HR departments need to ‘spearhead change’, rather than follow the crowd, if they truly want to improve opportunities for minority groups within their organisations and the wider HR profession.
In a panel discussion on the second day of the CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition (ACE) today, HR leaders were told they “must do better” at improving diversity and inclusion and providing progression opportunities for staff in minority groups, particularly as the profession is still dominated by white females.
Marcelle Moncrieffe-Johnson, chief people officer at London South Bank University, said: “I think that HR is often a follower in the sense that it [does] what the managers and leaders [in an organisation] want. We’ve got to move to the position where we’re really spearheading this change agenda and I think we are in such a unique position to be able to do that. I don’t think it’s acceptable anymore for us to just mimic usual practice.
“We’ve got to be brave and bold with this. We can’t just continue to reproduce what we’ve done before.”
Harbhajan Brar, director of human resources at Imperial College London, said the HR profession needs to be looking at itself in order to instigate change.
Equality and diversity
“We need to be looking to ourselves to see what more we could be doing to encourage more ethnic minority progression, particularly around black staff,” he said. “Things like mentoring is useful.”
However, the panel noted that there is often an absence of diverse role models at senior levels for staff to look up to.
Moncrieffe-Johnson said that an equity and inclusion lens needs to be applied to talent mapping and succession planning, and noted that many organisations still have homogenous groups in thier top-talent pools.
She noted that some individuals are kept in a “holding pattern” and told they are not ready to progress in their organisations.
This was echoed by Bernadette Thompson, the former deputy director for inclusion, wellbeing and employee engagement, at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
“When people finish [leadership development programmes] are we utilising their talent? Are they just slipping back into the organisation? We have invested in these individuals – how are we getting that return on investment? How are we making sure those people are pulled up to those roles? To me, that says that talent is everywhere, but opportunity isn’t,” said Thompson.
She said that people often need to be given “golden ticket” roles and tasks in order to get them to the next level, which are sometimes few and far between.
The panellists outlined a series of takeaways to help HR professionals instigate change:
- Get better at using data, but also go beyond what the data says and ask minority groups about their “lived experiences” and barriers
- Address organisational culture in tandem with offering support to minority groups
- Encourage senior leaders to diversify their networks, both internally and externally
- Consider how the organisation demonstrates that talented individuals are valued.