Manchester City Council (MCC) is passionate about reflecting the diversity of the city, making sure those who work there look and sound like the communities they serve. To achieve this within the organisation, MCC turned their attention to action for equality within its workforce, hoping to lead the way for the city and local government.

A race review actioned by the council provided insight to some experiences of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff and highlighted problems they’re now beginning to address. We’ve been working with MCC’s racial equality working group on the development of a workforce equalities strategy. The work will allow staff to prioritise which areas of the organisation the council needs to focus on to increase racial and ethnic diversity, as well as the progression through management levels, hiring and supporting other protected classes.


Racial equality working group

MCC introduced a racial equality working group. Divided into five teams, each was assigned a different theme based on the recommendations of the race report to research within the council. We trained the teams in agile and user-centred design methodologies and facilitated the groups as they gained insights and developed ways to make sure everyone is heard, respected and treated equally.


Reviewing the existing ethnicity classifications MCC uses to monitor their workforce during the recruitment process, this group ran interviews and desk research to identify why some staff members don’t feel comfortable disclosing ethnicity data and how MCC can overcome these barriers.

Insights from interviews with current staff:

  • Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff don’t feel they trust the usage of the data and worry this might negatively impact their experience as an employee
  • because of a lack of communication, staff feel there’s no education and awareness of how the data is monitored, as a result, outcomes are biased and limited
  • there’s no visible positive outcomes based on the collection of existing equality data

The monitoring team has made recommendations on what changes can be made to classifications across all systems used for external and internal recruitment. This will help make sure they reflect the diversity of the MCC workforce and strengthen the quality of their ethnicity reporting.

Developing Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff

Aware that Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff don’t have the same opportunities to develop within MCC, the group wanted to understand why this is and how to change it.

Interviews with staff and researching local courses revealed an opportunity to train recruiting managers. Coaching will help them develop and support underrepresented groups and better understand the issues faced by Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff. Some of the plans set out in the workforce equalities strategy to improve employment opportunities will also see:

  • creation of diverse panels for all recruitment
  • creation of pathways into employment for underrepresented young people, particularly of Pakistani heritage and those with disabilities
  • all recruiting managers receive training in fair recruitment
  • an end-to-end disability access review of recruitment and selection systems and processes

Engagement and communications

This group focused their impact on communicating the progress of the race review with staff. Alongside our guidance, the team developed four principles to work to when communicating with the wider MCC team; honesty & transparency, accessibility, keeping the staff voice at the centre of the work and encouraging two-way conversations.

To make sure they’re communicating with all staff across the organisation, the working group outlined an action plan which includes guidance to:

  • build a better understanding of MCC’s audiences to create inclusive content
  • make sure all online communication broadcasts are reviewed for diversity, inclusion and accessibility
  • a review of the content checking sign-off process to give editors greater freedom to write for a diverse audience
  • create more visibility of Black Asian & Minority Ethnic staff by sharing Black Asian & Minority Ethnic staff stories across the organisation

Human resources policies

Focusing on internal policies, the team researched the impact of expanding visits abroad to take into account those with family members outside of the UK, considering staff from different ethnic backgrounds that may have different family obligations attached to culture and/or tradition.

Interviews with staff and desk research around current policies revealed:

  • managers discretion is wide-ranging and leads to inconsistent outcomes
  • colleagues are not aware of their entitlement in terms of special leave
  • information around cultural customs and rituals may need to be provided to managers to enable appropriate decision-making

Going forward information will be provided to managers to allow them to make an informed decision on special leave. Each manager will have a greater understanding of the different needs of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff, including different cultural requirements.


After discussion, the leadership group decided to design a ‘reverse mentoring’ scheme called Race Equality Mentoring. The scheme will allow Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff to speak about their experiences and ideas with senior managers to improve visibility, understanding and increase empathy. The team researched similar schemes existing in organisations such as the NHS and universities across the UK. They also interviewed staff that met the required criteria as either a mentor or mentee, whose answers informed the codesign of the mentor programme.

MCC also scheduled and participated in a shared learning session with a keynote speaker and national leader for the police on their approach to equality.

Following research and the evaluation of existing schemes, including the council’s previous corporate mentoring programme, a series of contracts were developed for the race equality mentoring pilot at MCC.


Workforce equalities strategy

I have learnt that there are many dedicated colleagues who have so much passion for this area of work and no doubt will continue to champion equality for all. So thank you, everyone.

Staff member of the MCC working group

The knowledge and actions gained from the working group fed into the development of MCC’s workforce equalities strategy, working to increase representation within the council. The strategy focuses on four primary characteristics; age, disability, sexual orientation and race & ethnicity which ultimately aims to make sure the council:

  • is more diverse at senior levels in the city council, through the progression of existing staff and external recruitment
  • managers are more confident and employees are able to realise their full potential
  • employs more Asian staff
  • has better data to make decisions
  • works towards building a culture that’s more inclusive, valuing diversity and focused on outcomes

MCC has set out action plans for each of the themes outlined within the racial equality working group which will lead the council into summer 2021. These actions will continue to help MCC better understand the barriers to diversity, equitable support and progression within the organisation.

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