Re-energising anti-racism strategy and examining our values
W hen Black Lives Matter hit the news again this year , Alexander Mann Solutions ’ diversity and inclusion team revitalised the company ’ s approach to discrimination , writes Paul Modley .
Business cannot and does not exist in a bubble . There are some moments in history which define us , offer a step-change to how we view the world and see each other , whether at work or beyond . When # MeToo went viral in 2017 , we knew we could no longer ignore the blight of sexual harassment and abuse . When images of a Minnesota policeman kneeling on George Floyd ’ s neck stunned the world in May this year , there was a sense that something must be done ; that enough was enough when it came to racism and discrimination .
The resurgence of the Black Lives Matter ( BLM ) movement has been a defining moment of 2020 , the effects of which have reached so many of us . As the guardians of diversity and inclusion ( D & I ) at Alexander Mann Solutions , we ’ ve been at the forefront of equality , diversity and inclusion for many years . We pride ourselves on the progress made with a whole range of traditionally under-represented groups : offering inclusion-enabling work practices for working mothers , championing social mobility and providing opportunities for people with disabilities . BLM has provided an immediate and urgent imperative to do more about our lack of ethnic diversity .
We need to continue to see people as individuals , with unique backgrounds and experiences , and recognise this when it comes to work design and culture
Importantly , much of that impetus has come from our minority colleagues themselves . They have felt empowered by the protests to speak up and be more candid about the change they want to see . The ability to have frank conversations about racism has been a game changer . Anti-racism is now part of the company ’ s vocabulary in a way it hasn ’ t been before . People are not just expressing their feelings , but also making specific requests about greater visibility and the need for a proper plan . They want to see a commitment .
As a result , we are revisiting demographic data so that we can put in place the right plans to increase diversity at all levels of our business via a comprehensive set of talent acquisition and development actions . We ’ re also refreshing our training around conscious inclusion for everyone from our senior leaders down , and developing a strategic plan to keep the progress made to the fore and sustainable . Visible buy-in from the very top has been really important , too .
Ensuring psychological safety
We know this is just the start . We need to continue to provide the platforms for people to talk – and , crucially , we need to listen . We need to create the psychological safety to allow people to open up and to have those uncomfortable conversations around racism . We need to be sensitive about the use of language , but not to the extent that we use this as an excuse for not having those conversations at all . We ’ ve learned from our minority colleagues that “ it ’ s better to say something not quite right than not say anything at all ” – provided the positive intent is there .
More than ever , we need to continue to see people as individuals , with unique backgrounds and experiences , and recognise this when it comes to work design and culture . Our regular pulse surveys will measure sentiment around inclusion and belonging , broken down by demographics to allow for finer analysis .
Coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic , BLM has made us even more aware of how important it is to articulate our purpose , vision and values . It ’ s made us think carefully about our leadership behaviours and what we stand for . We ’ re learning that the people with whom we work want to experience our values at every touch point .
We need to continue our journey to place people and culture – rather than process – are the core of everything we do . BLM has made us more thoughtful and intentional about ethnic diversity , but it ’ s also reinforced that wider change , one that will make us a better business for the future .
Paul Modley leads the internally facing D & I team at Alexander Mann Solutions .