• Lolu Olufemi, Senior Manager |
5 min read

Sparked by the Black Lives Matter protests over the past couple of years and stories shared of historic and current racial discrimination, employers are increasingly committing to make ‘new history’ by improving the recruitment, retention and advancement of people of black heritage.

For so long there has unfortunately been a lack of black representation within organisations, particularly in senior roles (something that KPMG is addressing within our own workforce). Organisations are now waking up to the realisation that the catch all term “BAME” (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic”) and associated target setting, has unfortunately prevented them from fully realising and addressing the extent of the disparity in their specifically black heritage representation, particularly at senior levels.

Research shows that Black employees hold just 1.5 percent of top management roles in the UK private sector and just 1 percent in the UK Public sector*.

So how do employers ensure that their target-setting and action planning in respect of black heritage talent culminates in real and tangible results? How do they avoid what unfortunately prevailed previously – the disconnect between professed corporate values of inclusion, diversity and equity (IDE) and the actual behaviours and actions of employees?

Key to any strategy for success, is the need to build real safeguards into people processes and ways of working within an organisation, to ensure real accountability of leaders and managers. Below I offer some tips along the employee lifecycle to help organisations move from aspiration to action. Let’s really make new history.


  1. A concern sometimes raised in relation to the recruitment of black heritage talent is around the lack of experienced candidates in certain specialist fields.

    Why not challenge your recruiters? Are they hiring from the same places all the time? Why don’t they widen their net? Is the wording and criteria in your job adverts inclusive? Consider what is a must have rather than a nice to have.

  2. Where there truly is a lack of experienced black heritage talent in a specialist field, organisations have a real opportunity to “grow their own”.

    Career change and apprenticeship programmes along with the provision of structured on-the-job learning opportunities has proven effective in developing a much wider and diverse pool of talent that can grow and progress within an organisation. This in turn gives organisations an opportunity to both achieve business goals and make a positive societal impact.

  3. Steps can also be taken in the application and interview process to reduce the risk of bias.

    For example, forward thinking organisations redact candidate names and university names when presenting CVs and job applications to hiring managers. It’s also important to ensure that you have a diverse panel of interviewers that have received robust IDE training.


  1. Fostering an inclusive working environment is a collaborative effort that requires action from all team members and has a direct impact on the retention of black heritage colleagues. What I have found is that empathy is a powerful driver for real inclusion. When colleagues get a better understanding of the real experiences and challenges faced by different people groups, they are better equipped to create a supportive environment.

    Take a look at the learning your organisation offers employees in the IDE and anti-racism space. Is it fit for purpose? Who is involved in developing this training? Does it tell real stories? Does it drive real understanding? Or is it generic and in need of a refresh to provide more nuanced insight?


  1. Having clear, objective and transparent progression processes within an organisation is key to advancing black heritage talent.

    It is important that proper checks and balances are put in place to prevent merely rubber-stamping performance and promotion decisions made by leaders. Which can unfortunately be driven by a covert and perhaps unconscious culture of favouritism towards non-black colleagues and dismissiveness towards colleagues of black heritage.

    Questions to ask within your organisation might include: Do all colleagues understand the path and process for progression within the organisation? Are work and development opportunities being allocated fairly across the team to give colleagues the experience and exposure they need to make timely progress within the organisation?

  2. Consider implementing an allyship programme where someone of black heritage is paired with someone more senior of non-black heritage within the organisation to serve as their sponsor, mentor or coach.

    A recurring challenge for people of black heritage can be having a lack of people “at the table” or “in the room” to sponsor and advocate on their behalf for their progression. An allyship programme provides a vehicle to level the playing field as senior allies build relationships with their black heritage colleagues, providing the sponsorship and mentorship support that they need. Such relationships can also serve as a valuable opportunity for reverse mentorship as the pair share real experiences which helps to drive better empathy and understanding.

    Due to the success of KPMG’s own company allyship programme (with 750 allies and 250 black heritage colleagues signed up) we have created a Cross Company Allyship Programme which opens up the opportunity for KPMG and client mentors and mentees to gain experiences and access networks from outside of their own organisations.

  3. Having safeguards in promotion long lists and short lists is another mechanism that can make a real impact. By setting diversity criteria for the composition of your promotion candidate list, you ensure that those that may have been overlooked are given a proper and fair consideration.

If any of the above has piqued your interest, or if you would like to know more about how we can support you with your black heritage agenda, please contact us