion to compliment the specialist Level 5 and Level 7 qualifications.

Finally, I would very much like to welcome you to join the CMI South West at one of our regular events and join the conversation online using #CMIRace on twitter. To quote Ann Francke: “If we can resist the temptation to “restore factory settings” on the world of work, we could be looking at a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change our workplaces for the better.”

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