13 actions organisations can take to support Black heritage people

Oct 17, 2022 | Diversity

ISE’s Black Careers Matter report featured 30 case studies, here we share the practical actions that employers, universities and other organisations are taking to support Black heritage people.

ISE’s Black Careers Matter report explores the issues that people from Black heritage backgrounds face during their early careers and makes recommendations on what employers can do to ensure that they are more inclusive and diverse.

It includes a series of 30 case studies that demonstrate promising practice and positive ways forward. They include employers, universities and other organisations active in the student employment market.

Looking across all of the case studies reveals a range of possible practical actions that organisations can take to move the agenda forward. The 13 key strategies below have been identified by organisations as places where they can take positive action to ensure that Black careers matter.

It is important that these are not seen as a menu from which one or two options can be selected, but rather as a range of elements that can be connected to build an over-arching and holistic strategy for an organisation.


1. Creating dedicated career education programmes and events

One of the most popular approaches to supporting Black students is providing dedicated career education programmes or events. The aim of such activities is to provide Black students with insights and strategies that they can use to help them to manage recruitment processes and build their career. These programmes and events take a variety of different forms and are variously offered by employers, universities and other organisations.


2. Providing access to role models

Many initiatives are based around the observation made by the activist Marian Wright Edelman that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. Organisations are keen to provide students from Black heritage backgrounds with the opportunity to engage with and learn from Black people who have built successful careers in the past. This might take the form of representations in media, in one-off encounters or through extended mentoring programmes.


3. Improving access to internships and placements

There is strong agreement that providing access to forms of work experience is a powerful way to create a pipeline into employment for Black students and address inequalities in access to opportunities.


4. Targeted recruitment campaigns

Many employers complain that they do not get enough applications from Black candidates. A logical response to this is to spend more time targeting Black students in recruitment and outreach campaigns. In some cases, like Baker McKenzie ’s Black Lawyers and Allies Open Day or BCLP’s RFC Commercial Café, an event provides a hook around which targeted marketing can be organised. In other examples like HM Treasury’s or GSK’s Brand Ambassador campaigns, students are recruited to engage their peers in working for an organisation. It is also worth highlighting the approach taken by the BAME Apprentice Network, which works with organisations to build a long-term relationship with the Black community to widen the talent pool.


5. Changing recruitment processes

It’s important to change recruitment processes to ensure that they are not biased or discriminatory. Several of our case studies provide examples of how employers are doing this in practice. For example, ISE have been ensuring that Black employees are involved in the recruitment of new hires, while the University of Chester have taken the decision to remove all personal identifying features from applications to its work experience programme.


6. Providing dedicated recruitment support

As well as the possibility of changing your recruitment approach altogether there is also the opportunity to provide additional support for students who are under-performing within it. This kind of support was offered by a number of employers including Baker McKenzie, BDO, BCLP, Clifford Chance and Linklaters. Many universities also provided dedicated programmes of support for Black students to prepare them for recruitment processes. These included the University of Nottingham through the Get Connected BME programme and the University of Warwick through the Multicultural Scholars Programme.


7. Listening to Black students or employees

It is essential that any initiatives to improve the experience and outcomes of students and employees from Black heritage backgrounds are informed by the ideas of Black people themselves. Enterprise is encouraging Black employees to join its Diversity and Race Equality Team. IBM Foundation BAME project is built around the creation of networks and spaces for Black employees to have their voices heard. Within the university sector the development of approaches such as the University of Chester’s Race Advocates scheme or the University of Gloucestershire’s Reciprocal Mentoring Scheme demonstrate a commitment to ensuring that the perspective of Black students influences organisational policy. In other examples organisations have actively engaged with their Black employees or students to co-create programmes and other solutions to address racial injustice.


8. Supporting the development and retention of Black employees

Recruitment is only part of the challenge. Once Black students have been hired it is important to provide them with appropriate support to allow them to thrive within an organisation. Accenture provides hires from Black heritage backgrounds with buddies and mentors once they enter the organisation.


9. Building supportive networks

Many Black students and early career professionals are keen not to be the only Black person within their organisation. In big organisations it is possible for there to be many Black employees, but for them still to be isolated from one another. This is why it can be valuable to actively build supportive networks. Perhaps one of the most interesting examples is DeMontfort University’s Make Diversity your Business which brought 30 businesses together with 30 Black students to develop a new approach to recruitment for local businesses in Leicester and sparked the creation of new networks focused on diversity in the city.


10. Developing diversity, equality and inclusion strategies

While it is important to develop a range of different programmes, actions and initiatives to address racial injustice, it is also important that these sit within a broader strategy that communicate a long-term direction for an organisation. Many of the case studies describe the process of strategy creation, highlighting the creation of new diversity strategies and more specific strategies around Black representation. Accenture and Enterprise have committed to strategies and targets around improving Black representation while the University of Nottingham’s decision to create an annual equality and diversity report demonstrates a clear commitment to public accountability on realising its strategy.


11. Influencing partners and suppliers

All organisations have an influence on people outside of their organisation as well as those within it. It is possible to exert influence on the behaviour of organisations and individuals within your supply chain and those that you partner with. If your organisation cares about racial justice it is right to expect the same standards from those that you do business with. Examples of this include the University of Westminster’s commitment to raising the issue of racism with the employer partners it is working with and Thirty Three’s decision to make an explicit call for more diverse freelancers to work on its projects.


12. Addressing racial injustice through Corporate Social Responsibility activities

Another way to influence the world around an organisation is through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities and funding. It is important that the values that inform CSR activities are also reflected in an organisation’s internal strategies. A good example is Enterprise, who is committing $55 million worldwide in grants through the Enterprise Holdings Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Enterprise Holdings, to address social and racial equity.


13. Supporting wider campaigns and lobbying policy makers

Finally, it is necessary to recognise that both racial injustice and organisations’ responses to it take place within a wider political context. While the focus of our report has been on what organisations can practically do to support the recruitment and retention of Black heritage talent, there is also a role for speaking up more widely, lending your voice and support to wider campaigns and lobbying policymakers.

You can read the case studies in full in the appendix of our report.

 Read more excerpts from our Black Careers Matter report


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