2023 Year End Special Edition Magazine
CEO & Founder
Reputation, what does it mean to your organisation?
Employee activism and social conscience is by no means a new phenomenon, but the heightening politicisation of ESG in media and increased attention to EDI objectives makes this an important juncture. Organisations need to take action now, as there are things on the horizon, like the ethnicity pay gap, which will lift the lid and expose a lot of organisations that have not been doing the work in driving racial equity.
A company’s stance on inclusion has practical and financial effects on many areas:
1. Attraction of diverse talent and customers.
Culturally diverse talent wants to work for an organisation where their contributions are recognised and where there is access to progression and development opportunities, all whilst being their authentic and unique selves. Culturally diverse customers want to see people that look like them at leadership level, making strategic decisions and contributing to the direction of where the organisation is heading towards.
It’s vital that emotional intelligence, as well as cultural competence are key attributes and part of any organisation where there is engagement for products and services.
2. The increase of legal proceedings on racial discrimination.
Legal proceedings in the UK on matters pertaining to race discrimination have increased markedly in recent years. Where organisations consistently demonstrate themselves to be behind the curve, it tends to be problems within the leadership that has the most impact on company policy and is most likely to drive disenfranchised employees to seek legal action.
There needs, therefore, to be heightened emphasis on ensuring that leaders and employees within an organisation are not just familiar with topics including bias, microaggressions, gaslighting and race baiting, but actively educate themselves and those around them to minimise the detrimental effect that lack of understanding in these areas can have. If not, then there is great cause for concern, irrespective of how culturally diverse your organisation is. Indeed, for culturally diverse workforces, the effects of having diversity without the equity and inclusion can be even more pronounced and harmful. It’s important to tackle racial inequity and create awareness and understanding around matters relating to race in order to mitigate against legal proceedings.
3. Poor performance and low employee engagement.
Culturally diverse employees cannot feel motivated and engaged in the mission and purpose of an organisation if they are not recognised, respected and remunerated accordingly. The problem is compounded when factors such as lived experience and culture add are considered over qualifications and culture fit concerns.
This has a direct impact on performance in terms of profitability and production. Statistics indicate that culturally diverse and inclusive organisations perform 36% better than organisations where there is no or low levels of inclusivity within the workforce.
Innovation and creative problem-solving are notably facilitated through a workforce that exhibits diversity of thought and diverse perspectives. In order to ensure the organisation is future-proof these perspectives must resonate with customers and consider the needs of growing markets such as those in Africa and Asia, to ensure continued growth.
4. Non-compliance with ESG objective.
The social aspect of ESG cannot be fulfilled if marginalised groups are being excluded and exploited. The importance of this subject politically in the last 2 years has driven ESG to the top of many firms’ agendas, and yet many still do not have defined and clear ESG strategies. The focus here needs to be on elements such as employee health and safety, the organisations’ connections with the local community in areas where they have a physical presence, working conditions within the firm and employee relations, and most significantly of all, on robust EDI programmes that foster inclusive workspaces.
Organisations must have the ability to adopt creative solutions that satisfy these requirements to promote workforce sustainability and retention, and to maintain ethical practices for improved business performance.
5. Reputational damage.
Reputational damage is the worst-case scenario for an organisation looking to attract culturally diverse employees and customers. It is therefore necessary to treat both internal and external communications with considerable care, to ensure that they impact favourably on the audiences that it reaches.
New starters are particularly receptive to an organisation that prioritises a strong EDI programme, and conversely the result of less advances EDI initiatives, and those that are less well publicised within the organisation, is high attrition, especially at the earliest stages of a new career. Being in a inclusive work culture is extremely important, particularly to the newest cohort of Gen Z workers, whose employee activism and ingrained sense of morality guides their choice of workplace so often. The expansion of social media and the snowballing effect this can have on reputational damage should ensure firms are particularly attentive to maintaining their outward and inward image through thorough commitment to EDI.
