Time to act – race in the workplace

 In Blog, CEO's blog, Community

Baroness MacGregor Smith last week published her report for the Government on Race in the Workplace. Her key message is “every person, regardless of their ethnicity or background, should be able to fulfil their potential at work. That is the business case as well as the moral case. Diverse organisations that attract and develop individuals from the widest pool of talent consistently perform better.

This is an endorsement of the stance of ELBA and our members. We have been working to show the business benefits that arise from a more diverse talent pool and it was good to see that the report estimated that the economy could receive a £24bn boost if BME talent was fully utilised.

The report is a goldmine of evidence to support those who would change their own organisations from within or who are acting from outside to change recruitment and promotion practice in the workplace. One of the more interesting points the report makes is that relatively few of the barriers to employment or promotion these days are to do with outright racism or malicious prejudice (though some does remain). It is more a case of not having the right networks and unconscious bias.

Unconscious bias tends to lead those making decisions to feel most comfortable with people from backgrounds similar to their own, who have education histories and cultural outlooks similar to their own. It also crops up in entry processes like psychometric testing which are meant to be objective, but which include a whole raft of cultural assumptions which can often knock out people from different backgrounds.

However, I can recommend a guaranteed cure for unconscious bias – spend some time with the ELBA EAGLES.

EAGLES is an ELBA programme which takes bright graduates from east London who have not been able to get into graduate level work after university, often because they lack the necessary family connections and networks, and because of unconscious bias. The programme gives them intense training before putting them into six month placements in companies in the City and Canary Wharf. We have been doing this for over ten years and have a 95%+ success rate.

The latest cohort of 11 EAGLES started last week, and on Friday we had our customary dinner with them at Ashridge Management College. As well as getting to know them as individuals, we also shared family histories and stories. Their backgrounds throw a net right across the world – with growing up in east London being the common thread. They also share a hunger to get on and succeed in life, come what may. The businesses that are taking them for the six months are in for a real treat – their talent and drive will shine through.

Baroness MacGregor-Smith concludes her report by saying the time for talking is over, now is the time to act. With a further three EAGLES programmes to come in 2017, there is no shortage of appetite here in east London to follow her lead.

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