Do you employ black people?

October is Black History Month bringing to mind such greats as Martin Luther King, Mohammed Ali and Louis Armstrong, to name but a few. But do African-Caribbean and other ethnic groups represent talent for your business?

“They never apply” is an excuse I’ve heard too often. Fear of not fitting in discourages ethnic groups from applying to white dominated businesses (and Universities). Cambridge University’s photograph of 14 black students encourages talented young black men to apply. Businesses too, stand to gain by reaching out. Why?

Talent. Indian children are already out performing their peers in UK schools, while the proportion of black, asian and mixed race students at  top universities is rising. Creaming off some talent may serve a business well.

However, the race disparity audit, published on the orders of Theresa May, revealed that households of Bangladeshi, Pakistani, black, mixed race and other ethnic backgrounds were more likely to receive income-related benefits and tax credits. In reality that means a pool of available employees who may be more talented than they are given credit for.

What to do

Start by building up links with schools, universities and ethnic community groups. Seek to understand different cultural lifestyles.

Train interviewers as to how to assess candidates on their skills and competence.

Carry out diversity training so staff hold the right attitudes towards those of different cultural backgrounds. Office banter can very easily create an environment that minority groups find hostile.

Undertaking cultural training is even better. Every ethnic group can trace great achievements in its culture. Valuing rather than spurning others comes from recognising and understanding such achievements.

Malcolm Martin FCIPD

Author Human Resource Practice

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