Talking Point

12 Diverse Days of Christmas #Two

Today’s blog on Boxing Day comes from Melissa Lawrence, the CEO of The Taylor Bennett Foundation, of which I am chair.

The Taylor Bennett Foundation is a charity that exists to increase ethnic diversity within the Public Relations and Communications industry.

Melissa has worked in the not for profit sector for twenty years. She has worked with businesses in the financial, professional and related services sector, to help them to develop their corporate social responsibility and diversity initiatives and to create talent pipeline programmes.

Diversity Matters
Diversity matters and should be celebrated.

I have been a champion of diversity for many years, I worked for a social mobility charity for 19 years and in the past 12 months I have been the chief executive of the Taylor Bennett Foundation, a charity focussed on increasing diversity in the PR and communications industry.

Why does diversity matter? There are a number of reasons why diversity matters, and for those that are interested in diversity, you will know the reasons, but to recap here are a few.

• Diversity is good for business. Companies that are more ethnically and gender diverse, outperform those that are not (McKinsey, Diversity Matters report).
• Diverse employees better reflect the clients, customers and communities they serve.
• Diverse teams provide a broad range of views, talents and skills, which can increase team morale and enhance creativity, problem solving and reputation.

I get asked a lot by businesses what they can do to increase diversity within their workforce and also what they can do to retain those employees. There is no single answer to this, its multi-faceted, but for me, it must start with leadership and recruitment practises and then the hard part – creating a sense of belonging for all.

Here are three thoughts I have for encouraging and retaining diverse talent.

1 Leadership – If boards and leadership teams can help facilitate a top-down approach to diversity and inclusion (D&I), it trickles down through the entire organisation at every level. D&I efforts cannot be a one-off. Promoting diversity in the workplace is continuous and needs to be maintained and nurtured to see change. Sometimes, uncomfortable conversations need to be had!

2 Recruitment – Ask the following questions and discuss the sometimes difficult answers. Where are vacancies being advertised? What language and imagery is being used in job adverts, are they going to encourage a diverse range of people to apply? Are all of the steps in the recruitment process necessary? Are the people reviewing the applications and carrying out the interviews from different backgrounds?

3 Belonging is about how you feel when you are at work. I know when I first moved to the Taylor Bennett Foundation, I thought about whether it was the right place for me, it was so different to where I had worked before. I questioned whether my voice was being heard and whether I was being valued and most importantly, was I making an impact with all my efforts. Thankfully, I can answer yes, but it’s not that easy for everyone. This short blog post doesn’t allow me to deep dive into how businesses can foster a sense of belonging amongst their employees from different backgrounds, but my key bit of advice is about building rapport and trust – Find common ground, express a real interest when meeting new employees and find something genuine that you have in common. Professional courtesy goes a long way. This leads to trust, which is critical for the success of relationships with colleagues.

To conclude, I’m pleased to say there are lots of individuals, businesses and movements that are championing diversity, that I think we should celebrate.

I love the work that June Sarpong (BBC’s first director of creative diversity) is currently doing to improve “the BBC’s on-air talent portrayal and commissioning”. Part of her remit is to ensure the BBC’s output represents minority communities and she has also written a book ‘Diversify’, which examines what we can do as a society to level the playing field, so that everyone can contribute to the best of their ability.

Also, The Diversity Projects #TalkAboutBlack campaign. This is a 1,000-strong industry movement dedicated to creating a platform to speak about diversity in the Asset Management industry. They focus on the ‘B’ in BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic).

The #56BlackMen campaign also has my attention. 56 Black Men is a campaign that started just over 12 months ago and showcases a series of portrait images taken by (founder) Cephas Williams, to challenge negative stereotypes of black men. it’s great to see what Cephas has achieved to break down the myths about black men (in hoodies).

Finally, Business in the Community’s ‘Race at Work Charter’ which supports employers to ensure that ethnic minority employees are represented at all levels and I am pleased to say that the Taylor Bennett Foundation has signed up to this charter.

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