September 9, 2013

Managing Inclusion from the Middle

In this article Lisa Anne Palmer provides useful  tips for organizations to support middle managers to create culturally-inclusive work environments. (This article was originally published in the Ottawa Business Journal.)

By Lisa Anne Palmer

Many organizations invest a great deal of time and effort in the hopes of creating an inclusive work environment. They have top down initiatives to assess organizational maturity, communicate corporate values and highlight senior management commitment. They have bottom-up initiatives led by employee councils to promote and celebrate the spirit of diversity. These efforts make a great deal of business sense and are important elements of a sound Inclusion Strategy.

Then, why is it that HR and senior management within these same organizations are so often left scratching their heads to figure out why they are not achieving the desired results?

Support ‘Managers in the Middle.’

Middle managers are the ones who have to juggle competing priorities and oversee operations while fighting day-to-day fires. What’s more, times of fiscal restraint are placing added pressure on Ottawa’s managers with regards to employee motivation and engagement.

Overworked middle managers are the people that senior management, HR and employees rely on to implement the lion’s share of inclusion initiatives.  They are the gateway to the organization as they do the majority of hiring, communicating, requesting of accommodations, and managing of performance, etc.

At the end of the day, middle managers can have the greatest impact on the success of initiatives designed to effect cultural change. Over the years, I’ve worked with hundreds of managers at all levels from a range of organizations. The vast majority are on side with creating inclusive work environments and leveraging diversity. By the same token, many are still at a loss for how to accomplish this while they meet pressing demands.

Concentrate meaningful levels of effort and resources to support middle managers to integrate diversity.

It is not enough to ‘sell’ managers on the benefits of implementing diversity for their organization – organizations need to make it easier for middle managers to create inclusive work environments. Managers not only need the proper skills and personal attributes, but also tools and strategies that simplify integrating diversity management into their daily human resources and business activities.

How can organizations support middle managers so that they have the knowledge, tools and strategies they need to create inclusive work environments?

They can begin by ensuring that the proper infrastructure is in place to support managers as they strive to create a culturally-inclusive work environment. Progressive policies and senior management commitment provide a solid foundation. However, simplifying related processes so that managers can more easily integrate key elements into their daily operations is what will lead to desired results.

Here are 7 tips for organizations to support middle managers to create culturally-inclusive work environments:

1.    Provide useful and easy-to-access resources: Introduce managers to excellent resources that can connect them with a pipeline of diverse candidates such as theOttawa Job Match Network. Added benefit – this service is free, which can help defray costs during times of fiscal constraint.

2.    Work with recruiters to get strategic:  Engage those who have expertise in outreach to diverse audiences and provide an easy way to post job ads using media geared to qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds. Your organization can also work with Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Federal Internship for Newcomers Program to source highly-qualified job-ready candidates..

3.    Make it easy for Managers to raise their own awareness and that of their employees. Refer your managers to free-of-charge cross-cultural training through Hire Immigrants Ottawa (HIO). In addition, provide them with available on-line training resources and videos through the Cross-Cultural Teamwork Series.

4.    Have key contacts within the organization that can provide managers with additional support: Ensure that managers have access to advisors with the necessary skills to help them raise awareness and address challenging situations. For instance, HR representatives and leaders within your organization can receive advanced training as Facilitators of Cross-Cultural Change (FC3), also offered through HIO.

5.    Simplify cultural accommodation processes: Review existing related processes and establish the necessary infrastructure for requesting accommodation. Ensure that middle managers and employees are well aware of accommodation processes and how to use them.

To find out more about tools and strategies that can help you support managers to create inclusive work environments, you can visit the HIO website. A good place to begin is HIO’s Tools and Resources page, where you can access excellent, free-of-charge tools and strategies to suit your needs.

Lisa Anna Palmer is Principal and Owner of Cattelan Palmer Consulting. Lisa is also Ottawa’s 1st Passion Test Facilitator and helps individuals from all diverse backgrounds who face job loss or who feel stuck in their jobs to better align their career to what is most important to them. Lisa continues to be an avid supporter of HIO where she served as an employer council representative (2009-2011).

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