Britain’s biggest businesses must take action to improve the diversity of their workforces and publish a breakdown of their black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) employees, a new report has urged.
The report by the professional management body the CMI and the British Academy of Management focuses on ethnic diversity at management levels below the boardroom and highlights the importance of the issue following the vote for Brexit.
The latest report sets out a seven-point plan for business leaders to adopt, including “breaking the silence” on diversity, including training on the subject as a requirement for career progression and setting targets for progression of BAME individuals.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I am not in the slightest bit bothered by this. When reports talk about “Britain’s biggest businesses” what they mean is companies run by Establishment types who lurch from one cushy position to another, and enjoy cosy relations with people in government which they use to engage in rent-seeking, erecting barriers to entry, and writing laws which benefit them at the expense of everyone else. They are certainly not talking about companies operating in a free market whose focus is on delivering a quality product or service at the cheapest price such that shareholder value is maximised.
The heads of major corporations wedded themselves to the whims of government years ago, perhaps believing they’d increase share prices and dividends by being seen to cooperate. And maybe they were right: perhaps in this day and age it is not possible for a company to get on the wrong side of the state and survive? But cosying up is what they’ve done, with the results looking suspiciously like a stitch-up of the general public.
Via the silent adoption of ever-increasing regulations, corporations have effectively offloaded swathes of what ought to be business decisions onto the government. I can see why individuals running firms would do this: if I was paid a few million a year to make bold decisions and carry the can and somebody offered to shoulder half the responsibility with no reduction in privilege or pay, I’d bite their hand off. Nothing pleases a modern corporate manager more than citing a regulation to explain why something stupid was done or something sensible not.
Modern corporations have, without a single exception I can think of, signed up to the notion that more women and BAME people in cushy positions is intrinsically better for the company and shareholder value. If this is so self-evidently true, it is somewhat surprising that companies haven’t been putting this idea into practice for years, and instead need to be bullied into it. It isn’t true of course, but they have to pretend it is and they think any resistance will make the public think them mean and quit buying their products and services. But by going along with it at the behest of governments, they are effectively turning their companies into partial welfare programmes. Anyone who strides along the corridors of a modern corporation on a daily basis ought to have reached this conclusion anyway.
I’ve written previously that I believe the smartest in society will begin to shun corporations and, like small, nimble fish which swim between whales, make their living on the fringes, doing what everyone wants but no big company can or dares to in groups of between one and five. These areas of the economy will boom and corporations will be the preserve of those who tick the government-approved diversity boxes and listen to people like this:
Business executive Pavita Cooper, who has worked in senior roles in the banking industry, will chair a new body, CMI Race. She said it was time to “reboot the conversation about race and ethnicity”.
This would be the same Pavita Cooper who spent her entire life in HR, racking up 8 companies in 20 years, rarely staying for more than 2-3 years at any one place. Business executive, indeed!
I welcome corporations going down this route: the more dead wood, dimwits, arse-lickers, and time-wasters that can be gathered in a handful of large, easily-identifiable places, the easier it will be for smart folk to avoid them – or to take advantage. Reports like the one just issued can only help with this process.