Having an open mindset and committing to diversity and inclusion creates a more productive and positive workplace – but where should you start? Three members of well-respected Australian organisations talk further about the different ways they foster an environment where everyone feels like they belong.
Building the Case for Diversity and Inclusion
According to a study undertaken by Quality Logic, diverse teams outperform non-diverse ones by 35% – but many organisations have yet to realise the benefits of a diverse and inclusive environment.
“There are so many benefits to diversity, such as improved creativity, innovation and thinking,” says Monica Watt, Chief Human Resources Officer from ELMO. She believes that, “along with the variety of perspectives and problem-solving skills made available to an organisation, diversity can be what differentiates it from a competitor and it’s essential for increasing employee engagement, retention and productivity.”
“We can look at another positive impact that it has, too – how much a diverse workforce positively affects an organisation’s brand,” she says. “In my experience, which is backed up with plenty of research, diversity has a positive impact on brand recognition, with goodwill generated to the customer or shareholder. It also has a positive impact on the employer brand in terms of it being perceived as a place where candidates/employees can grow and be supported”.
“An organisation with a diverse workforce is supporting, sustaining and growing a diverse community so it makes sense that we hire for diversity. This is the world we work and live in and to consider operating otherwise would be a strategic faux pas.”
Watt further emphasizes that diversity and inclusion in the workplace “has a positive correlation with a better product or service. This improves the customer experience, which encourages referral and retention of clients, and this directly impacts revenue! It’s a no-brainer.”
To have a successfully diverse and inclusive environment, employees must help, support and advocate for the minority through allyship.
DJ Apanui, Facilities Coordinator and Receptionist at Objective explains that “allies assist in creating a positive environment by helping you to know that you are valued in the group, by allowing you to be open and be the truest version of yourself.”
Allies are not members of an underrepresented group, but rather people who are active in supporting them. Apanui continues, “If we choose to foster a spirit of inclusion and embrace a culture of diversity in the workplace, we can propel ourselves toward a more tolerant and inclusive existence.”
Team members can encourage their peers in daily work life by having a positive and understanding attitude. Striking the right balance between being there for others and maintaining professionalism can take time to perfect but is well worth the effort.
In fact, having a workplace that brings people together affects people in more ways than you may realise. “Allyship educates us on cultural and social perspectives we might not have had the option to experience,” Apanui says.
Fostering belonging through gender equality
Companies with gender-diverse executive teams were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability and 27% more likely to have superior value creation, according to the latest research by McKinsey.
Yet the latest Fortune 500 list shows just 33 of those companies are led by female CEOs. Viktoriya Butler, Associate Director, IT Transformation from Optus, provides an insight into why businesses are lacking in women leaders.
“Females are underrepresented in STEM subjects at school and university, which means the talent pool for future leadership positions is small to start with,” she says. “To support an increase in females signing up for STEM subjects, we need strong female role models in technology.”
Gender diverse initiatives may fail due to companies not placing enough emphasis or taking a passive approach. To increase the likelihood of success, businesses must tie these initiatives directly to their management plans and goals. Transparency in these plans will also help in attracting like-minded people to the company.
Optus, for example, is providing development and networking opportunities for women in the tech industry through its ‘Women in Leadership’ and ‘Executive Presence’ programs. “These two programs are designed to connect women, help them grow in their roles, and accelerate their careers,” highlights Butler. “Since they started, we’ve had 200 senior female leaders go through these programs.”
Creating a workplace where everyone feels like they belong is an achievable task – but it takes a strategic approach and a commitment that starts at the top.
Want to hear more about companies that are building a workplace where employees feel like they belong? Read our previous article How Australia’s Top Companies Do Diversity Right, and check out job opportunities at some of Australia’s top companies that were featured.