Monday, 22 June 2020

BAME equality in the workplace

Last week I ‘attended’ Westminster Employment Forum’s conference BAME equality in the workplace. As the chair noted, given all the focus on Black Lives Matter currently, and also the new UK government commission, this is a particularly topical and relevant agenda.

Speakers referred to the McGregor Smith report last year suggesting that BAME equality would generate £24bn per year to the economy. Businesses need to invest in it as it’s the right thing to do, particularly given big business’ growing role in wider society, but also to get the best possible talent.

At 3.8% in the UK, the ethnicity pay gap is lower than that for gender, at 8.9%. However, some ethnic groups are much more affected, especially those with Bangladesh, Pakistan or Caribbean backgrounds with gaps at 20, 27 and 9%. And the gap for BAME women is much more significant.

There are multiple and complex barriers behind this, including social class, and lack of social mobility. For people coming to the UK, a lot of it is down to language and cultural barriers, and lack of recognition of qualifications. And bias and racism are clearly and important parts too. But the current focus provides a once in a generation opportunity to resolve these issues. Businesses need to take control and work towards understanding the barriers within their organisations.

A lot of the focus was on reporting, on ethnicity recruitment, progression and pay gaps. I agree that whilst a crude tool, this can be very effective in shining a light on the issue. EHRC research shows enthusiasm for reporting, but only 44% of organisations currently collect data on disability and just 36% for ethnicity. Only 3% use their data analyse to identify issues in pay and progression, which is just bizarre.

Firstly, it’s by using it constructively that employees will become more willing to provide the data. And if organisations don’t get data on more than say 40% of the employee population then they won’t be able to use it effectively - especially if it’s people from diverse populations who are not providing it. We heard about NatWest using a multi-faceted approach to get 83% of their staff providing ethnic background, and up to 87% in some areas.

And secondly, if organisations are going to be compelled to report externally, we should be doing this internally first. In fact, building on a recent post, I think a strategic narrative about what and how a company is doing can be much more valuable than a set of statistics.

A couple of speakers called for more use of blind application processes and diverse panels etc. Pinsent Masons talked about their contextual recruitment tool which I’d not come across before and pays attention to how well a candidate has done, given the difficulties they may have faced.

Other speakers promoted mentoring and support schemes, which is perhaps made harder because there are very few black people at top of organisations - but there’s no justification for only 33% of companies having an executive sponsor for D&I. There’s also a role for reverse mentoring. (Incidentally, I was very impressed by Cisco’s Multiplier Effect which I heard about a a Harvard Business Review event last year.)

We also talked about the role of broader employee networks to help people connect and which can help senior leaders understand the talent they have and be more aware of micro agressions etc. Eg there’s a cross government shadowing scheme in the UK which pairs people up and helps them broaden their senior leadership network, amplifying their success and letting people know the impact they are having, leading to better opportunities. But employee networks are more effective when a broader diversity of people want to be part of them, so their voice is not just those from ethnic minority backgrounds but allies as well (see my recent Linkedin article on ERGs, which I also spoke about at Symposium’s Diversity and Inclusion conference recently). And networks benefit from dedicated, and not just volunteer resourcing.

But too many organisation’s talent schemes focus on numbers of ethnic staff but don’t always make sure these people get the opportunity to be stretched, focusing on ticking the box rather than career watching.

Friday, 19 June 2020

HackingHR Remote Work and Distributed Organisations

Presentation as part of workshop series following on from my panel at HackingHR's first HR Innovation and Future of Work global conference.

This looks at the opportunity to extend / build on remote work into more distributed organisations supporting innovation and development beyond the covid-19 pandemic.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

HRDConnect: Social Leadership in the Pandemic

My latest article in HRD Connect builds on some previous posts on social leadership, and my CoLab at the HRDSummit back in February:

"As the working world changes, so too does the nature of working itself. HRD Thought Leader Jon Ingham explores this further, supposing that organisations now have an opportunity to shift their approach to leadership and explore more project-based, distributed methods of working."

Friday, 12 June 2020

theHRDIRECTOR: Data & Analytics

I'm included in this article, 'Operating Below the Mean' in May's theHRDIRECTOR section on data and analytics.

I don't often post on analytics, largely because I think the topic has become very specialised, and it's not my specialism. There are now a lot of people who know a lot more about it than me.

But that increased specialisation is the reason I've now written about it. I think the HR world is increasingly bifurcated between a smaller group of very knowledgeable and experienced professionals and organisations, and a larger group of people and businesses who don't see analytics as a priority.

The first group shout ever louder at the second group to catch up, but it's just not happening.

Whilst many in the first group may think the second set are just scared or ignorant, I think the latter group are often just making reasoned decisions that analytics still aren't the priority right now.

I'd point to two main reasons why not. Firstly, most examples of analytics in the first group are very operational, and the second group are actually quite smart - they know all this activity is going to be automated fairly soon, so it's really not what they want to spend much time on.

Secondly, operational analytics support operational insights, and that's not what we need to focus on. The second group want to be more strategic, and they realise that just moving from operational HR to operational HR insights isn't going to take them where they need or want to go.

Becoming more strategic does benefit from analytics, but it requires a different approach. There are two main aspects to this as well.

Firstly, strategy doesn't generally emerge from analytics, it develops from a deep, human understanding of the opportunities inherent in people and their organisation. From synthesis not analysis, and art not science. We need to identify measures and analytics to test, validate and improve these strategies, but they're not how they originate.

Secondly, strategy is about doing something new, and that means we generally won't have relevant data, especially as most strategic issues tend to lend themselves to more qualitative and subjective approaches. If you have relevant data, it's not going to be in your HR system.

The second group therefore needs to develop their own approach. This is about smart strategic planning; linking measures to these plans; collecting and then analysing data (often through very basic or simple analytics); and then reporting on the insights gained from this.

It's the complete opposite of the first group which, whist now understanding the value of a good question, still tend to approach analytics from the perspective of the data they have available.

You can read more about these suggestions here: