Rob Wall: What can employers do to address Bame inequality in the workplace?

Rob Wall

When looking to address the inequalities faced by black, Asian and minority ethnic (Bame) individuals, employers should first focus on leadership.

Senior leaders need to speak up and talk publicly about their organisation’s commitments. They need to develop and own action plans for increasing the representation of Bame employees and for closing the ethnicity pay gap. They should show personal leadership by seeking out talented Bame employees to mentor and sponsor, and get their senior managers and direct reports to do the same.

Second, organisations should use data. Actions to close the pay gap should be data-driven and based on evidence, and improving the quality of data should be a priority.

Delivering diversity, published in July 2017 by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), found that 83% of HR and diversity and inclusion leaders wanted better data to drive progress on race and ethnicity. We recognise that there are challenges in collating data, but we believe there are a number of ways employers can improve employee self-reporting and declaration rates. Some of these are set out in our 2017 research.

Third, it is important to set targets. There needs to be accountability if people are to believe that delivering diversity is a real business priority. This is why the best organisations set targets for increasing the representation of Bame individuals and ensure transparency when monitoring and reporting on their progress. Diversity and inclusion is part of performance management, and financial rewards and consequences should be linked to behaviours and to the delivery of targets.

Fourth on the list is education for managers. Line managers play a pivotal role in changing behaviour and creating balanced workplaces; their actions are decisive in the success or failure of efforts to create balance. Good managers champion change, bad managers block it. Without progress on the reality of line management behaviours, the rhetoric of senior leaders and policy makers falls flat.

Further CMI research, published in January 2019, revealed that around a quarter of line managers have never been trained on managing diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Managers need to learn about the behaviours and practices that make a difference. They need to be empowered to call out bias and create change, while also being held to account for their impact.

Finally, organisations should encourage employee engagement. For change to be successful, employees across a business need to be included, in both the design of any change programme and in its delivery.

Rob Wall is head of policy at the Chartered Management Institute