Diversity Excellence Model Helps Crown Prosecution Service
By Jane Nokes
When Rohan Collier took up her post as Head of Equality and Diversity at the Crown Prosecution Unit (CPS) in 2000 the organisation’s employment practices were attracting attention – for all the wrong reasons.
The Campaign for Racial Equality (CRE) had recently launched a formal investigation arising as a result of allegations of racial discrimination in the workplace. The CRE’s concerns had been further exacerbated by the findings and decisions of employment tribunals in two cases against the CPS in the late 1990s, and the continued under-representation of ethnic minorities at senior levels. The CRE suspended the investigation, however, when the CPS agreed to a series of actions designed to eradicate discrimination and harassment; raise the performance of managers; introduce stronger formal HR practices and to put culture change high on the corporate agenda.
To this end, the CPS had appointed Sylvia Denman CBE to conduct an independent inquiry into barriers to ethnic minority recruitment and progression; handling, and responding to, complaints; grievances; and tribunal decisions relating to racial discrimination.
Denman’s final report, delivered in July 2000, would acknowledge the commitment of CPS senior management and the changes made, but also point to pockets of bad practice and lay a charge of ‘institutional racism’ in the way the organisation dealt with black and ethnic minority staff – accepted by Director of Public Prosecutions and head of the CPS David Calvert-Smith QC. The report would also draw attention to “…substantial segregation between the two prosecution teams along racial lines…” at the CPS Croydon branch, an issue that would lead to the CRE proposing a separate formal investigation into these matters.
Rohan arrived at the CPS before the publication of the final report, but saw the interim report in May and so had a good idea of what to expect. She says: “At that point the organisation and its people felt under siege with regard to the subject of race, which had the effect of paralysing their thinking – they found it very hard to talk about.”
As it happened, the organisation had already agreed to run as a pilot the Centre for Management and Policy Studies (CMPS) Diversity Excellence Model (DEM), which helps assess how organisations manage diversity in their business activities. The CPS planned to introduce its use in its Surrey and Thames Valley branches, and in Management Audit Services.
Rohan explains: “There were many things I wanted to do when I arrived, one of which was to develop a benchmarking system for diversity, so that each of our 42 areas could measure their own progress year on year, and against that that of other areas. I had quite a lot of experience of that kind of thing, and certainly of bad benchmarking products that, it struck me, were tick-box orientated and, in my view, lacked rigour.
“When I read the CMPS proposal, however, I knew immediately that it was precisely what we needed – indeed it had drawn on a book I had written. I particularly liked the fact that use of the DEM required people to be trained, to work as a team and work through things and, crucially, that it linked everything back to the aims, objectives and business of the organisation.
“To be fit for purpose the CPS must be representative of the public it serves and provide services appropriate to everybody’s needs. This requires diversity and equality to inform all areas of our work, for our services to be informed by all who deliver and use them, and for there to be a strong link between employment practices and service delivery.”
Rohan was confident that the CPS would take significant action on race with respect to employment policies and procedures, not least because of the threatened CRE investigation and the loss of the tribunals. However, she also felt there was a risk that other important areas of CPS activity would not be looked into in with the same vigour – issues around prosecutions concerning racist incidents, domestic violence and rape for example, and the question as to whether the CPS should acknowledge difference when prosecuting or prosecute equally in all cases.
Without a view of diversity sufficiently broad to cover these areas, she reasoned, the CPS would lay itself open to challenge in the future. The DEM, however, could help the organisation concentrate on all areas of the business.
The Diversity Excellence Model
Based on the European Foundation for Quality Management Excellence Model, the DEM brings together all the factors that need to be considered in applying diversity management to the whole organisation.
In the same way that the Excellence Model identifies key business processes, so the DEM separates areas of activity in which diversity management must be incorporated, making it possible to trace the influence of policies, leadership and resources on an organisation’s processes, and then to measure results. Not only can such analysis confirm the positive effects of diversity management on results, it can also identify areas for improvement.
The principles of auditing the DEM are similar to those employed in performing self-assessment against the Excellence Model, and CMPS runs a series of one-day events as an introduction for people interested in using it. This programme introduces the DEM, defines excellence in diversity and explains measurement against the model. Self-assessment is also covered, and participants are shown how they can benchmark against others to share best practice. More broadly, CMPS offers a range of events, programmes and consultancy services designed to help organisations in the effective management of diversity and equality of opportunity.
According to Rohan, CPS staff took to the DEM with enthusiasm, albeit with a degree of hand-holding. She says: “After we ran the DEM in pilot form, feedback told us that teams enjoyed the process and felt it gave them a better understanding of diversity in relation to their jobs.
“They also realised that, that to their surprise, they had achieved quite a lot with respect to diversity in some areas of their work. In areas where they needed to improve they were clear indications as to how they should go about it. They moved from thinking: ‘”We’re bad and we don’t know what to do,”’ to “’Actually, we’ve made a lot of progress, we can see where we’re headed and we know what to do in the future.”’ Working with the DEM helped people to start talking about the issues again in ways which made sense to them, and I believe they would have struggled on their own.”
Needless to say, the DEM has been just one of a whole range of activities designed to strengthen diversity management within the CPS. All 6,600 members of staff have now had diversity training, and diversity has been ‘mainstreamed’ into general, management and specialist training, making it more visibly a part of all CPS activity. There has been a campaign on ‘Dignity at Work’, and national conferences and seminars on disability, gender and race looking specifically at the prosecution process. Diversity has been ‘showcased’ at management conferences. “Everything that could be done has been done,” says Rohan.
No less importantly, great effort has been made in involving communities and staff in discussing issues and reviewing policy, with positive results. Rohan explains: “We recently reviewed our policy on domestic violence, and so got together with front line prosecuting staff and community groups to discuss the issues. The result was much better informed policy, with improved community relations as a bonus – CPS staff found it their most interesting ever learning experience, whilst members of the community were staggered that the CPS was prepared to spend a whole day with them.”
Whilst it is a little early to properly assess the impact of such initiatives, the early signs are good. The CPS is already within reach of its 2005 targets for getting people from minority groups into posts at various levels, and has set up many more performance indicators to measure performance with regard to critical areas such as responding to racist incidents and domestic violence.
Rohan concludes: “Of course, its hard to ascribe progress to any particular activity, but the DEM has given people the opportunity to measure their own progress and I think we’ve come a long way.”