Over the last 4 years, I chaired the BAME + Allies network at Argos and with the help of a wonderful team, made some incredible steps forward in making a tangible difference.  

Recently I have been asked by several organisations to share my personal experiences of leading a BAME network in a corporate environment. I thought it might be helpful to share my views on what needs to be true to drive successful outcomes so that any corporate looking to move forward in this space has another point of reference

My personal views:

Board leadership and support: Let’s be honest. Race is not a subject that is easily discussed in the corporate world. Many colleagues are unsure of what to say or how to even start to discuss the subject. This is where leadership from the top needs to be visible, authentic and unwavering. Without that lead and acknowledgement in the organisation, the voices that want to contribute and lead that conversation will simply either not speak up or go unheard. 

The CEO and Board need to be 100% behind this agenda. 

Collect Data: If you can’t measure it, you can’t change it.  How many organisations today can answer with reasonable accuracy how many BAME colleagues they employ at each level, how that varies by functional directorate, how long those colleagues have been with the organisation, how satisfied they are working there, what the recruitment statistics from job applications through to an offer look like and whether there are pay rate differentials? These are some data points that are critical to understanding the true state of what is going in the organisation from a BAME perspective.  

Yes, it is hard to collate the data, the systems and processes do not exist, it takes time and investment and there isn’t enough resource. However, where there is a will, there is a way and the last few months have shown that there needs to be a will and a way. 

Set targets: Organic change is slow.  If we continue the current trajectory of change, we will be talking about this issue for at least another generation or more.  It’s time to take a bold stance and set targets for team leaders across the organisation that are bold and delivered quickly. Missing these targets should have real consequence in performance evaluations and remuneration. 

This is uncomfortable, but we know that the business case for diverse teams is proven and undeniable and so is it a far stretch to evaluate achievement of objectives based on performance in this area?

Drive Recruitment, Retention & Development: There is so much that can be done in this space that can make a big difference quickly.  A few key questions to consider.

  • Are job ads written and advertised in an inclusive way?
  • What are you doing as an organisation to reach into and work with communities?
  • How can you identify and engage with talent in schools and colleges?
  • Do you have strong mentoring programmes?
  • Do you have BAME specific talent development programmes?
  • Have you identified BAME talent and are you sponsoring their development and progression in your organisation?


Ground Up Colleague Network: Set up colleague led networks that can take the lead on the ground with the purpose of:

  • engaging with the Board to set up a two-way dialogue and hold the Board to account on progress on the BAME agenda.
  • lead on wider colleague engagement activities around cultural events, bringing examples of best practice into the organisation etc.


The network is usually run by volunteers who do this as part of the day job. It is important to contract with line managers that they will be supportive of the effort that is being put into this agenda and that will be considered in performance evaluations. Managers who do not see this is as important will inadvertently suffocate initiatives by making resource unavailable.  

Adequate Budget: Should go without saying. Fund the activities appropriately and do not target them for a cut even when money is tight. 

The business case for D&I is proven and undeniable. Diverse organisations make better decisions. The time to talk is over, the time to act is now.

If you are struggling with how to start the conversation, please reach out and I will be happy to help. In addition, there are many consultancies with D&I practices that will be more than willing to help set up the right frameworks.

About Rajesh Gupta:

Rajesh is an experienced strategic business leader with international retail experience who leads and delivers innovation in complex organisations. He creates business growth propositions to enhance customer loyalty and commercial value, builds and engages diverse teams and has proven financial acumen.  

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