We are human after all, don't put your blame on me

‘Race is the hardest protected characteristic to talk about, many people just don’t even know where to begin’

This week Nichole Higgins, Co-Chair of the CIPD’s race Employee Resource Group (ERG) EmbRACE, shared her thoughts and experiences on the use of internal employee networks to drive positive change. Having played a pivotal role in the group since its beginning, Nichole took to the stage at an event on the future of equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Nichole has seen first-hand that many people struggle to talk about race. They are either afraid they will say the wrong thing or worried they might offend. And so, people avoid the subject altogether. Encouraging people to get comfortable taking about race is not only one of Nichole’s personal passions, but also a key objective of the CIPD’s EmbRACE group.

ERG’s can act as powerful tools, helping not just employees but organisations. Nichole shared her hints and tips for establishing a successful ERG and getting it off the ground. 

Setting the right groundwork is crucial for survival

Ensure you have a sponsor who is prepared to champion your group both inside and outside the organisation. Nichole’s advice is to start at the top and aim high. The EmbRACE group managed to secure the CIPD’s CEO, Peter Cheese, as their sponsor.

Colleagues are stronger together. Create opportunities for colleagues championing diversity and inclusion to come together on a regular basis, as having a safe space to share and compare ideas can result in great things happening.

Be transparent about the purpose of creating an ERG. Set clear goals and objectives around what you hope to achieve and ensure these remain at the heart of the group’s existence and work going forward.  

Be clear why you are talking about this within your organisation. Talking about race is hard!

Create an inclusive environment

Emphasise that the group is for anyone. You want everyone, from critical friends to those with lived experiences to join.

Ask colleagues about preferred terminology and do not make assumptions. Communication and openness is key. Encourage colleagues to ask questions, there is nothing wrong with being curious in this space.

Building trust can help with data collection. Colleagues are more likely to disclose personal data if they are working in an inclusive space where they are not afraid to be themselves.

Celebrate

Celebrate cultural events. You don’t need a huge pot of money to acknowledge a special and important day.

And finally, show that you care, be kind and remember there is only one race, the human race.


The CIPD has two very active ERG groups, EmbRACE and LGBT+ and friends.

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