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Developing the leaders of tomorrow: how can you balance for better within your HR department?

By Barney Ely, Director of Hays Human Resources

Cultivating a diverse and inclusive culture within an organisation is top of the priority list for every HR department right now – but can this focus on the wider business sometimes cause HR professionals to neglect reform within their own teams?

According to the Hays Diversity & Inclusion Report 2018, a significant proportion of female HR professionals still have doubts about the impartiality of their senior leaders. Less than half (45%) believe their line manager is committed to increasing diversity within their team and over a third (35%) think they are more likely to be promoted if they have a similar background to their organisation’s management.

How do female HR professionals perceive their opportunities to be affected?

Less than half (45%) of women working in HR believe that they have completely the same career opportunities available to them, irrespective of gender. A further quarter of female professionals believe that challenging cultural norms is likely to negatively impact their career opportunities. Although HR is commonly perceived as a profession that is inwardly focused on equality and diversity, it is clear that the path to the top is felt to be restricted by a significant proportion of female employees.

What can organisations do to help women get to the top of the HR profession?

1. Ensure talent selection is based on merit only

HR professionals will be all too aware of the processes commonly used to mitigate bias - such as name-blind recruitment - but it is essential that they are aware of the importance of implementing them when hiring for their own team. Removing gender-identifying criteria from CVs and application forms can help mitigate unconscious bias, and assure candidates that they will be fairly considered throughout the process, regardless of their gender.

2. Reinforce the need to recognise unconscious bias

For employees to progress within organisations without obstacle, regardless of gender, managers need to be aware that barriers to progression do exist and be self-aware enough to recognise the importance of mitigating bias - however unconscious it might be. Implementing regular training in this area can help facilitate more under-represented groups into leadership roles and ensure that their gender is no impediment to their development.

3. Promote flexible working practices

Employers should offer and promote their flexible working practices to prospective and existing employees. Making options such as working from home accessible helps teams feel able to achieve their professional objectives without having to compromise their personal lives, irrespective of gender.

Although we are starting to see improvements in gender diversity, we all have a part to play to continue this journey to balance for better. View our diversity page for more insights from Hays experts, and to get the latest Hays UK Diversity & Inclusion report.

About this author

Barney joined Hays in 1993 as a business graduate and is now Director for Hays Human Resources. Barney also has operational responsibility for Hays offices across the South of England, placing professionals in over 20 industry sectors covering everything from accountancy and finance to construction, IT education and healthcare.

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