Article:

What are the major impacts on diversity and inclusion in the workforce?

15 March 2018

Workforce diversity is something we can all tend to overlook. How we go about achieving it, however, is more contentious. That's why we collected the views of three of BDO Australia's human resources experts - Cristian Ulloa, Jenny Lord and Peter O'Sullivan. They discuss their views on diversity and the key things businesses must consider when implementing it.

Cristian Ulloa
National Lead Partner, BDO Human Capital

"All too often, diversity is seen exclusively as a numbers game: How many people of different races or genders do we need in our workplace to be considered inclusive?

Instead, we should be looking at hiring for skill sets - specifically, what capabilities does a workforce need to operate effectively? This should include soft skills and emotional intelligence, cultural knowledge (for moving into new markets), and expertise in new technology (the only way we'll deal with digital disruption) to name a few.

This enables organisations to link diversity directly to business goals, showing how they can become a better company by having a range of skill sets, instead of simply saying 'we need to be diverse for the sake of it.'

Once we start hiring for diverse capabilities, diversity in gender, ethnicity and age will follow."

Peter O'Sullivan
National Leader, BDO People & Culture

“BDO has just introduced a new national diversity and inclusion strategy. This is the first time we've rolled something like this out nationally. We've identified three priority areas to work on - gender diversity, unconscious bias and flexibility.

However, at the local level we've tasked each BDO Australia office to create their own inclusion and diversity committee, and we're giving these a decent degree of autonomy. This is because we want our offices to reflect the communities and clients they serve - and this means different things for different areas. For example, some of our offices are choosing to focus on employing more Aboriginal people as well as gender targets.

This is something that all businesses need to do. There's no one size fits all approach to diversity. Businesses need to look at the market they operate in and their individual circumstances to determine what areas of diversity they should work on."

Jenny Lord
Senior Consultant, BDO Human Capital

“Management must have some KPIs, some measurable ways of showing their diversity efforts. However, targets for target's sake is not the right way of going about it. You have to show the why - how diversity aligns to business goals, and how it will work within your wider organisation”.

Last year the Queensland Government decided they needed to better reflect the community they serve. We introduced targets alongside a flexibility programme. The flexibility question has always been difficult - it's all very well saying you're introducing flexibility, but how does that work in practice? Everyone's situations are different and you need to take the time to understand their individual requirements.

We're still waiting to see the full results of these initiatives, but already there have been positive developments. The Queensland Government had a very strong presence at the pride marches, and is also working with private sector businesses on unconscious bias training.

I'd like to see more collaboration between the private and public sector. Organisations everywhere can learn from each other's experiences and failures. Transparency, collaboration and a holistic approach are key.

Diversity is too often seen in isolation as a separate business goal. But ultimately, a true commitment to diversity will affect everything - the technology you use, your policies, your systems and processes and your business' results."

The top 7 things to consider when implementing a diversity and inclusion program in your organisation

1. It starts at the top

Leaders have to feel, understand equity, diversity and inclusion. If a leader gets it and acts, then others will follow

2. Establish a business case for change

Identify the benefits of diversity and inclusive practices has on the bottom line. Identify the benefits to employee engagement, measure improvements in productivity. Understand and communicate the benefits

3. Define and understand bias in the workplace

Understanding and calling out unconscious bias. Identify and change long held beliefs, demonstrate and celebrate change when societal norms are debunked

4. Embrace your differences

Celebrate differences in the workplace, manage unreasonable conformity, allow differences to enrich and improve work practices. It’s ok to be different as long as we hold similar values

5. Measure progress not the target

We need to measure progress and impact. Not for the sake of achieving a target but to help us understand our journey. Understand and break down any pockets of bias that may exist that may hamper employee wellbeing and engagement

6. Communication

Engaging with the workforce and communication is critical. Ensuring employees are aware of initiatives and have the opportunity to understand and contextualise

7. It’s a journey of continuous improvement

Remember it is a journey not a race. Diversity and inclusion issue has been around a long time, whilst more can be done, organisations need to take action and continuously look to improve.