Is workforce diversity one of your greatest business strengths?
The appointment of Susan Kiefel as Chief Justice of the High Court is a significant milestone for Australia – along with our first female Prime Minister and Governor General. Yet the recent Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) annual scorecard (1) showed that despite our efforts, more than 60% of Australians work in an industry dominated by a single gender – and graduates are overwhelmingly entering fields dominated by their own gender.
Equality isn’t however only about gender – the parameters extend to race, physical disability, sexual orientation and other barriers. And as more Australian businesses push to promote equality and fairness, it’s worth reviewing how diversity benefits your workplace.
Diversity impacts your bottom line
Providing equal employment opportunity is a legal obligation in Australia; failing to provide it may subject you to penalties and massive reputation damage. However, diversity management goes far beyond simple compliance. The wide experience gained from a diverse workforce enriches your workplace – and better connects your organisation to your stakeholders, customers and the communities you’re part of.
Research shows that diversity can be an organisation’s greatest strength. The Centre for American Progress (3) found that, “Businesses that fail to foster inclusive workplaces see higher turnover rates than businesses that value a diverse workforce.” According to research by consulting group McKinsey & Company (4), “In the United States, there is a linear relationship between racial and ethnic diversity and better financial performance.” Companies that are ethnically diverse, for example, are 35% more likely to perform above their industry’s median level than less diverse companies. Other dimensions of diversity, says McKinsey, also correlate to stronger financial results.
Workplace diversity is also good for innovation, according to Forbes Insights (5). Diversity, the article explains, “is a key driver of innovation and is a critical component of being successful on a global scale.”
Three tips to strengthen diversity in your workplace
HR plays a central role in improving workplace diversity, but business leaders must first express its commitment, create the strategic plan, set the benchmarks and invest in the whole effort. Here are three simple tips to help you expand your efforts:
1. Think beyond the box of compliance and legal risk. If your goal is merely to stay off the radar screen of regulators and labour lawyers, you’re missing the real business value of diversity.
For example, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) wanted to increase the numbers of females in senior roles (6) and tried a small change to their recruitment process. They removed names, genders and other identifiers from applications and emphasised flexible hours and working from home options. As a result, 15 of 19 people hired were women, whereas previously only 21% of their senior executive officers were female.
2. Communicate your organisational commitment to diversity both internally and externally, using diversity efforts to engage your existing employees and recruit outside talent. Diversity has a proven track record of retaining and attracting talent, so it should be part of your branding and recruiting efforts.
For example, Fortune (7) reported recently that executives from ten male-led companies, including Barclays, McKinsey & Company and Twitter, have partnered with the UN’s HeForShe campaign to achieve full gender parity among both the total workforce and top leadership, by 2020.
3. Commit to diversity, not just in hiring but in all aspects of talent management. Diversity should be taken into consideration throughout the employee life cycle, so keep it in mind when promoting, setting up training courses and managing performances.
Workplace diversity can be a competitive advantage, and embracing difference widens your pool of available talent and enhances your organisation’s ability to respond to today’s dynamic business climate. Inclusion isn’t just fair and required by law; it also makes good business sense. Knowing the value of diversity and setting up a system to measure your results are crucial first steps to leveraging all the benefits workplace diversity has to offer your organisation.
Written by: The Connect@ADP Team