This Black History Month, AlixPartners’ Black Professional Network employee resource group (BPN) is celebrating Black talent.

In part two of this conversation (read part one, here), BPN members Sydney Lapeyrolerie, Daniel Osafo, and Taylor Robinson talk with Russ Kumar, AlixPartners’ Global Head of Talent Acquisition, about the power of the network effect, the “no black talent” myth, and the sea change in increasing Black representation.

Russ: BPN has been a big part of adding more Black talent to AlixPartners. Daniel, can you discuss the role BPN plays in supporting diversity recruiting at our firm?

Daniel: BPN has really been at the forefront of establishing key partnerships, including with the National Black MBA Association, and we will continue to spearhead efforts to make sure recruiting and retaining Black talent is a priority. Sydney is BPN’s recruiting lead, so she can speak to more specific initiatives.

Sydney: We serve as a partner with the firm’s recruiting team and can help develop a strategy to find the best ways to attract talent. My goal is to increase representation amongst our MBA full-time and intern hires with Black students both with our target schools and with organizations whose members meet our target candidate profile.

From a campus perspective, we have a strong point of view on how to increase awareness and now we’re focusing more on how to best target experienced hires to make sure we’re increasing representation at more senior levels.

Taylor: The only thing I would add is referrals, referrals, referrals. Because chances are, Sydney has 10 amazing Black consulting friends, and Daniel has another 10 amazing either legal, HR, or IT professionals in his network—and that is probably true of most BPN members.

I came to the firm as a direct referral, and I later referred someone who also ended up joining the firm. From one person, we wound up with an additional two Black professionals at the firm. Being actively engaged in recruiting efforts is key.

Daniel: It’s a symbiotic relationship, where the recruiting team is proactive in helping us understand their needs­—here are the roles or skills we’re looking for­—and then we can tap our collective networks.

Russ: You've touched on an important point: the network effect is real. Taylor, your example of having two additional Black professionals recruited in a short amount of time because of one person is really powerful. It also builds allyship throughout the recruiting process. 

We’ve addressed a lot of strategies to expand our talent pipeline. Black talent clearly exists, and so I was curious why you think the “no black talent” myth persists.

Sydney: It’s a myth that needs to be dispelled because there’s Black talent everywhere—in the consulting industry, in schools—and not just HBCUs.

This isn’t true of AlixPartners, but often when the myth is invoked, it’s really an excuse not to do the work. It’s a choice not to examine some of the implicit biases that are in your recruiting and hiring processes.

Taylor: People don’t know what they don’t know. That’s what makes partnering with an expert so imperative. We understand that at AlixPartners because we partner with our clients every day as their experts in “when it really matters” situations. Until a person does the necessary work to ensure their position is a holistic and informed one, they can’t say, “there’s no Black talent.”

Russ: Internally at AlixPartners we’ve made a lot of progress, and having that type of dialogue within the firm has opened our lens so much. There’s still work to be done, but it’s been really powerful to see meaningful change when diversity and inclusion are top of mind.

Sydney: I completely agree, Russ. I think no one has figured this out perfectly, but I will say I’m really proud of the work that our firm is doing. We’re walking the walk. It’s the results, and the commitment, and the sustained dialogue that has me really excited for the future.

Russ: That’s a great segue into my last question.  We’ve seen almost every company commit to enhancing their D&I efforts, including attracting and retaining more Black professionals. How can companies and individuals continue this momentum to ensure they're making meaningful change within their organizations?

Daniel: When you think about the national conversation, last year was a pivotal moment. The tempo of the conversation has really changed. We need to capitalize on it, by making sure we do things. We can’t just talk about it, or we will lose momentum.

Sydney: Taking a step back, this conversation about increased Black representation isn’t new. Quite frankly, it’s been going on since Reconstruction, at least in the United States. What does feel different is this sustained level of discussion, interest, and commitment from companies, global leaders, non-Black colleagues, and allies. It really does feel like a sea change, especially given the global conversation that is definitely new and gives me even more reason to be excited.

In terms of sustaining the momentum, it’s really about results. How can we make sure this is more than just a moment in time but part of a continuous dialogue? By asking these questions, revisiting them often, and seeing what progress has been made will help move the ball forward.

Taylor: I'd say the long-term goal is for this to be embedded in all aspects of what we do and who we are, so it's no longer something that needs to be called out. For instance, we don’t say “Congratulations Jane Smith for not smoking in the office,” because we obviously don’t do that anymore. I’d like to get to the point where representation is expected, obvious, and quite normal.

It ultimately boils down to results, results, and results. It’s up to us as a firm to continue to say, year after year, here’s what we said we were going to do, and here’s what we did. Being able to show that consistency to recruits and people who are already here is what will drive home the point that increasing representation and achieving our long-term goals is something we’re serious about. The proof will be in the results.