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Build Black Better: How to develop a more diverse senior talent pool

This article was originally published as part of PRmoment's Impact Report.

Over the years we’ve seen various industry-led initiatives to attract more diverse talent into the industry, as the business case for diversity and inclusion has become clear. However the lack of visible senior Black leaders suggests that there may be a retention issue, and was what prompted us to partner with insight agency Opinium to launch the first survey of Black communications professionals in the UK.

Our research found that almost half of Black communications professionals have never received an internal promotion.

This figure highlights the flaw in focusing purely on recruiting diverse talent into entry-level roles. The lack of internal promotion suggests that once in a role, Black professionals are less likely to be afforded the opportunity to grow their role and experience at their chosen company or agency. Although the fact that many respondents left roles to achieve a promotion speaks to their ambition to progress. It also indicates that, although they had the ability to deliver at a more senior level, their value was not being recognised appropriately where they were.

In fact, our findings show that Black employees were more likely to receive written or verbal praise for their efforts in the workplace, instead of a pay rise, bonus or promotion, which is the gateway to more senior leadership roles. Over two fifths (43 per cent) of respondents state that their colleagues’ contributions are recognised through promotions, but only 21 per cent say their own contributions are recognised in this way. The disparity underscores how a workplace culture which lacks transparency around pay and promotions can create an environment where employees are not given the same equality of opportunity.

Interestingly, the desire to take control of their career is what drove many respondents to establish or consider establishing their own consultancies.

Although this entrepreneurial response means that the skills and talent of these individuals won’t be lost to the industry completely, it does mean that the speed at which the face of the senior leadership at large agencies and in-house teams is likely to change.

As an industry we pride ourselves on delivering creative solutions for the clients and businesses that we serve. It’s why, when we published our research, we wanted to do more than simply raise awareness of these workplace issues. We partnered with experts in recruitment, talent management or diversity and inclusion to uncover tangible and meaningful solutions to prevent all diverse talent from being bottle-necked.

How to prevent diverse talent from being blocked in your organisation:

Set proportional targets: Having a clear goal means that progress can be measured. It fosters an environment where people managers have to be more intentional about their actions, and encourages them to review their existing recruitment and talent management processes if they are not yielding positive results.

Targets have to be appropriate for a business or agency and the geography of its operations. However remote working can help organisations to diversify their talent pool.

Align agreed targets to senior leaders’ remuneration: There is merit in treating diversity and inclusion as an important metric of business performance and sustainability. Across many businesses in the UK, executives’ remuneration considers the company’s Environment, Social and Governance performance as a guide for how sustainable it is.

Making diversity and inclusion the business of every senior leader means that the responsibility to drive change within an organisation does not sit solely with HR or the Diversity and Inclusion Lead.

Review talent management processes: Look at how work is distributed; is everyone being given the opportunity to work on business, clients, and projects that build and develop their skills?

Consider how good and excellent work is rewarded; is it consistent across the business or are rewards at the discretion of people managers? The implementation of companywide policies can help to ensure employees are treated equally.

Formalising the way that feedback is given on promotions will also ensure that all employees are aware of how they can progress their career.

Review the aim of your employee networks: Many organisations have created employee networks where Black, LGBTQI+ and female colleagues can network as part of their commitment to supporting their colleagues. However, if the aim of a network is to support colleagues’ career progression, these need to provide opportunities for diverse talent to widen their experience and increase their visibility amongst the senior team, or be coupled with sponsorship programmes which result in executives advocating for promising talent across the business.

Article written by Kamiqua Pearce, founder & CEO UK Black Comms Network

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