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What does Diversity and Inclusivity really mean?

Simon Yeung

 

As a recruiter, my role is to connect people with organisations and jobs.

I have a front row seat when it comes to knowing what companies want when bringing people into their organisations, and what candidates want when choosing an employer. Most organisations see the value in having a diverse workforce and are wanting to hire people who have a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. Most candidates are looking for organisations with a strong focus on inclusivity; they see this as an indication of a positive and supportive workplace culture.

In my 20 years in the recruitment industry, within the tech, IT and digital space, I have seen the emergence of diversity and inclusivity in the workplace as a concept. Over the past two decades this concept has gained popularity as many companies began to recognise that a diverse and inclusive workplace aligned with a successful business.

The most recent McKinsey report, Diversity Matters, has once again highlighted what previous studies have already told us: diversity in the work place is good for business, financially. The study analyzed 366 public companies and found companies in the top quarter for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their industry medians. Other benefits identified include increased employee engagement, motivation, collaboration and performance.

We all know what diversity and inclusivity is, we have heard it spoken about, seen it written about and referenced everywhere you look. Personally, I have found a lot of fluff surrounds this topic and I feel that these terms are in danger of becoming buzzwords.

I wanted to scratch the surface to see what some of the best companies are actually doing to deliver real and measurable diversity and inclusivity results.

Gender diversity

Transurban have committed to being a diverse and inclusive organization through strong D&I policies and visions. CEO Scott Charlton is working towards 50/50 split of men and women in leadership, at the moment 45% of their executive team is female. One of the Transurban strategies to achieve this has been to ensure every time a job is advertised, equal numbers of qualified women and men are put forward, and the recruitment panel making the final decision includes women.

Atlassian is another leader in the Australian market. In addition to some fantastic initiatives, they also use Textio – a tool that helps write job ads with more inclusive language. This helped them grow from 10% female technical graduates to 57% in two years.

LGBTI inclusion

When people are able to bring their whole, un-edited self to work, they thrive and are more engaged. However, Deloitte has recognised for many LGBTI Australians, the above situation is not commonplace, with some feeling compelled to remain in the closet at work for fear of professional roadblocks or worse. In response, the consulting firm established a member community called GLOBE, which coordinates LGBTI activities, training and awareness sessions throughout the firm.

It’s also important for companies to promote equality externally. Taking a public stand on an important issue sends a pretty clear message to all employees. ME Bank publicly supported the marriage equality campaign, (as we did at Talent) which sends a solid message to all employees and encourages them to feel comfortable and to be open about who they are.

I feel proud when I walk through the Talent offices and see rainbow flags and pictures of children or dogs or Hindu goddesses; these are signs of a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Flexible work

At Mirvac, and elsewhere in the industry, creating more flexible workplaces is proving to be one of the most effective ways of cultivating a more diverse, and better-performing workforce. As part of one initiative, Mirvac employees identify a commitment outside work that will improve their quality of life, such as parenting duties, or study. They are encouraged to use flexible work options to put more time into this commitment, whether that be leaving work early to pick up the kids from school or visit an elderly parent. It is even being adopted on Mirvac construction sites.

Similarly, Perpetual’s award-winning flexibility program is based on the belief that all roles can be performed flexibly. This includes altered start and finish times to accommodate people with families and other responsibilities.

It’s always good to ask 

When an organisation works with and encourages all team members, from management to new starters, to participate in inclusive practices they are more likely to be adopted. It’s also great to include team members in the creation and development of these practices.

Job search site, Seek has made a commitment to ensure all their employees feel comfortable enough to bring their whole selves to work. To achieve this Seek consult their employees and ask what they can do as a company to be more inclusive. The act of asking is simple but effective, and as a result Seek has adapted their policies based on what they have learnt from this exercise. They are working to bring awareness to areas of unconscious bias and now look for ways to celebrate both commonalities and differences.

KPMG started a process back in 2014 asking staff members to complete a diversity profile, including race, gender, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation. The findings of this survey have allowed KPMG to identify areas of weakness across diversity, and therefore work towards implementing targets to ensure the gaps in diversity are closed.

They have also implemented Inclusion Week, consisting of 30 events to promote the importance inclusive practices in the workplace.

Inclusion starts at lunch…

Celebrating different cultural holidays is another way to help include people with diverse backgrounds in your workplace. Last week was Chinese New Year, at Talent, we celebrated the year of the pig with a pork themed lunch, but we also organised meat free options for our Muslim and vegetarian team members. These are also simple kindnesses and, like any kindness that makes a person feel accepted and included, they can have a huge impact.

Ongoing work

It’s a long game… Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace takes a fair bit of continued effort, and everyone needs to be involved. Checking in continuously and really hearing your employees is necessary to assess progress and recognise setbacks.

It seems to me that one does not work without the other; diversity policies can ensure a diverse range of people come through the door, but an inclusive workplace will keep them there.

Companies that get this right produce more innovative results, they have lower attrition rates, a better reputation and happier employees. All these benefits will have a positive result on a company’s bottom line.

Have you seen other examples of practical strategies companies have implemented that are making a real difference?