Welcome to our 2017 White Paper!
The topic of diversity and inclusion (D&I) is one that we often come across in our world of agency recruitment and we felt it would be an interesting area to discuss with our network of HR professionals.
We hear more and more from our clients that they look very favourably upon female applicants, and we have been told when speaking to clients to take a job brief, that they want a female in the role. It can be a difficult situation if the most suitable candidate is a male and we, as Recruiters, want to represent all of our candidates in a fair and consistent manner. As such we felt D&I was an important topic to explore and gain a better understanding of.
As in our previous studies we were keen to gain a true cross section perspective from various industry sectors to give a balanced result. It was great to receive such a positive response from the HR leaders who we had the opportunity to discuss this with, and we thank them for their openness to discuss their thoughts on this topic.
What is diversity?
Diversity encompasses acceptance and respect, therefore we need to understand as individuals we are unique and have individual differences. Workplace diversity refers to the variety of differences between people in an organisation. That sounds simple, but diversity encompasses race, gender, ethnic group, age, personality, cognitive style, tenure, organisational function, education, background and more. It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive and nurturing environment. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.
- Building alliances across differences and as a result we can work together to eradicate all forms of discrimination.
- Respecting qualities and differences that are different from our own.
- Appreciation and understanding of cultures and the natural working environment.
- Recognition of discrimination creates privileges for some whilst disadvantages others.
Diversity therefore requires us to understand how we need to relate to qualities and differences outside our own, and acknowledge differences cannot be “fixed”, but recognize we are no more superior to another.
What in inclusion?
Inclusion is a call to action within the workforce that means actively involving every employee’s ideas, knowledge, perspectives, approaches and styles to maximize business success. To work in an inclusive environment means everyone feels valued and respected therefore being able to contribute. If barriers are removed this means everyone can fully participate in the workplace and have equal access to opportunities. Inclusion is all about empowering people to contribute their skills for the benefits of business outcomes and organisational performance. Customer bases are rapidly changing resulting in changing tastes and preferences hence these people need to be represented within the business, without doing so gives other competitors an edge.
The following questions were asked?
Does your workplace employ a diverse range of people?
The overall response to this was “YES”. However most organisations felt there was still room to improve. Within the Resources sector the majority of organisations surveyed believed that they did well with diversity for aboriginal employees but not so well with females. The NFP sector was quite different as it is mostly females who apply for many of their roles, particularly within aged care and disability services. Many industries which required specialised technical skill sets felt they struggled to attract women (especially some which are very male dominated sectors) due to possible in-flexibility in working hours.
Does your workplace support diversity? If so why?
Again the majority of organisations surveyed support diversity for a number of reasons. Some of the reasons to support diversity include; younger generations find diverse organisations more appealing, richness in experience is important; it brings out the best in employees to have exposure to different people. Different points of view and perspectives are beneficial and help employees reach their full potential. A small number of people who were asked felt that they had to support diversity as it was a global initiative and they had pressure put on them from head office to bring in more females. From a recruitment perspective shortlists have to include females and for certain roles the female applicants will always get the job. Whilst those surveyed supported workplace diversity there were no specific policies in place but D&I was to be a key focus for the next few years with more focus on culture inclusion, indigenous, accessibility and LGBTI.
What challenges, if any, have been encountered in creating a diverse workforce?
Many of the challenges were found to be industry specific. For example, in the resources sector there were less females qualified for certain roles and many roles are historically male dominated, therefore there tend to be less females in trades roles. FIFO rosters specifically don’t suit families with younger children. Therefore work is required around promoting other genders into the traditionally gender specific role types, i.e. traditionally working mums would work shorter hours whilst the father works full time hours. An interesting point was raised by a diversity specialist within a large mining services organisation, she felt that too many excuses are being made and companies must be more proactive and do what they can to promote themselves and their roles to diverse groups. There should be an emphasis on targeting school children and promoting females studying careers that are traditionally male dominated, like engineering or IT. This particular person commented that she had been to a client site that had no female toilet on site!
Traditionally the best person secured the role regardless of their gender or culture, however in order to promote diversity the recruitment process needs to change so we have a more diverse shortlist.
Do you feel there have been any specific benefits from having a diverse workforce? If so, what are they?
Everyone questioned felt that there were definite benefits to having a diverse workforce. Our customer base is constantly changing so having a workforce that is diverse means we can support these customers more effectively. Frequently mentioned were the benefits of having different personalities, mindsets and perspectives and that the richness of these qualities brings out the best in employees. A diverse workforce allows for broader ideas and perspectives and as such enhances innovation. An inclusive work environment allows employees to reach their potential, be more productive and make their fullest contribution to a Company’s success. Appealing to a diverse talent market broadens an employers’ access to attracting top talent and ensuring inclusive environment increases talent retention. Opening up opportunities leads to higher overall engagement through creating an inclusive and respectful environment. Corporate Social Responsibility is increasingly important to the talent pipeline. Generations Y and Z have a strong social consciousness and select employer brands that reflect a high level of social performance.
How are you measuring diversity and inclusion?
Measuring D&I is very varied, with some organisations not having specific targets and others having to report across various areas. Specific areas that are being measured include; annual engagement surveys where specific D&I areas need to be met, looking at age profiles within the business, monthly reporting across gender mix, turnover stats, KPI metrics across employee and contractor stats. The vast majority of organisations we spoke to have diversity targets and provide monthly reports on female and aboriginal employees. Only a small number were aware of providing data to WGEA – Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
Diversity and inclusion is a work in progress. Whilst there are businesses that are way ahead in promoting diversity and inclusion, there are others that are very much at the start of their journey but do see the benefits. There are certainly benefits and challenges related to each:
Increased creativity: When people in different cultures, backgrounds and beliefs work together towards a common goal, increased creativity can be achieved
Increased adaptability: Organisations need to develop solutions to adapt to a diverse workforce, which is going to take time. Having people from diverse backgrounds can provide ideas to assist to adapting changes in market and customer demands
Utilising viewpoints: We all think differently hence utilising varying viewpoints can create a pool of ideas and experiences
Productivity increases: Internalisation and globalisation are both a result of workforce diversity. Put these together and increased productivity is the outcome.
Communication: Success is driven by effective communication. A lack of cohesiveness can directly impact productivity, and therefore unless effective communication is achieved diversity may not be affective.
Freedom of speech: Workers must be mindful and sensitive to employees’ beliefs, religion and culture. A lack of freedom of speech can be a disadvantage due to feeling the need to continually tread carefully.
An increase in training costs: To promote diversity in the workplace, organisations must invest in programs and seminars to promote diversity. This will in turn assist employees in the acceptance of other cultures, ideas and personalities. However this could be a continual increase in cost as this training would need to be provided to all new employees.
Integration: In most organisations cliques or groups form which can in turn lead to hampering integration. With a variety of cultures within the business this can lead to employees avoiding each other, hindering the sharing of knowledge and skills, resulting in decreased business growth and productivity.
An increase in competition: Whilst competition in the workplace can be positive and can drive higher productivity, where employees do not accept culture this can lead to increased competition against each other rather than becoming a cohesive team.
So overall in order to improve diversity and inclusion we need to understand our biases and address them.
We need to completely embrace the benefits of working within a diverse society and ensure each individuals voice is heard regardless of gender, race, age and ethnicity.
We need to promote an inclusive culture from the top down, providing equal access to flexible work arrangements regardless of gender or religion and develop and promote all employees equally.