All housing associations and housing practitioners play a vital role in helping deliver against an organisation’s anti-racism stance and values to attract a wider, more diverse talent pool, and in developing a workforce that reflects the organisation’s customer base and wider society.

So it is important to critically assess your organisations approach to create a fair and inclusive workplace culture where to be different is an asset, not a problem. A housing association must review it’s approach to equality, diversity and inclusion from end to end through multiple inclusion lenses, including race, to address blockers and biases in hiring, performance management, career progression, and reward. The HR function should then work with line managers to create transparent recruitment processes and clear progression routes, which will help to improve retention and make career development fair. HR also needs to work closely with line managers to ensure that espoused policies and organisational rhetoric are played out in reality. HR can play a valuable role as critical friend by holding up a mirror to the organisation – leverage it.

Recommendations

Take a zero-tolerance approach to racism

  • Build cultures of trust, where employees experiencing racism feel confident to come forward and know that they’ll be listened to.
  • Treat allegations of racism seriously and always take action.

Review your processes

  • Review your policies and processes end to end, including hiring, recruitment, appraisals, promotion, pay, progression, retention and exit. Although they should at the very least comply with race discrimination law, they must be underpinned by principles that actively value and encourage respectful and positive attitudes to differences. 
  • Take an evidence-based approach when reviewing policies and processes, drawing on quantitative and qualitative data and feedback. 
  • Ensure that any changes and decisions made are visibly fair and transparent, communicating the reasons for the change. 
  • Invite the staff network to review policies and processes and give feedback, but don’t expect them to be policy-writing specialists.

Examine your data 

  • Examine the make-up of your workforce through your data, the ethnic diversity at all levels and in all areas, and by occupation and seniority. 
  • Look at the ethnicity categories you use to collect data. If you are a larger organisation, ensure they can be benchmarked against reliable external sources to determine what counts as under-representation or concerning issues. 
  • Interrogate your data to uncover the structural and cultural barriers that are maintaining workplace inequalities. 
  • Analysing and probing your workforce data will help to uncover any sticking points. For example, review whether you regularly collect information on employee sentiment via surveys. Consider analysing these findings by ethnicity, if you can still preserve employee anonymity.

Recruitment 

  • What channels are you using to recruit talent? Are you varying how and where you’re doing your outreach? Are images and language used inclusive? Are you confident your line managers are recruiting and promoting fairly? 
  • Are recruiters acting on your behalf aware of your values and commitment? If they fail to provide a diverse shortlist, challenge them. If your organisation is under-represented in relation to ethnic diversity, look into using recruiters with a track record of appointing people from diverse ethnic backgrounds. 
  • Consider using blind recruiting at first-stage shortlisting and analyse the conversion to interview and offer stages. 
  • Make sure your interview panels are as diverse as possible for shortlisting and interview stages

Progression 

  • Critically examine progress of different groups in the organisation and where there may be glass ceilings. Share that insight across the business. 
  • Ensure clearly applied criteria is used for performance evaluations, bonuses or other benefits like secondments, deployment, stretch projects and career breaks. 
  • Offer ethnic minority staff in the organisation access to mentoring/shadowing to support them with their career progression. This could be with internal or external people/organisations. 
  • Introduce reverse or mutual-mentoring schemes, where diverse groups (including those from ethnic minorities) mentor senior leaders and managers, promoting a culture of inclusion in the organisation.

Pay

  • Introduce ethnicity pay reporting to uncover inequalities and where action should be directed. Publishing your figures and accompanying action plan for change can communicate the message that you’re serious about creating an inclusive workplace.

Evaluate

  • Review the outcomes of process and policy changes, evaluate, and don’t be afraid to try something different if a course of action isn’t working.