The power of listening | Deloitte UK has been saved
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David Wallis is a partner at Deloitte UK. He’s also one of the firm’s most senior Black leaders, and was instrumental to the launch of Deloitte’s new Black Action Plan. David recently joined us in The Green Room for his first podcast. In this post, he talks about the power of listening and how it can enable better conversations – and actions – around discrimination.
Earlier this month, I was invited to be a guest on a podcast for the first time. I set aside an hour between client calls and found a quiet spot in the house to join the presenters of The Green Room, a Deloitte podcast that has been running for nearly two years. Every two weeks, The Green Room tackles a question about the world around us. This time, the subject was: What’s it like to be Black in Britain today?
My fellow guest was Sandra Kerr, CBE, Race Director at Business in the Community. We talked about my childhood in Lesotho and Malawi, Sandra’s first trip to Jamaica, our Black British heroes, our experiences in the workplace and our hopes for the future. It was a great conversation and I hope the result goes some way to showing the diversity of the Black British experience.
Let’s talk about it
As a firm we wouldn’t have done a podcast like this a year ago, but across society the Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted how important it is to talk about racial inequality. In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, many colleagues at Deloitte needed a space to talk. In less than 48 hours, our Multicultural Network set up a virtual listening session and more than 1,000 people showed up to share their experiences, to listen and to hold space for each other.
I will be entirely honest and say that I have never been on a call like this in my career. People were very open and raw about their experiences of racism in society and the workplace including, sadly, at our firm. Listening to their stories, feedback and comments reaffirmed the difficult truth that bias and racism are rooted deep in our society. While many contributions were not easy to hear, I am inspired by all who shared their stories, because it they made it very clear that we need to do better by our Black colleagues.
From listening to acting
Our conversations resulted in calls for meaningful action and were the catalyst to Deloitte’s Black Action Plan, which was led by Black colleagues across the business from the bottom up. It includes a series of commitments on various areas we need to work on – from making our processes fairer and building a better culture to using the power of our brand to effect change in society.
Underpinning all of this is a need for transparency, accountability and measurement. I am one of only six other Black partners at Deloitte in the UK and we want and need to change this. We’ve committed to having 12% of our partners from ethnic minorities, including 3% Black partners by 2025. The plan might have been led from the bottom up to ensure we’re listening to our people and acknowledging their experiences; but ownership and accountability comes from the top.
There is a lot to be done, but we have made a good start. The plan is about people feeling authentic when they come in to work and knowing that they are somewhere their potential will be acknowledged, and realised. The Black Action Plan is driven by our desire to create an environment where Black colleagues know that they can trust Deloitte’s leadership to develop and celebrate their talent.
This is just the beginning
October is Black History Month, an annual celebration of the continued presence, contributions and achievements of Black people in the UK. We each have a part to play in changing our culture to build an inclusive society and ultimately ensuring we’re reflecting the best of humanity.
It’s a time to listen, reflect and learn. Please find time to listen to Sandra and I talk about our experiences on The Green Room podcast.
Liked this post? There’s more where that came from. Visit our website to follow us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Soundcloud. We also share what it’s like behind the scenes in our blog, Inside The Green Room. And if you've got any feedback or a great suggestion for an episode then we'd love to hear it. See you in The Green Room.