While progress is undeniably being made in the field of EDI, the reality is that measures targeted towards race and ethnicity remain very much behind the curve.
Why is it so difficult to achieve racial equity within the workplace?
1. Fear of getting it wrong takes precedence over being courageous and getting it right.
How will organisations move forward if leaders are not prepared to challenge themselves and their peers and step into spaces that leave them uncomfortable and vulnerable?
2. Lack of understanding, compassion and empathy
Do you really understand the day-to-day struggles faced by your culturally diverse talent in workplaces that have only recently been becoming more sensitive to the treatment of racial and ethnic minority employees. If micro aggressions, gaslighting and code switching are the daily experience of these employees, then is their place of work an environment that supports being authentic and inclusive.
3. A willingness to embrace change.
Changes are uncomfortable, but necessary to promote progress. Balancing the business benefits and the morality of actions and policies can be a challenge in some organisations, but there is a business case for EDI – in terms of retention, reputation and thought leadership it adds enormous value that cannot be sourced elsewhere. Tokenistic gestures are particularly important to avoid, as under the ever-increasing scrutiny of both employees and customers, empty actions are likely to be seen for what they are. What is needed is real changes to advance progress.
4. Racial gatekeepers are dangerous and this behaviour leads to a lack of progression being made in relation to racial equity.
Where diverse talent has achieved leadership level and influence, it is important to recognise that these are not always the best people to be speaking on the lived experiences of those they share protected characteristics with. By acting as gatekeepers, they can occasionally focus on advancing their individual interests, rather than acting as a conduit to promote diverse talent in an organisation.
5. It goes deeper than the surface.
Racism isn’t just about name-calling and exclusion. It is systemic and institutional and to achieve racial equity we need to challenge the systems and institutions by unpicking what continues to oppress. We must work to build structures that uplift all.
6. Culturally diverse employees are scarce at senior leadership and C-suite level.
Time to stop getting excited about diversity in an organisation where there is no inclusion and the diversity is not reflected at all levels. Are the diverse perspectives part of the strategic thinking that directs the organisation and in terms of accountability how is this being measured and tracked?
If yours is an organisation where these concerns are not raised, discussed and acted upon, then the lack of open dialogue is an indicator that change is warranted.
Now is the perfect time to do something about it.
Nzinga is an award winning, industry recognised transformational change leader.
Founder and CEO of RaCExpert Limited, a consultancy business that provides anti racism training and consultancy to organisations who potentially face legal liability for race discrimination. Nzinga has established herself as an expert and a social activist committed to driving positive change.
Recognised as a Top Future Leader by Empower Yahoo/Finance, Amazon/Everywoman in the category for Transport and Logistics, Corporate Engagement Awards as part of the show racism the red card campaign and recently being nominated for the MBCC awards in the social activist category. Winner of Diversity champion, BPIC 2021 and finalist for Black Talent and Women in Business 2022.
Nzinga is a guest podcaster and has spoken at numerous conferences with audiences of over 1,000 people on topics such as diversity, inclusion and innovation. Nzinga continues her commitment to social justice and equality and equity for all, challenging the narrative for people from underrepresented groups.
About RaCExpert limited
RaCExpert Limited is an award-winning consultancy that specialises in providing racial equity training to organisations that require employment law services. RaCExpert Limited has expertise in the following areas:
1. Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
2. Innovation and Automation
3. Learning, Development and Training
4. Change Management
5. Project Management
6. Strategy and Governance
RaCExpert Limited utilises change management and innovation techniques implementing a 3-step framework that supports organisations to mitigate against reputation damage. Working with RaCExpert Limited increases racial equity and inclusion, realising the benefits through implementation, training, ideation, strategy and action led initiatives. Clients who have acted and worked with RaCExpert Limited have seen sustainable change, people empowerment, increased equity and inclusion, culture change, increased productivity, profitably and company reputation.