Planning for the New World: A Q&A with Mark Atkinson
News 27th September 2019 6 minutes read
Green Park is a recruitment and talent management consultancy business broadly looking at leadership and change through our own niche which is the impact zone between recruitment, diversity and brand.
In fact, since we focussed our activities and the behaviours that support our creed of helping people think differently about talent, our business has grown from around 25 to over 90 million pounds since 2016 – in markets where our message, innovations and relentless focus on bringing data & the voice of the candidate into boardrooms, is still often unwelcome.
But there are people who think like us and who benefit from fresh thinking uncomplicated by years of cosy relationships serving ideas of what companies used to be and what markets used to value.
This is the fourth time we have published our BAME 100 index. I want to thank our assessors – all distinguished leaders themselves who day in, day out make these decisions for their own firms and organisation; they are, and their judgement is impeccable. They did not include every individual we proposed, in fact some of my peers and clients have been left off this year’s final 100 – the choices made were tough, and that's as it should be.
Green Park’s list of board-ready leaders has always been without sponsorship for the very reason that our independence is key to our integrity.
So the list this year isn’t just credible – it’s elite, and any company, public body or third sector organisation that isn’t bidding or competing for the talents of these people is short-changing its employees, customers and clients.
Of course, there’s a reason we put this list out there in the first place and why we map the top 10,000 roles in the FTSE 100 , top 5000 in public sector , top 200 in charities and top 700 in retail by gender and ethnocultural diversity and, no - it’s not just proactive market mapping so we can outcompete the best global search and interim management firms.
Obviously, it was not the smartest commercial decision to give away our IP. It cost us a bit – but we got so fed up of hearing both clients and rivals claiming that they’d really like to do better but couldn’t find the talent … we thought we’d simply put some of it out there in plain sight to banish
that excuse. And our shareholders know that behind this group, we have another 500 names of BAME board-ready talent – and so do some of our competitors.
The truth is that, these days there’s absolutely no excuse for failure on diversity– if you aren’t making your leadership team more diverse it’s simply because you really aren’t trying, don’t know how or lack the routes to market required to influence. Many are still relying on strategies that are meaningless to the people you are trying to influence and reek of tokenism.
There’s a reason why we placed a diverse leader on a board every 14 days in 2018, there’s a reason why our executive placement rates in the public and third sectors run at over 40% female and 28% ethnic minority and, there’s a reason why we are more likely to place a female CIO or CDO than any one else of our scale or larger in the UK.
Part of its our attitude, part of it’s our credibility that comes with 13 years of campaigning for equality in organisations but the biggest reason, is the invaluable data we collect and the relationship between recruitment, diversity and brand we focus on primarily that helps us take a more nuanced, personal and targeted approach to executive recruitment and talent management.
This is just one element in Green Park’s diversity and inclusion strategy. From the day Green Park was created, we decided that we would be different from our competitors in many ways. Of course, we wanted to make money; we wanted to be partners and we wanted to level the playing field for the next generation through the actions of today’s leaders. Most of all, we wanted to help improve the clients that partnered with us and accelerate the careers of the people who chose to put their trust in us as a firm.
We also wanted to be different because our life experiences meant we already stood for something different from our competitors. One manifestation of our difference is how we chose our strategic clients because they share our values, or we were sure they would benefit most from our values and capabilities.
There’s no point just finding talent for organisations who are never going to recognise the equal value of the people we put in front of them or, who will not face the need to change if we can fix a leaky pipeline – we can’t and will not risk our integrity. And that underlies the second part of our difference – we don’t just say ‘we do diversity’ – we make it a condition of our service. It’s why our practices outperformed the industry averages on the hiring of women and BAME candidates – firms in our sector typically manage 27% women and 8% people of colour in their hiring; last year, amongst our successful candidates 44% were female and 27% were people of colour. We have systematically built trust around our mission and that trust is our greatest asset.
How did we do it? At the heart of it all, is a simple Green Park value: we just don’t accept the excuses from our clients or candidates, we challenge them.
For example, one of my colleagues was recently told by a client that they wouldn't consider a black woman candidate because they (QUOTE) already had one of those. This woman – whose name you would all recognise - is exceptional in her field and is a household name from her profile. The fact was they didn’t have one of her, because there isn’t another one of her anywhere in this country – and we told the client so. Happily, they got the point – and she got the gig.
The fact is, in the battle to create a more diverse and inclusive leadership class in this country, we don’t need more facts, more research or more argument. We need more people to let us help them and we need more of the leaders in this room to be empowered and rewarded for doing more that makes a difference. We should celebrate results and glorious failures not self-proclaimed ‘allies’ motivated by their own PR and aspirational brand marketing departments posing as D&I.
We’re all awash with data that shows that more diverse organisations do better. And when it comes to (white, redbrick educated) gender it seems that people are getting the message and doing something about it. We know this from the data published by the government. But we also know now that when it comes to ethnicity, at the very best, we are flatlining.
This year, we analysed the career paths of the 180 people who we have named in our BAME 100 lists previously. At one level, they’ve done well – there have been 90 promotions amongst this group, and 28 individuals have won additional new board roles. That's brilliant, and I’m happy that about the firm responsible in getting them those seats is Green Park. But what our analysis shows is that this rate of appointments barely makes up for those who have retired, left their industries or moved abroad.
In short, we are running to a ‘stand still’ in numbers but proclaiming that race in the workforce is fixed, institutional racism does not exist and everything is ‘Kool & the Gang rather than allowing institutions to ask ‘What’s next on the list?’
It’s equally clear that progress requires us to do better within the recruitment industry; we can’t do this by ourselves. There are dozens of outfits larger than ourselves, and hundreds of clients who seem not have noticed that we are entering a world where absence of credible diversity in leadership is turning off both talent and customers.
So that’s why we have published previous lists, and why we have been happy that people have used it, not just to find your next senior appointment, but to provoke a discussion in your organisation about how to do better and how you can be trusted to be one of the good guys.
Of course, we would say that the best way to do better is to work with an outstanding talent partner. That, by the way, would be Green Park.
In conclusion, I leave you with my gratitude and a single request - are you willing to help?