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Our 5th and penultimate breakfast of 2018, sponsored by Standard Chartered, saw us looking into middle managers – barriers or champions of diversity and inclusion? The Right Honourable Lord Mayor Alderman Charles Bowman’s opening address laid out this conundrum starkly, warning that no D&I initiative will ever succeed (no matter how much drive from the top) if middle managers aren’t on board. “It is they who are the visible access points in times of need and support, and it is they who have a significant impact when delivering organisational change, such as greater Diversity and Inclusion.”

This has led to a perception of middle managers being resistant to, and unwilling to carry out, inclusion initiatives. However our speakers painted a very different story – Patrick Woodman shared CMI’s “delivering diversity” research which showed only 8% of D&I professionals cite resistance to change from middle managers as a challenge. They believe in the importance of D&I and would like to do more about it – but are prevented from doing so by a lack of time and resource. Attendees commented that this is particularly pronounced in financial services, where streamlining of organisations since 2007 has put increased stress on less middle managers to deliver more. Delivering Diversity has 7 key recommendations for organisations to help tackle this:

                       

We heard from 2 very different organisations who are already working with middle managers to create and roll out D&I strategies, and seeing great results.

Simon Fillery shared how Bank of England have used forensic reporting around recruitment, engagement and attrition to evidence the problem for middle managers. The key has been involving them in coming up with the solution, rather than trying to solve it himself. Each deputy governorship is provided with a menu of different possible solutions and then asked to choose which ones they feel will work best for them to create a local inclusion plan.  Simon finished by reinforcing the point that there’s no one silver bullet, we need consult with the people who understand the local problems, and then co create a solution – “empower them, they own this agenda”.

Jazz Bhogal was working in a very different context in the civil service, where approx. ¼ of the workforce are middle managers, making up over 190,000 people. They lead and manage the civil service, from job centres to finding an antidote for anthrax! They therefore cannot be treated as homogenous – “if you want the middle manager to understand and shift the curve on diversity and inclusion, you need to understand who they are”.  She shared an important area they’ve needed to perfect has been communication, one method has been finding out what is causing them the most stress at work and then packing D&I as a solution, and another is publishing their diversity data in a way that can be understood by everyone. To motivate managers they use a mixture of “carrot and stick” – including D&I objectives that relate to their business plans in performance metrics, and celebrating successes. This is facilitated by a menu of processes – from training to conversation starter toolkits to slidedecks for team meetings. Making it as easy as possible is what has created culture change – “diversity really matters, but what matters more is how it feels to be there”.

Some inspiring stories and food for thought, revealing that where managers are included and given ownership, inclusive working cultures follow.