New guide published on how to talk about race at work

The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development has published a new guide to help HR advisers have open conversations about race in the workplace.

A black woman speaking at a work meeting


A new guide lays out key advice, options and considerations for people professionals to bear in mind when having conversations about race in the workplace.

The guide, published by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, advises organisations to take “a considered, structured and compassionate approach” to having conversations about race in the workplace.

It states: “Tough conversations require openness, bravery, the ability to work through discomfort, express views in a non-combative manner, and to listen and reflect without judgement.”

That means having an open culture, says the guide. If the culture is not one where open conversations are possible, the guide advises some preparatory work, including opening people up to concepts such as active listening and coaching principles. That can come through training but also sharing of articles, delivering of webinars and the use of existing communication channels to communicate and plant seeds around these concepts. The CIPD has an anti-racism hub with useful material.

The guide also calls on HR managers to  consider – and clearly communicate – how race conversations align with and support the organisation’s espoused culture, purpose, mission, values and behaviours and it says that it is vital to make clear the intended outcomes of race conversations for senior leaders and HR workers, for instance, what the organisation hopes to learn and whether the leadership team is ready to listen to and engage with feedback.

The guide also covers how organisations ensure their organisation has a basic level of race fluency, for instance, there is an understanding of terms such as white privilege; it gives advice on how to equip managers and leaders to have conversations; and on how to communicate about the conversations sensitively. It also covers the importance of safe spaces and lists questions that might help to kick off conversations as well as post-conversation communication and next steps.

It comes after news that Legal & General has written to all companies in the FTSE 100 as well as US companies in the S&P 500 and warned that it will vote against them unless they have at least one BAME director in place by January 1st 2022. L&G has drawn on research by McKinsey & Co to show that more racially diverse boards make better decisions and produce better financial returns to shareholders. L&G told the businesses it will vote against the re-election of the company’s nomination committee chairmen if they fail to meet this target.



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