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Ignoring Diversity – at worst discrimination…at best limiting.

Diversity in your workplace isn’t just a buzz phrase that will eventually fade from popularity. Awarding David Morrison AO, as Australian of the Year, as an equality advocate recognised for his commitment to gender equality, diversity and inclusion, demonstrates the importance of this area.

Why take notice?

A diverse workforce includes people of different age, culture, race, religion, marital status, education, language, disability and gender.  Organisations that support and promote workplace diversity can demonstrate links to improvement in organisational performance and profitability.

The Diversity Council of Australia states, ‘a workplace that values diversity and is free of discrimination is more productive.’ Research has shown a diverse team outperforms a homogenous team, as they tend to be more creative and effective at problem solving.  Forbes study in 2011 found that of 321 large global enterprises surveyed (companies with at least $500 million in annual revenue), 85% agreed or strongly agreed that diversity is crucial to fostering innovation in the workplace.

Tracey Burton, former Target Corporation Director of Diversity said, “When you have a team that is engaged and reflective of your consumer base, you can better understand, anticipate and meet ‘their’ needs.”

Australia is a culturally diverse country and if employers don’t tap into the widest possible talent pool they are limiting recruitment choices, connection to their customer, and ultimately the organisation’s potential.

So if the business case stacks up…. why are organisations hesitant to harness diversity?

Comments we often hear are: “It’s hard to implement”….. “I may discriminate against other groups in my attempts to encourage diversity!”…”Diversity is something just big global organisations need to worry about”.

What may seem difficult is easily overcome by following 3 simple steps.

1. Take Stock

Look at the current demographics of your workforce.  Review your policies to ensure they are not discriminatory and will support and encourage diversity?  Once you know the current situation, plan where you want to be and set your diversity goals or targets to achieve this.

2. Set the Scene

Organisations will have different diversity objectives and it will be worth identifying voluntary targets or goals to achieve these. For example, a requirement for managers to shortlist 3 or more diverse applicants for any role, or to include diversity in the selection panel will be a good start.

To support your new diversity goals make sure your policy and processes are not overtly or covertly presenting barriers to achieving these targets.  For example a Hiring Manager may hold unconscious biases in expecting a secretary to be female, or an advertisement stating “we are a young professional team”.

However diversity goes beyond attracting and recruiting certain target groups. To ensure you retain your talent pool you need to educate and create a culture of inclusion.

3. Walk the talk

Establishing a culture that respects difference and creates an inclusive environment is important to fostering a diverse workforce. Managing and integrating varied lifestyles, beliefs and needs to your business will help achieve this.  For example, considering an approach that is inclusive of all cultures when planning festive season activities, and for more general social events, ensure aspects such as the scheduled timeframe and/or type of food and drink offered are mindful and supportive of your diverse workforce.

Diversity in your organisation shouldn’t just be about lip service and compliance. If sustainable practises are developed and implemented through your Human Resources team, your organisation will see a variety of  benefits.

Contact WCA - People & Culture Solutions if you require any assistance with Human Resources and Industrial Relations on (08) 9383 3293 or admin@wcasolutions.com

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