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Blog: Black History Month and what it means for us.

black lives matter

The month of October is Black History Month. In this blog Paul Trail of Close Brothers Premium Finance considers how the insurance sector can be more supportive of BAME employees.

As Black History Month is happening right now, it is a good moment to focus attention on racial equality in and out of the workplace.

The prominence of movements such as Black Lives Matter has renewed interest in how society has dealt with race issues in both business and society at large. Diversity has been a buzzword in the business world for some time, including in insurance, but many of us are now keen to turn words into action.

Most firms in our industry have good intentions when it comes to recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce, and the business case for having people with different perspectives and backgrounds in your organisation is clear. Race is a part of that picture.

Then there is the need to have a fair, balanced approach towards everything you do in your business, and make sure your company isn’t missing out on talented people. Where this makes a difference is in the execution of policies which do more than pay lip service to the idea of diversity, and make a real difference to employees throughout their careers.

Recruiting the right people
Achieving a diverse workforce starts at the recruitment stage, but sometimes this is not straightforward. There is some controversy around the idea of all-BAME shortlists for jobs.

Although this would guarantee more BAME candidates getting selected, some have expressed fears this would not be fair to everyone, or could even cause resentment. Another interesting approach is the Rooney Rule. The Rooney Rule is a National Football League (NFL) policy in the US which means that ethnic minority candidates have to be interviewed for head coaching and senior football operation jobs.

This approach meets the approval of many, including the African Caribbean Insurance Network (ACIN). They have tentatively welcomed this as a way to level the playing field without excluding any candidates. Another important aspect is where you are recruiting from. Specialist agencies and networks can help organisations reach candidates they might have missed otherwise.

Retention, mentoring and promotion
Companies may collect a lot of data on recruitment, but it is important to continue to collect and analyse data to show what happens once people have arrived in your organisation. If your staff are not able to progress in their careers, then you have a diversity problem.

Of course, diversity is about more than just race, and research has found that we have a tendency to gravitate towards people who are similar to us.  Schemes such as mentoring can help address this.

That can include reverse mentoring, where people from diverse backgrounds help to educate those who are more senior in the organisation. Close Brothers Premium Finance has launched its own reverse mentoring scheme where BAME employees are especially encouraged to apply.

An increasing number of organisations collect data on salaries to compare them on ethnic lines, just as many already publish data on salaries according to gender. Data alone doesn’t tell the whole story, but it is an important step towards understanding the full picture, and then taking action to address it.

Moving forward
Change can be frustratingly slow for some, but this is a marathon not a sprint. When we look back this month at the important contribution BAME people have made to our society, I hope that serves as an impetus for the future. If we want to help businesses and people thrive in the long term in this country, we need to have the most talented group of people behind us – and that means people from all backgrounds and walks of life.

Paul Trail is MD of Close Brothers Premium Finance

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