5 ways businesses can use BAME employee networks for growth
The business case for diversity is often oversimplified for improving performance in organisations, says Jonathan Ashong-Lamptey, a researcher at the London School of Economics Department of Management, in response to the findings of the recent McGregor-Smith Review, which states that better facilitating the progression of BAME and minority professionals in the workplace stands to provide the UK economy with a £24bn boost.
“The McGregor-Smith Review clearly makes a business case for diversity, but it’s one which is often oversimplified or misunderstood,” says Jonathan. “There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to managing diversity and inclusion, and this is what challenges organisations. Each needs to establish its own particular business case, instead of assuming that simply increasing diversity levels within their organisation will automatically transform their business performance.”
The PhD candidate in LSE’s Department of Management has spent the past three years investigating the experiences of BAME and minority ethnic professionals and how they contribute to business success. His own research “An Examination of the Lived Experiences of Minority Racial and Ethnic Individuals in the Workplace” analyses in detail the function of professional employee networks for BAME workers, and how these groups can enhance an individual’s career progression whilst improving an organisation’s performance.
His study has revealed that although businesses have made great strides in implementing such groups, the mismanagement of these collectives can contribute to both professional and company stagnation.
According to Jonathan, though on the surface such groups show that a company has moved closer to recognising the diverse cultures that exist within their organisations, many leaders often do not understand how these networks can be best leveraged to best effect. As such, they remain disconnected from both common organisational goals, and the wider employee culture.
“There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to managing diversity and inclusion, and this is what challenges organisations. Each needs to establish its own particular business case, instead of assuming that simply increasing diversity levels within their organisation will automatically transform their business performance.”
He suggests five key principles that employers must introduce in order to better leverage minority networks in their organisations.
1 – Psychological Support : Though minority networks can provide members with shared experiences, friendships and a sense of inclusion, this does not extend throughout the wider organisation. Business leaders must take a greater stake within these groups and engage members in initiatives that promote wider engagement.
2 – Career Development : Sessions on how to navigate the organisation, how to negotiate with superiors and how to make the best use of their ideas in a wider context can help to improve performance, expand roles and enhance professional capabilities.
3 – Voice : Such groups are used to give individuals a voice within an organisation, but well-functioning well-supported groups can also be used to give a voice to minority groups outside of the organisation, helping the company to improve its visibility in new networks and markets, enhance its reputation and become a recognised leader in equality.
4 – Engagement : Better connecting cultural identities to the wider workplace to improve business practice makes learning and engaging with minority staff more relevant for all employees and breaks down barriers whilst improving company cohesion and performance.
5 – Identity : The natural skills and knowledge base of individuals in minority networks are an underutilised resource which, when leveraged appropriately, can enable a company to engage with new markets and enter into business negotiations far more effectively. For example, enlisting BAME staff to meet and engage with promising new BAME recruits to provide insight and training, can improve employee relations and enable an organisation to tap into a new resource for new staff. Or working with minority staff to help transcend cultural barriers and new and emerging markets, enabling a company to extend its practices and customer base.
Jonathan says the successful integration of minority networks can provide several quick wins for organisations that don’t know what to do and want to make progress in this area even before they want to publish data of their minority staff, as recommended in the McGregor-Smith Review. Those that cannot move beyond simple box-checking for their diversity stats will soon be left behind.
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