An update on our race equality action plan

Julie Dennis, Acas Head of Diversity and Inclusion

Julie is a diversity and inclusion specialist with 20 years' experience in the public and voluntary sector. At Acas she's responsible for leading and providing expert advice to build an inclusive culture.

It's been over 12 months since we launched our race equality action plan.

The plan formed part of Acas's people strategy, which has the overall aim to make Acas a great place to work. It focuses on 4 key themes:

  • representation
  • promoting inclusive behaviours
  • transparency and accountability
  • promoting good practice in the workplace

What we've done so far

As part of our focus on representation, we have been reviewing our recruitment processes to ensure we are doing all we can to remove any barriers for ethnic minority candidates. This has included reinforcing the need for ethnically diverse panels.

We have also run several positive action initiatives, including our Insight Pairs programme. By matching junior ethnic minority staff with senior leaders, the programme creates a powerful alliance​​​. Shared knowledge and understanding of lived experiences facilitates a shift awareness and, most importantly, action at senior leader and board level.​

We have also run our 'pathways to releasing your full potential' sessions. This 3-part workshop supports participants in the skills and tools that can increase effectiveness, address confidence issues and boost potential – whether they are seeking immediate opportunities for progression or as a focus on long term career goals.

Creating an environment where people can bring their whole selves to work is an essential element of our action plan. It's also a key focus of our promoting inclusive behaviours theme. So, our 'let's talk about race' meetings were designed to be informal and informative spaces. They give our people the opportunity to have open and honest conversations around the realities and challenges of race discrimination. Sessions were delivered peer-to-peer, by Acas colleagues.

We have also run sessions with our senior leaders to increase their awareness. Sessions focus them on what they can do to ensure Acas is an anti-racist organisation and the important role they play in achieving that.

And our Race Equality Staff Network continues to deliver sessions to raise awareness, including a number of specific workshops during Black History Month. Gil Pennant, a health and wellbeing coach, spoke about using happiness as a tool to tell your story. And Bernadette Thompson, deputy director for inclusion, wellbeing and employee engagement in the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government, told her personal story and career journey. Finally Dr Anita Franklin, playwright and academic, told the story of Dr Mary Macleod Bathune, a Black American activist.

What we plan on doing next

In our focus on accountability, we have restructured our staff networks by establishing a steering group, to ensure that they can support our people and work with Acas on our diversity agenda. Plus, we have provided shadowing opportunities for ethnic minority staff at our board, committee and council meetings.

Our promise for the year ahead

It is important to Acas that we show from within, not simply tell, what is needed to create a fair and inclusive workplace. And so, we have ensured that embracing difference, increasing inclusion and creating fairness is at the heart of our 4-year strategy.

Our action on race equality continues to play a vital part in realising this ambition. Now and moving forward, this involves analysing our diversity data, especially in relation to recruitment to identify barriers within our recruitment process, establishing new targets for our feeder grades and continuing to deliver our 'let's talk about race' sessions.

Our race champion Henicka Uddin will also work with our senior leaders to ensure they are putting into practice the lessons they learnt around creating an anti-racist organisation. We are also excited to publish our research into race staff networks in the new year which aims to give best practice guidance around what great networks look like and how to maintain success.

Tips for employers and small businesses

The first thing I would say is listen to your staff – they will tell you what needs to be done. That can be as simple as having a coffee and chat session with ethnic minority employees.

Also analyse your people data, for example how ethnic minority applicants are faring in your recruitment processes. If you haven't got that data, then start collecting it using an equality and diversity monitoring form.

Once you have listened and done your research, a good place to start is with an action plan. If you're a large business that can focus on race, or even a small business, you can create an action plan on how you plan to create inclusive workplaces. Your plan should focus on representation along with culture change. And once you've created your plan, communicate it to your people and continue to update them on progress.