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Diversity means business

Some employers are doing great things in terms of employing ethnic minorities, but others, sadly, are not. Given that the Commission for Racial Equality estimates there are now around 35 different ethnic communities in the UK, making up over 10% of the population, this is not sound business sense, especially for those suffering from skills and talent shortages.

And yet the issue is one of customer care and market share, and many organisations are now reaping the real business benefits of a proactive approach to employing more people from ethnic groups.

It sounds obvious, but big high street banks have realised that in areas of high ethnic minority density, a good way of attracting more customers is actually to employ more front-of-house ethnic minority staff.

But the business case aside, the Race Relations Amendment Act requires public bodies to actively promote racial equality in policy, service delivery and employment. And while it may not specifically cover private sector companies, the Act does apply to the increasing number of organisations that provide public sector services on a partnership basis.

By being positive about the promotion of equality in recruitment processes, organisations can work towards a more diverse workforce that not only represents and reflects the communities of which they are a part, but also stops them falling foul of the Act’s requirements.

For many companies, existing ethnic minority employees are still concentrated in occupations at the lower levels, and employers need to focus not only on recruiting ethnic minorities, but also ensuring they are properly trained and developed. Only a small percentage of ethnic minority employees hold senior positions – clear evidence that the glass ceiling needs to be smashed to allow access to these minorities.

As with gender imbalances, employers also need to expand the ethnicity mix in top teams. This will help companies sustain economic growth, increase market share and allow them to keep ahead of the competition.

  • Keith Handley is vice-president of diversity at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

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