Being a BAME human resources leader during a pandemic
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As a BAME leader, whose inherent diversity makes me different, I have learned the power of active listening, patient observation and the need for strong resilience to rapidly respond to the feedback received from an environment. It is important to be in an organisation that understands both the business case and socio-economic needs for a diverse and inclusive workforce – and does not merely see the idea as a ‘flavour of the month’.
Along with providing safe, affordable and innovative housing and care for over-55s across London, Central & Cecil (C&C) continually champions equality and diversity wherever possible.
For example, during the Black Lives Matter protests, it was encouraging to see C&C speak for justice and racial equality on social media. I believe our plans to deliver outstanding homes and services that inspire our residents make us passionate, which drives us to develop and invest in people who will make a positive difference to their lives.
When we were hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the organisation, including the people department, took proactive measures to support all services – first ensuring we had the right people in the right places and at the right times, especially within our care homes.
As I am supported by brilliant individuals who love what they do, care about our people and love delivering outstanding service, we were able to respond to COVID-19 with speed and quality.
We have a long-standing scheme of recruiting casual workers and during the pandemic we placed an acute focus in this area. In the process, we also sourced and hired many high-quality full-time workers who were looking to join us on a permanent basis.
We implemented internal systems that make the candidate experience easier and more exciting. Our improved use of technological systems also had a massive impact on streamlining our recruitment approaches – for instance, conducting multiple virtual interviews in a professional manner, digitally administering employment offers, employment checks and the onboarding process.
Attracting male and BAME students interested in working in care
My director and I are very passionate about fostering diversity and inclusion – diverse teams perform better and make for a more interesting and fun workplace. So, we are developing a new, robust diversity and inclusion strategy that we strongly believe in.
Within the last five months, 61% of our new hires were BAME and 60% were female. Across the organisation, 38% have identified themselves as BAME colleagues (compared to 37% who identify as white), with the remaining 25% not identifying their ethnic group. We have some work to do in this area and are committed to focusing our talent attraction and development strategies to recruit and promote diverse skills at all levels.
In our care services, there have always been a higher proportion of female colleagues than male. To increase the number of male colleagues supporting our residents, we have begun building relationships with established London colleges to attract both male and BAME students to work in care. We are looking to offer roles to successful candidates either on a permanent basis, through an apprenticeship programme, or via work-placements to students looking for work experience.
Throughout lockdown, we also took precautions to ensure people at higher risk of contracting the virus worked from home or were placed on the government’s furlough scheme. We recently made the decision to undertake individual risk assessments for all our colleagues. We felt this would aid our awareness of individuals at higher risk and enable us to protect the health and safety of our colleagues.
The efforts of colleagues in our care homes during the pandemic have been exemplary. The hard work, patience and professionalism shown by teams in our resident services and central office functions have been indescribable. It has been inspiring to see how much love and compassion the organisation carries.
Tim Michaelsen is head of people & HR technology systems at C&C. A version of this article first appeared on the Inside Housing website.