Embracing Workplace Diversity
The great thing about focusing on diversity this month is that we have the opportunity to delve into what it actually means. Diversity is a term that often gets bandied around, but how many of us actually know what it means ?
In terms of an actual definition, diversity is about the acceptance and commitment to embracing employee’s similarities and differences in terms of gender, age, cultural background, physical abilities, sexual orientation, religion and race.
It is easy to get distracted by all the noise and think that workplace diversity is all about employing more women and increasing their representation at senior levels and on boards. But what about family friendly work hours? This is another hot topic grabbing the headlines.
The area of diversity does seem to be a bit of a mind field at times. You need to tread carefully to be inclusive rather than exclusive. You don’t want to promote “Family friendly” work arrangements to the detriment of staff that have no family. But then re-branding the policy as a “life balance policy “ doesn’t really cut it either.
The crux of the diversity focus relates to values. Developing organizational values that encompass – acceptance, support, valuing and belonging of staff, respect and commitment are key.
A recent study by Deloitte Australia and referenced in HC ONLINE, found that while “diversity is a good thing, it needs to be paired with inclusion in order for the organisation to reap the full benefits. “When employees think their organisation is committed to, and supportive of diversity and they feel included, employees report better business performance in terms of ability to innovate (83% uplift), responsiveness to changing customer needs (31% uplift) and team collaboration (42% uplift).”
Having a Diversity Policy is a good starting point but there’s no point having a map unless you go somewhere and use it. If your organization is yet to develop a Diversity Policy, here is a Guide that may be of assistance.
Implementation of Diversity Policies throughout organisations is vital. From the CEO down to the mail room, everyone needs to be on board to make it work. It’s an on-going process and as such, to get it right, support programs and education may be required.
What’s all the fuss about?
It is widely accepted that diversity in the workplace does have a positive impact on your bottom line. Employee turnover decreases, staff satisfaction and engagement increases – all of which translates to greater productivity. Understandably organizations are now taking this seriously and investing in the concept.
So who’s doing it well?
Not surprisingly, organizations that strive to be ‘employers of choice’ are leading the way in integrating their diversity policies into the working fabric of their organizations.
Clearly Deloitte have grasped the concept. A simple web search unearths myriad examples of how, as an organization, they just get it. In 2011 Deloitte prepared a report entitled “Only skin deep? Re-examining the business case for diversity”, that confronts the big issues about diversity that organizations face. It’s a worthwhile read.
It’s early days for Diversity policies in the workplace but like all good things, it’s worth investing in so as to reap the rewards.
Australia as a nation is a vibrant, multi-cultural society. Rich in diversity and colour. We benefit as a society from insights and experiences that everyone contributes and all organizations should strive to do the same.