Race for Opportunity poll reveals top performers on diversity

Paul
Yandall reports on the key findings of the Race for Opportunity’s annual
research into diversity in the workplace

Showing
leadership and implementing sound business judgements are the keys to promoting
racial equality in the workplace, say the top performers in a diversity survey.

The
Race for Opportunity’s (RFO) annual research into diversity in UK workplaces
shows that 78 per cent of organisations have a clear business case for race.

The
figure is more than double the result of 38 per cent reported in 2001 – the
first year the research into how effective UK organisations are at promoting
diversity was undertaken.

Topping
this year’s results was telecommunications company BT. Lloyds TSB Group, West
Bromwich Building Society, the British Army, and HSBC completed the top five.

Of
the 113 organisations that took part in the research this year, 43 per cent
said promoting diversity was making a measurable impact on their bottom line.
Almost two-thirds – 65 per cent – said it was good for brand recognition.

BT’s
director of people networks, Caroline Waters, said the company had put a lot of
work into promoting diversity in both its workplace and customer base. The
company came third in the last year’s research results.

“We’re
obviously delighted with coming out on top this year,” said Waters.

“But
we don’t believe there’s any room for complacency – there are still a lot of
other things we can do.”

Aside
from the business case for BT – its Asian business line brings in £100m each year
– it also has a higher than average proportion of staff from ethnic minorities.

About
12 per cent of its 93,000 workers are from ethnic minorities, compared with the
national average of 9.7 per cent, so the company had a responsibility to ensure
their needs were met, said Waters.

“I
think coming top this year proves the things we are doing are working.”

Showing
leadership and taking ownership of diversity was the key to changing attitudes,
said Waters.

But
the company did not want to sit on its laurels. Issues such as ensuring its
suppliers also had adequate diversity systems was something BT would put more
work into addressing.

The
British Army was first among the 47 public sector bodies that took part in the
research. Its head of HR, Lieutenant General Sir Alistair Irwin, said it was
important for the defence forces to be representative of the UK population.

“We
need people from every part of the community to come in. They bring their own
qualities, and we are not just being politically correct,” he said.

“We
want to be practical – we want a British Army that represents the population of
Britain.”

The
Army has a specialist ethnic minority recruiting team but despite its strong
showing in the RFO poll, General Irwin said there was still a lot of work to be
done.

“Road
shows, visits to schools, visits to conferences, liaison visits to ethnic
communities. [We make] endless efforts to get involved and persuade people.”

The
Department for Trade and Industry, the organisation responsible for promoting
and enforcing discrimination legislation, came second behind the Army in the
public organisation section.

Sandra
Kerr, the director of RFO – a national business network of more than 180 UK
organisations working to promote race and diversity – said the overall results
were very pleasing.

“All
the trends have gone up from last year. That shows organisations are not only
becoming more aware of diversity, but they are doing something about it,” she
said.

One
of the most difficult problems facing organisations was how to promote people
from ethnic minorities to senior positions in the company.

But
this year’s results, which showed promotion to senior positions had increased
from 2.8 per cent in 2003 to 3 per cent this year, meant that progress is being
made, said Kerr.

Other
big movers in this year’s research included the RAF (8th) and the Department
for Work and Pensions (9th) which both made it into the top 10.

The
best of the best

Private
sector

1.         BT
2.         Lloyds TSB Group
3.         West Bromwich Building Society
4.         HSBC Bank
5.         HBOS
6.         Barclays Bank
7.         B&Q
8.         McDonald’s Restaurants
9.         Britannia Group
10.       Ford Motor Company

Public
sector

1.         The Army
2.         Department of Trade and
Industry
3.         Royal Air Force
4.         Department for Work and
Pensions
5.         West Midlands Police
6.         Royal Navy
7.         Ministry of Defence
8.         Inland Revenue
9.         Devon Fire and Rescue
10.       Middlesex University

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