How companies can better support Caribbean talent

In a recent webinar, diverse leaders shared tips on helping ethnic minority talent prosper in the workplace

British business-community outreach charity, Business in the Community (BITC) recently hosted ‘Windrush at Work: Race at Work insight”, an online event that offered valuable insights about the experiences of Caribbean talent in the UK workplace.

Moderated by Sandra Kerr CBE, Race Campaign Director, BITC, and two Race executive sponsors, Tosin Akinluyi, Managing Director, Morgan Stanley and Justin Onuekwusi, Head of Retail Investments, Legal & General Investment Management, they highlighted the measures their companies have in place to help ethnically diverse talent prosper.

The position of Caribbean talent today

According to various BITC studies, 4% of employees in the UK are of Caribbean origin, yet many are absent from supervisory and leadership roles.

“We found an overrepresentation of people of Caribbean origin at the administrative level and underrepresentation at the supervisory and senior management level. So they are overrepresented in administrative services and underrepresented in supervisory services and higher intellectual professions,” said Kerr.

She also looked at their wealth levels based on ONS data, and again there is a significant gap that businesses need to close.

“People of Caribbean origin have total wealth assets of £85,000, the Black African group has £34,300 on average, whereas white families have £313,000.”

Kerr went on to say that inflation and the rising cost of living were impacting Black families, who”don’t necessarily have a big financial cushion to draw from”, and reminded employers to be aware of the greater negative impact the situation is having on this cohort.

Kerr also noted that despite their underrepresentation at high business levels, people of Caribbean heritage are very well educated. In fact, 72% of the Caribbean population have a degree, doctorate or master’s degree; that figure rose to 63% in 2015 and 64% in 2018.

“They’ve done the necessary work, and that’s where the mentor can help translate that, including how those things actually translate into career progression. Mentoring is a powerful way to really move people forward,” she said.

Akinluyi shared her experience working in a major international bank and what they’re doing to diversify their workforce: “Morgan Stanley started by reaching out to diverse talent by investing in an apprenticeship programme. It’s amazing to see the progression of talent at this entry-level; we started small, and we’ve grown exponentially across the different divisions.”

“The bank has also put a lot of emphasis on mentoring programmes. Mentoring and role models! So, through one of our programmes called ‘‘Step In, Step U’’, we are able to reach out to high school students who are still thinking about what they want to be, what kind of career they might be interested in, and to help them build their CV.” 

Long-term investment in ethnic minority talent

When it comes to attracting talent from different backgrounds, Morgan Stanley has also done a lot of work internally, said Akinluyi.”To have a meaningful impact, you have to go beyond simply recruiting diverse talent. So our retention efforts start by making sure that in the onboarding process when we bring in new hires, there is a clear pathway or potential pathways for career growth and a clear articulation of the support systems that exist within the organisation to make sure that these individuals who join are ready to excel.

“These people are sponsored by the heads of departments. They have to know them; they are informed of their progress through the programme, and that’s where the mentoring and sponsorship starts to become organic.”

In addition to these programmes, Akinluyi also mentioned a culture that fosters the fair promotion of diverse talent.”When I say promotion, it’s not just about moving from one level to the next. It’s about being aware of opportunities, mobility, feeling comfortable, asking for more responsibility and being in line with what’s going on in the organisation.”

Building an inclusive culture

Akinluyi also recalled the importance of including leaders and managers in the process.”This is about agile management. We can try to create a culture that everyone at the top of the organisation embraces. But if it doesn’t filter down through the organisation, the people who run the teams set the micro-cultures in those teams.”

Onuekwusi focused on the progression of Black people in business.”These issues are taboo. But it’s very obvious that some groups are not progressing or not advancing as quickly as others.” 

The power of allies 

Onuekwusi began by sharing a clear definition of allyship.”Being an ally is not an identity; it’s not a noun. You have to do something; it’s a verb. And as a result, I have had many conversations with people who ask me. What can I do?”

He offered five actions that can help allies: use your voice to support underrepresented groups, learn as much as possible about the challenges and prejudices faced by minorities, proactively fight against existing barriers, and create a safe space for members to share their stories, concerns and needs. And don’t be a bystander: speak out against wrongdoing and microaggressions in the workplace.

He then explained that the important part of a mentoring relationship is to allow people to tap into that personal, professional network, not just for advice, but to think about the progression of that person’s role.

External resources

While ethnic minority talent needs someone in the room who can advocate for them to advance in almost any business, Onuekwusi also reminded companies of their responsibilities.”What you need is a culture that encourages these mentoring discussions and encourages leaders to develop and nurture others. We have created a mentoring platform that uses these algorithms where people can input what they want from a mentor and essentially match different mentors in the company.” 

Onuekwusi also invited companies to mentor themselves if they needed to.”It’s important to be humble and recognise that actually, as businesses, we don’t have all the answers, and it’s really important to tap into some of these external resources.”

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