London Borough of Hackney: Workforce diversity

An example of how a council has sought to increase the progression of ethnically diverse staff within its workforce.

Hackney Council is currently looking at workforce diversity and how to increase progression of people from culturally and ethnically diverse backgrounds into senior roles in the council. First steps involved researching good practice to identify key areas to pursue in addition to looking at workforce profile and insight. With an agreed framework, directors ran focus groups for staff. Staff members co-produced solutions to the issues arising and took them back to senior leadership to agree and lead on.

These actions include developing toolkits for managers that would act as prompts for inclusive decision making when thinking about an employee’s career journey from job design, recruitment through to development and exit; setting up a mentoring programme where inclusive champions will coach senior leaders in diversity; reviewing HR policies to include explicit mention of microaggressions and how this harms staff and creating ‘think inclusive conversation’ video modules that aim to educate the organisation on critical concepts such as intersectionality, microaggressions, institutional racism and power and privilege. 

What drives the work is getting leaders, managers and staff to understand that a diverse workforce at all levels of an organisation is not good just for diversity’s sake but that it actually enables a better service being provided to the residents and communities that the Council serves.

Challenges along the way have included people feeling very frustrated at the lack of progress made in this priority area and also different opinions expressed in the best way to tackle the underrepresentation of ethnic diversity in senior leadership. Strong facilitation was needed to overcome these challenges. In addition, it was recognised that staff were increasingly discussing and identifying systemic racism, and as this was something that affected people deeply, it was felt that they needed to be supported to have these discussions in the workplace.

Many staff also asked to have clear targets that the council could work to. There was also a reluctance to set these owing to the risk that they would be tokenistic and not sustainable or meaningful. Instead the council are developing a ‘dashboard’ to identify and monitor ‘problem areas’ and encouraging management teams to each look at owning and embedding action plans as part of their own service work plans, with the help of inclusion champions advising and mentoring them.

There is still work to do on accountability and ensuring that it continues to be given the profile it needs and that services change the way they recruit, manage and develop their staff.


Sonia Khan, Head of Policy and Strategic Delivery, Hackney Council, [email protected]