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I’m really proud to have led the co-creation of the first Advancing Diverse Talent Programme. It’s a pilot programme for ambitious colleagues from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. We’ve created it to try and remove barriers to these colleagues’ development – helping them to realise their potential and progress into more senior roles.

Why did we need to create the programme?

People sometimes think that an organisation with amazing ethical values like Co-op shouldn’t need to do something like this. But in reality, we have the same challenges when it comes to diversity and inclusion as most large businesses. One of the things we do really well at Co-op however, is listen to our colleagues. And our colleagues from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds told us clearly through channels like colleague lifecycle audits and hackathons that they felt a talent development programme could help them to overcome some of the barriers they encounter when trying to progress their career.

We know that colleagues from minority backgrounds have been under-represented in our leadership teams for far too long – as part of our commitments to racial equality and inclusion we’ve resolved to double representation from 3% to 6% by the end of 2022. So it’s really important we help our established Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic colleagues to progress into leadership roles, as well as bringing new talent to the organisation. And the Advancing Diverse Talent Programme should help us to make progress towards our goal.

What have we done so far?

So far, we’ve invited 25 colleagues from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds to take part in the pilot programme. The cohort have completed 8 masterclasses on offerings such as mindset, influencing, forging relationships and other key skills and behaviours. We designed these masterclasses to help colleagues overcome certain self-limiting beliefs, cultivate the right mindset, and hopefully create their own legacy by becoming our future leaders.

Current circumstances meant we had to run the pilot programme virtually, and this approach actually allowed us to reach more colleagues than we first anticipated. Importantly, it also enabled us to offer the programme in a blended learning format which included traditional ‘classroom’ type learning, alongside interactive sessions like Leaders Unplugged, where the cohort had the opportunity to hear from current Co-op leaders about how they navigated their careers.

Feedback from the 2 reflection sessions we’ve run so far has been positive. Participants have told us how being part of a closed minority cohort has helped them to open-up and create new relationships. We’ve also seen more senior members of the cohort naturally take on mentoring roles – supporting less senior colleagues with the development of essential skills and behaviours.

What do we hope to achieve in the future?

Our aim is to help Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic colleagues push through those barriers and realise their career aspirations at Co-op. We also know that diversity of thought, ideas and experience is good for business, so we hope that in the future we’ll see the tangible commercial benefits of having leaders with more diverse perspectives.

Personally, I would like to get to a place where all colleagues see Co-op as an inclusive employer, and people of all ethnicities can see themselves represented at leadership level. We’ve still got work to do, but one of the things I love most about working here is that everyone is serious about making change happen.

Ru Mohammed,

Inclusion Manager & Chair of the Rise network