Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (IDE) has increasingly become a vital aspect of many organisations’ business strategy, and a key element of the ‘S’ in Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG). The need to commit to a purposeful IDE campaign is now, without doubt, a business imperative.
Leaders within the Financial Services (FS) sector continue to talk to us enthusiastically about IDE and their desire to create meaningful change within their organisations. Indeed, the sector would benefit from insights on what UK firms are doing to recruit, retain, and promote employees of Black heritage. So, we recently published an insights report ‘Black heritage Talent Initiatives in Financial Services’ to explore how Financial Services organisations have embedded initiatives to shift the dial on the experience of Black heritage colleagues. The report sheds light on some of the work that is being done for Black colleagues as well as the challenges organisations face in their IDE narrative. In particular, the report focuses on the available platforms for dialogue, accountability of leaders, the career lifecycle, data collection, and the ever-evolving regulatory landscape. The results show that interventions to increase Black talent and ensure a steady pipeline of Black leaders are becoming a priority for organisations as they work towards initiating cultural change.
Findings from the report also show that those who fail to look internally and utilise current leadership to encourage and develop the next generation of Black heritage talent are not well positioned to succeed. There was an overarching theme centring around allyship across the report. While implementing specific initiatives and setting an equitable culture will provide the required support needed for Black heritage colleagues, forming strong Allyship programmes should also be considered in an organisation’s IDE strategy.
Allyship in the workplace involves advocating, supporting, and being a voice for people whose voices aren’t being heard. Dr John Amaechi, a renowned organisational psychologist, defines allyship as “a constant vigilance for even the small bad behaviours (sometimes called micro aggressions) that occur around us in and outside of the workplace  . Allyship can help sustain inclusive business practices, and it presents an opportunity to accelerate transformational change if embedded into an organisation’s culture and ways of working. One of the ways this can be done is through introducing an Allyship programme. This entails pairing Black employees with more a senior colleague who is of non-Black heritage and who can act as a sponsor, mentor or coach. Such schemes directly address an underlying barrier to progress for people of Black heritage: a lack of sponsors to champion their progression.
Allyship programmes are especially important when it comes to promotion of individuals. They can establish strong relationships between Black colleagues and senior leadership, whilst also casting awareness on the institutional challenges faced by the Black heritage community. Senior leaders can become advocates and allies for Black heritage employees through mentorship and sponsorship schemes, as well as call out microaggressions, actively working against discrimination in all its forms, educating themselves, understanding their privilege , and simply listening to colleagues can be extremely effective. To strengthen the impact, linking compensation to IDE targets will encourage senior leadership to ensure that targets are met, rather than them being merely a figurehead for IDE. In our report, we stressed the importance of linking IDE targets to compensation in making senior leadership accountable for IDE.
Focusing attention at such a senior level ensures leaders, who may not be comfortable starting conversations on race, have a better understanding of the experiences of Black heritage colleagues. Moreover, educating leaders is critical to developing awareness of the issues faced by Black heritage colleagues. Indeed, we witnessed first-hand the successes of what Allyship can bring. In 2020, KPMG launched the Black Lives Allyship Programme which pairs non-Black heritage colleagues of varying seniority with Black heritage colleagues. There has been some great traction: In the first cohort, 41 per cent of Black heritage Allyship colleagues have been promoted. Additionally, promotion rates were significantly higher for Black heritage Allyship colleagues across all Performance Zones compared with Black heritage colleagues overall. The results demonstrate that having an Ally can make a measurable difference to the career progression of Black heritage colleagues.
While the steps taken by FS organisations have been admirable, more needs to be done to move the dial on IDE. We can only hope for major change to take place when organisations put effective IDE measures on their agenda, concentrating efforts towards creating authentic relationships through allyship. Allyship is crucial for Black heritage colleagues in the financial services sector. It is a continuous journey, and the financial services sector must commit to taking meaningful action to create a more equitable and just workplace for all. To ensure that allyship is an integral part of the financial services sector's strategy in the next few years, firms must take concrete steps. This could take the form of diversity and inclusion training that provides safe spaces for open and honest discussions, setting up formal or informal allyship programmes, and tracking the progress of these. If all individuals in the organisation have a role to amplify the voices of Black heritage colleagues and empower them to take on leadership roles within the industry, then this will not only benefit individual employees but also contribute to the overall success and profitability of firms.