Career advice

Arrested career development: a tool to tackle barriers faced by BAME staff

A senior manager’s new model can help employers to support career progression

A senior managers new model can help employers to support career progression

Part of the EPIC model involves one-to-one mentoring sessions that can help staff work through the psychological effects of arrested career development. Picture: iStock

As a senior manager in the NHS, I provide practical support to colleagues and peers to help them navigate recruitment processes.

My mission is to transform how healthcare providers support the career development of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) nurses and other healthcare professionals, with the aim of all employers having a dedicated career development service for their BAME workforce.

BAME healthcare staff are significantly under-represented in senior roles

Through personal experience and by talking to colleagues, I was aware of the barriers

...

A senior manager’s new model can help employers to support career progression

Part of the EPIC model involves one-to-one mentoring sessions that can help staff work through
the psychological effects of arrested career development. Picture: iStock

As a senior manager in the NHS, I provide practical support to colleagues and peers to help them navigate recruitment processes.

My mission is to transform how healthcare providers support the career development of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) nurses and other healthcare professionals, with the aim of all employers having a dedicated career development service for their BAME workforce.

BAME healthcare staff are significantly under-represented in senior roles

Through personal experience and by talking to colleagues, I was aware of the barriers to career development opportunities faced by the BAME workforce in the NHS. When the 2019 Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report was published in February, I became even more conscious of the magnitude of the problem.

‘Arrested career development experienced by the BAME workforce is more likely a consequence of discrimination and inequity of access to developmental opportunities, which can leave people feeling demotivated, disillusioned and discouraged’

The report shows that BME (black and minority ethnic) people continue to be significantly under-represented in senior positions across the NHS and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs). It highlighted how BME groups are largely over-represented at Agenda for change (AfC) band 5 and significantly under-represented at band 8a and above.

The trend shows that as the pay bands increase, the proportion of BME staff at those bands decreases; in 2019, 24.5% of all BAME staff across the NHS and CCGs were band 5. This dropped significantly to 6.5% at very senior manager level.

Lack of expertise or qualifications are not reasons for the disparity in the representation of BAME groups in leadership positions; on the contrary, research by Tinu Cornish and Thomas Calvard shows that BAME professionals are more likely to have greater ambition and possess more qualifications than their white counterparts.

Improving access to career opportunities for BAME healthcare staff

The arrested career development experienced by the BAME workforce is more likely a consequence of discrimination and inequity of access to developmental opportunities, which can leave people feeling demotivated, disillusioned and discouraged.

The NHS Long Term Plan, published in January 2019, outlined a commitment to improving the representation of BAME groups in senior leadership positions across the NHS. It called on each NHS trust to set its own target for improving BAME representation in its senior leadership by 2021-22.

More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, the murder of George Floyd and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement have exposed the racial inequities and injustices that plague the experiences of BAME groups across the world.

I wanted to do more to improve access to career and developmental opportunities for BAME healthcare staff, so in June I launched Niche Careers Consultancy.

The consultancy aims to shed light on the racially driven barriers to career development that BAME healthcare professionals encounter, provide practical support for individuals on how to overcome these barriers, and offer guidance for organisations on how to start breaking down these oppressive structures.

System-wide change is needed

In July, we hosted a ‘realising your potential to lead from the front’ workshop to explore some of the barriers BAME healthcare professionals face, and to share some practical help and support.

It was clear from the workshop that until we can arrive at the system-wide change needed, BAME healthcare professionals need targeted career support.

The EPIC model was developed following engagement and feedback from the workshop, which confirmed that the BAME workforce is often excluded from conversations about developing career pathways, and is not supported to identify and access stretch opportunities (tasks or projects slightly beyond an individual’s skill or knowledge level, which allow them to ‘stretch’ to improve their capabilities).

What is the EPIC model?

The EPIC model to career success provides organisations with an implementation structure to support the career development of their BAME healthcare workforce.

Taking a person-centred approach, the model is underpinned by coaching and mentoring principles, and has four elements:

External contributors

What organisations can do to support their BAME workforce’s career progression, such as access to non-mandatory training, shadowing, secondments, stretch opportunities, reverse mentoring and meaningful appraisals.

Psychological mentoring

Access to a safe space where BAME staff can reflect on their experiences and share their stories in either group or one-to-one mentoring sessions, and where they can get support to work through the psychological effects of arrested career development.

Internal contributors

Supporting BAME staff to identify and develop an understanding of their core skills and the qualities they bring to their role, which will enable them to identify the transferable skills required to progress.

Careers consultation

Access to the practical support required to navigate the recruitment process, including a career development coach who can offer advice on writing job applications and CVs, and provide interview coaching and advice on presentation skills.

A call to action for healthcare organisations

Healthcare organisations must do the dedicated, focused work required to improve the experiences of their BAME workforce, ensuring that opportunities to develop and progress are open to all. Plans must be driven from the very top of the organisation and felt throughout, particularly by those on the front line.

This is a call to action for healthcare organisations to take the necessary steps required to develop cultures that respect, champion and promote diversity.

The EPIC model has received interest from healthcare professionals in the NHS, including the NHS Leadership Academy, and NHS England and NHS Improvement.

The model is currently in the pilot stage. Any organisations interested in taking part in implementing it can contact me on: nichecareers@outlook.com.


Maxine Obeng

Want to read more?

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursing standard.com and the Nursing Standard app
  • Monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs