Posted on Friday 26 October 2018 by Ulster Business

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The past year has seen a noticeable increase in the number of companies who are recognising the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace, with many big employers changing policies in order to champion diversity, writes John Moore, managing director of Hays Northern Ireland

A lot of SME business leaders I meet agree with the principle of increasing diversity and inclusivity, believing it could benefit their organisation’s culture and bottom line. But many struggle to understand how to implement such changes in their own workforce.

Any organisational change is highly dependent on the level of buy-in, understanding and support you can garner from your entire workforce, particularly your middle management tier. They are highly visible across all aspects of a business and how you engage and empower them will determine whether the diversity agenda becomes a reality in your business.

Your middle managers both hire and manage the majority of talent within your business, so you may need to evaluate their existing hiring patterns. Look out for biases they might have towards selecting or rejecting candidates on demographics like gender or age.

You may need to have an open and honest conversation with them about the risk of recurring biases when hiring. Educate them on why they need addressed and work together to develop revised guidelines.

Also find out how your middle managers manage talent day-to-day. You may need to attend team meetings or reviews, as well as objectively analysing selection criteria when it comes to awarding work and giving promotions. Inviting feedback from team members themselves, in a safe environment, can help you gain some real insight.

Cliques are common in any workplace and anyone who is “different” to these groups can end up feeling isolated. Middle managers must understand and be mindful of the impact this can have on team dynamics. They need to be able to spot the signs of stress, withdrawal and even potential workplace bullying within their teams.

They should also be encouraged to inform and educate staff on the company’s diversity and inclusivity commitments. Middle managers can help you as a senior leader ensure that the wider workforce accept and support the organisation’s principles.

Together you will create an environment that benefits from everyone feeling valued and engaged.

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