Six Vital Best Practices From CMI’s New Anti-Racism at Work Guide

Written by Jermaine Haughton Tuesday 03 November 2020
The CMI’s Moving the Dial on Race guide reveals the essential management steps to enforce a zero-tolerance anti-racist workplace
CMI's Moving the Dial on Race Guide: Black woman leading discussion

“Take a stand. Be anti-racist. Be vocal,” said Ann Francke OBE, CMI’s chief executive earlier this year, summarising the task ahead for UK managers.

According to CMI research, two-thirds of managers have had no conversations about race inequality with their teams, with some still unsure how to implement the correct systems or lead the necessary discussions to create more inclusive workplaces.

In Moving the Dial on Race: A Practical Guide on Workplace Inclusion, CMI and many expert stakeholders offer six actionable ways to eradicate racial discrimination at work in a tangible, sustainable and measurable manner.



Unequivocal support for people who have experienced racism in your organisation is the major first step, the guide says. Requiring managers to go above-and-beyond to become educated on racism, leaders are also encouraged to prioritise ‘anti-racism’ by proactively finding ways to improve racial equality at work.

The creation of safe spaces offers employees from diverse ethnic groups trusted environments to share their experiences alongside empathetic leaders, with no fear of negative consequences.

The guide reinforces how supportive workplace policies help Black employees become more comfortable and engaged with their employer, allowing them to be their true selves at work. It goes on to provide practical examples of how workplace inclusion can be realised for the benefit of groups who are at risk of marginalisation and the wider organisation as a whole.

Donna Catley, Chief People Officer at food services business Compass Group UK & Ireland, listens intently to front-line staff and their concerns through employee surveys and listening forums. By regularly surveying their experiences and opinions, Catley learns valuable insights to inform company actions and ensures staff remain at the heart of the organisation.



Talking about race is filled with potential tripwires, leading some managers to avoid the topic all together. Inaction, however, is not the solution, as it only encourages racist behaviour in the workplace. Instead, the CMI report empowers managers to start race-centred conversations boldly and honestly with colleagues.

Among its recommendations, managers are advised to make clear their desire to tackle racism head-on, while vocally acknowledging that they are still learning and liable to unintentional mistakes.

By taking a humane approach, leaders can learn how staff prefer their racial and ethnic backgrounds to be identified, as well as their preference for how race-related conversations should be administered. Backed by concerted efforts to correctly use the right terminologies, these tactics are powerful in building allyship with Black, Asian and ethnically diverse colleagues.

Cindy Rampersaud CMgr CCMI, Senior Vice President, BTEC and Apprenticeships at Pearson, exemplifies this approach by practicing employee sponsorship and mentoring, setting aside 30-minute conversations to listen, understand, and help people to shine and have a voice.



Can you confidently explain microassaults, microinsults and microinvalidation to your colleagues, and how they harm the workplace?

The CMI’s Moving the Dial on Race report shows 1 in 5 managers from a diverse racial group have experienced a racial microaggression in the physical or virtual workplace within the last 6 months.

In one example, Dalton Leong CMgr CCMI, chief executive of The Children's

Trust shares a story told to him by a member of the EDI Working Group: they recalled when a colleague commented “the training this morning was good” which the person then implied was surprising because 'the facilitator was Asian.' Another member of the group shared how exhausting it can be for people from diverse ethnic groups to challenge this behaviour and how they instead usually “go home and say 'you won't believe what I heard today.'”

Dalton says it was challenging but essential for him to hear these examples of microaggressions from people in his organisation. Such instances can be damaging to staff morale and trust, so encourage your colleagues to speak up in instances such as this.

Wellbeing Psychologist Dr Jummy Okoya FCMI, outlined four clear steps for managers to diminish microaggressions.

1. RESPOND – Do not avoid correcting bad behaviour and microaggressions.

2. DISCERN – Gather all evidence necessary. Find out what happened and who was involved.

3. DISARM – Be prepared to speak to the person who committed the microaggression, making them aware of why the behaviour is unacceptable.

4. DEFINE – Assess the intent of the aggressor by seeking further clarification of why they produced the discriminatory statement or action.



CMI’s Moving the Dial on Race guide also urges managers to create or join networks which allow people to share and learn about race at work. Facilitating small-group conversations about race, reassures people to share their own experiences, without fear of ridicule, and is a progressive step to empowering employees.

The continual presence of senior leaders in these networks increases credibility among the team that their concerns are taken seriously. Managers can also build relationships with peers in other organisations by joining a network like CMI Race.

Professor Nic Beech CMgr CCMI, Vice Chancellor, Middlesex University, recommends reverse mentoring for building relationships with colleagues from diverse ethnic groups and understanding their challenges. “Having the willingness as a leader to listen and use reverse mentoring to see things from the eyes of the people who have really lived the experience. That really brings things to life.”



As a ‘race champion’, leaders should aim to create more inclusive workplaces by being intentional about inclusion and proactively promoting curiosity in their teams, according to the report.

Zaheer Ahmad MBE, Head of Strategic Delivery, Diversity & Inclusiveness, EY (UK&I), believes raising awareness of racism at work and society “is at the heart of any organisation who’s aspiring or aiming to create that anti-racist culture.”

Ahmad added: “Once we raise awareness we can shine a light on systemic racism and bring it to life, to the individuals who have the power, the influence, the clout to change the systems.”

To make workplaces more equitable, leaders are encouraged to be on the front-foot to ensure recruitment and promotion processes are free from unconscious bias and that short lists are balanced.



Leaders seeking impactful diversity training for themselves and their team can enlist the high-quality options provided by the CMI. Shockingly, nearly one in four managers admit that diversity training is not yet in place at their organisation, with SMEs, private and third sector organisations reporting the biggest shortages.

The digital CMI Bitesize programme on Equality, Diversity & Inclusion trains managers and employees on key race equity issues, including; Legal and organisational approaches, Roles and responsibilities of a manager and How to develop and implement plans and reports.

Furthermore, the CMI’s qualifications intend to improve the standard of professional managers, championing personal development to drive change on equality, diversity and inclusion in their organisations.


The insights shared in this article and within the guide draw extensively from the CMI Race advisory committee, which comprises experts and leaders from different organisations who have come together to drive forward conversation and practical actions on race equality. 

You can read the report in full here and you can find out more about the CMI Race network here.

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