Managing Diversity – a guide

This guidance is specifically for line managers, and aims to help youfocus on the skills needed to lead diverse teams and utilise all of your staff to their fullest potential. Managing diversity is about acknowledging people's differences and recognising these differences as valuable, not problematic. It enhances good management practices by preventing discrimination and promoting inclusiveness. The business benefits of an inclusive culture are explored in depth in the E&D Awareness training but include:

  • Staff feeling valued and respected, being more productive with fewer staff costs
  • Maximising creativity and innovation
  • Being an employer of choice, attracting the best staff
  • Able to attract and retain a diverse range of students
  • Enhancing the student experience through an inclusive learning environment

It is important to recognise that a ‘one-size-fits all' approach to managing people does not achieve fairness and equality of opportunity for everyone. People have different personal needs, values and beliefs. Good people management practice requires that your dealings with people are both consistently fair but also flexible and inclusive in ways that are designed to support business needs.

Most people follow the rule: “treat others as you want to be treated”. However, what drives and motivates one person may have the opposite effect on another. We may all share similar values, such as respect or need for recognition, but how we display those values through behaviour may be very different. We need to acknowledge that our way may not be the best way for everyone. By moving our frame of reference from what may be our default view to a diversity-sensitive perspective,"treat others as they want to be treated",will help us to manage more effectively in a diverse work environment.

As you are aware, all University staff are required to complete Equality and Diversity training. Please ensure that not only your team attends training but that you do too. Line managers are the gatekeepers for equality and diversity. You are the role models. You set the example for your team to follow. If you demonstrate that it’s important to you then your team will feel the same. Encourage them to join the Focus Groups and to attend Diversity events. Go as a team.Visibly demonstrate your support for diversity, e.g. wear an ‘Ally’ badge.

If you have done the training then you’ll know the basics about the legislation, protected characteristics, types of discrimination, prejudices and stereotypes, etc. But how does that impact on you as a manager?

How Well Do You Manage Diversity?

  • Do you test your assumptions before acting on them?
  • Do you have honest relationships with each staff member you supervise? Are you comfortable with each of them? Do you know what motivates them, what their goals are, how they like to be recognised?
  • Are you able to give negative feedback to all of your staff?
  • Do you rigorously examine your school or departments existing policies, practices, and procedures to ensure that they do not differentially impact different groups? When they do, do you change them when appropriate?
  • Are you willing to listen to constructive feedback from your staff about ways to improve the work environment? Do you implement staff suggestions and acknowledge their contribution?
  • Do you take immediate action with people you supervise when they behave in ways that show disrespect for others in the workplace, such as inappropriate jokes and offensive terms?

Essentials for Inclusive Management:

Get to know your team. Develop your listening skills. Be aware of any diversity issues. Do any of your staff have a disability, do they have caring responsibilities, or do they have cultural or religious differences? Might some of these differences conflict with the differences of other team members e.g.religion and sexuality? If you have little knowledge about a particular protected characteristic try to find out. Attend further training. Seek advice. The Equality and Diversity Adviser may be able to help. If you’re not sure, ask. Don’t ever assume!

Get to know yourself. Know your own biases. What stereotypes do you have of people from different groups and how well they may perform in their job? What communication styles do you prefer? Sometimes what we consider to be appropriate or desirable qualities in a person may reflect more about our personal preferences than about the skills needed to perform the job.

Be authentic. Be available. Be consistent.Have regular meetings and one-to-ones.Share information and, if possible, include your staff in decision making. If you promise to do something make sure you deliver or explain why you were unable to. Be aware of how your behaviour impacts on others.

Clamp down on inappropriate behaviour. Most of us like to have a laugh when we’re at work. It helps us get through the day. But sometimes things can get out of hand. Inappropriate language, jokes or banter can quickly escalate and become normal team behaviour. ‘In’ groups and ‘out’ groups can form making some staff feel uncomfortable or excluded. Sometimes this can lead to bullying and harassment. Set the standard for acceptable behaviour and appropriately challenge any member of staff who oversteps the mark. Try to do it immediately or as soon as possible. The longer you leave it the harder it becomes. Remember, what you permit you promote.

You can find out more about what constitutes inappropriate behaviour and how to handle complaints of harassment in the Bullying and Harassment Policy and Procedure. See also the documentPromoting a Mutually Respectful University Community (PaMRUC)

You are legally required to make reasonable adjustments for any disabled member of your staff. See the Reasonable Adjustments Guidance

It's natural to want a handbook approach to diversity issues so that you know exactly what to do. Unfortunately, given the many dimensions of diversity, there is no easy procedure to follow. Advice and strategies given for one situation may not work given the same situation in another context.

Consequences of Ignoring Diversity

Ignoring diversity issues can be damaging to individuals and costs time, money, and efficiency. Some of the consequences can include unhealthy tensions; loss of productivity because of increased conflict; inability to attract and retain talented people of all kinds; complaints and legal actions; and inability to retain valuable employees, resulting in lost investments in recruitment and training.

Further Resources:

There is a wealth of information on the Equal Opportunitiesweb pages, particularly in relation to Disability, Gender, LGBT, Ethnicity and Religion and Belief.

ACAS has guidance on Equality and Discrimination

Stonewall produce a guide entitled: How to manage a diverse workforce

There are many training courses available that develop understanding about particular types of diversity. See the Unity website.

Please contact the Equality and Diversity Adviser, for further information, or to access additional resources including:

Disability Confident DVD

Unconscious Bias DVD

Creating an environment based on respect DVD

Visibility Matters DVD- Celebrating the L in LGBT

Visibility Matters DVD- Talking Transgender