HR urged to champion racial cause

HR professionals must put forward a strong business case highlighting the
benefits of a racially diverse workforce and share their belief in this with
their senior executives.

The warning came as a report on race policy published tomorrow shows that only
a third of large organisations have a clear business case for their diversity
at work.

Race for Opportunity, a national business-led network of firms working on
race and diversity, which includes Boots, British Airways and Legal &
General, surveyed 93 of its members in its annual benchmarking exercise.

Callender, national director of Race for Opportunity, said, "Race issues
are owned by HR and we are not going to make progress and engage the whole
business until this changes. Internal communication needs to be improved so
that a business case, which can be profits – or Best Value targets for local
government – can be developed. Until this happens it will be looked on as a
feelgood HR thing."

Callender said eight out of 10 companies have a board-level race equality
champion and a steering group to monitor progress against the action plan. She
argued that this is vital to improve internal communication. "HR needs to
win the argument that diversity is a strategic advantage. To do this it must
work closely with the race champion and steering group to promote the issue
across the company."

One member of the network, Lloyds TSB, increased the number of ethnic
minority staff in its workforce from 15 per cent to 40 per cent following
internal research. As a result, sales of products and services rose by 15-20
per cent, it claimed.

Gill Dawson, equal opportunities manager at the Halifax, agrees. "Joint
ownership of diversity issues between personnel and business managers helps
deliver change a lot quicker. Change cannot happen without clear objectives and
a clear picture of where the company is."

The research shows that 80 per cent of those surveyed provide equal
opportunities training but Callender wants to see companies improve the
monitoring of training so that they can prove it is a benefit to the company.

By Paul Nelson

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