I want to expand on the reflections in my last article to share how Accenture is taking further action to create a more inclusive culture where Black talent will thrive.
Let’s start with the facts. Corporate Britain today doesn’t represent society around us. This is particularly obvious at board and c-suite level, where the majority of leaders are white and male. Black representation at leadership level remains very low. There’s a concrete ceiling, which needs a hammer to smash it! That’s why we developed Engage.
Historically, businesses have launched Black leadership programmes in an attempt to “fix” the talent problem. But Black talent doesn’t need fixing. Organisations – and their processes and systems – need to transform so that historic, systematic racism is eradicated. From the outset we decided to take a different approach. Firstly, we don’t refer to Engage as a programme because there’s an implication that once it’s over, we’re done. Instead this is an ongoing journey for our Black talent, for line managers and sponsors. Toegther we’re transforming Accenture’s culture so that everyone can thrive.
Four months in and I’d like to share my advice with others looking to achieve transformational culture change:
Secure leadership buy-in
In many organisations, ‘diversity and inclusion’ rests solely within the HR department’s remit or with voluntary people networks. What’s often forgotten is that as leaders, it’s actually our issue. Modern leadership is about transformation and intent. It’s not about creating followers, rather about creating future leaders. This means understanding the issues and concerns of those in your team at every level, and creating an equitable platform where anyone can progress in their career.
It’s good to talk
Conversations about race are difficult, but you can’t shy away from this. Open and clear conversations have to happen at board level and throughout the business. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder we held an online event with the aim of enabling Black colleagues to voice their concerns and helping white colleagues to understand the true meaning of white privilege, which our global CEO, Julie Sweet, participated in. This started a dialogue about race and has helped us have dialogues internally about what it means to be an ally to Black colleagues. To be effective, white advocates must be vocal, passionate and determined to make change happen. This isn’t a quick fix, It’s an ongoing journey which needs constant focus.
Inclusion makes solid business sense
Remember that diversity is a fact, but it’s building an inclusive culture that will have the biggest impact on your business over the long term. Research shows that if you nurture a sense of belonging and psychological safety for your people, you will attract and retain diverse teams. In turn, your business will be more closely aligned to the communities it serves, more productive, more innovative and more profitable. After all, in the disruptive world businesses are operating in today, being able to adapt and innovate are key to growth. And with the future generation of leaders – Gen Z – entering the workforce, any business leader who ignores inclusion will lose in the war for talent.
Have a shared goal and measure your progress
Accenture has made a public commitment to increasing the percentage of Black people at all levels of the business by 2025, but we’re also measuring how Engage is making people feel and whether their sense of belonging has increased. We’re creating a cultural understanding across Accenture about inclusion, about being vulnerable, about having meaningful conversations. Along the way, we’re building relationships, tackling stereotypes and biases, and helping everyone involved to shift their mindset to one of true inclusion. Our next step? We’re taking everything we’ve learned and the feedback we’ve been gathering to shape the experience for our next cohort who will start their Engage journey in January.
Take the first step
For our initial Engage journey, which kicked off in May, we started with a small cohort of Black colleagues, their people leads and sponsors. We have an extremely passionate and dedicated team who’ve been developing the experience as we’ve progressed over the weeks and months. We’ve had support from our UK and Ireland executive team from day one, and we’ve made the experience enjoyable as well as game-changing! The good news? We’re already seeing changes in behaviours and confidence, and an understanding of the role that everyone plays in creating a sense of belonging.
I’m extremely optimistic about Engage’s success.
To find out more about our impact in the UK go to Accenture.com/ukimpact.