The Importance of Diversity in the Workplace

By June 8, 2017CEO Blog
Diversity

Australia is one of the most ethnically diverse societies in the world today. One in four of the country’s 24 million people were born overseas, 46 per cent have at least one parent who was born abroad and nearly 20 per cent of Australians speak a language other than English at home.

This wide variety of backgrounds, together with the culture of Indigenous Australians who have lived here for more than 50,000 years, have helped create a uniquely Australian identity and spirit.

So, why is diversity still such an important ongoing discussion?

Race and gender continue to be the biggest issues for diversity and inclusion, but there are a broad range of additional factors to consider including socioeconomic statuses, sexual orientations, values and beliefs.

Just ask any of your friends what diversity means to them and their responses will all be different.  That’s because we are ALL different, with unique experiences, aspirations and talents.

It is precisely this wide variety of perspectives, thoughts and ideas that creates a massive competitive advantage for diverse organisations.

According to Diversity Council Australia, effective management of workplace diversity is clearly linked to improvements in organisational performance, efficiency, profitability and revenue generation.

  • A workplace that values diversity and is free of discrimination is more productive
  • Greater employee satisfaction leads to improved productivity and profitability
  • Reduced employee turnover cuts the cost of having to replace skilled and experienced people
  • Harnessing employee skills and perspectives increases creativity and innovation

Australian universities are currently leading the way to ensure that future generations are as inclusive as possible. Just this year, the University of Melbourne ran a Diversity Week encouraging staff and students to celebrate diversity with a number of engaging events. It also has a number of initiatives in place that actively encourages them to be proud of who they are and embrace those around them.

There have been many positive steps forward, but Australian businesses still need to do more.

Women are still underrepresented in leadership roles, and the pay gap remains high. The workforce participation of people with disabilities is 30 per cent lower than for other Australians, and workplace discrimination is still an issue for many in the LGBTQI+ community and among mature Australians.

Organisations need to show real commitment to diversity and inclusion by implementing robust strategies with measurable goals, and holding people accountable for achieving them.

According to the Australian Institute of Company Directors, How can search firms assist in creating as diverse a pool of candidates as possible?

  1. Succession Planning: Search firms should support Chairs and CEOs in developing medium-term succession plans that identify the balance of experience and skills they need to recruit for over the next two to three years to maximise executive and board team effectiveness.
  2. Diversity Goals: When taking a specific brief, search firms should look at overall board or executive team composition and, in the context of the company’s aspirational goals on gender balance and diversity more broadly, incorporate the required diversity goals into the search.
  3. Defining Position Descriptions: In defining position descriptions, search firms should work to ensure that significant weight is given to relevant skills, underlying competencies and personal capabilities and not just proven career experience, in order to extend the pool of candidates beyond those with existing board or senior roles or conventional corporate careers.
  4. Long Lists: When presenting their long lists, search firms should aim for at least 30 per cent of the candidates being women and, if not, should explain to the client why they believe that there are no other qualified female options through demonstrating the scope and rigour of their research.
  5. Supporting Selection: During the selection process, search firms should provide appropriate support, in particular to first-time or early senior career candidates, to prepare them for interviews and guide them through the process.
  6. Emphasising Intrinsic Skills: As clients evaluate candidates, search firms should ensure that they continue to provide appropriate weight to intrinsic skills supported by thorough referencing, rather than over-valuing certain kinds of experience.
  7. Induction: Search firms should provide advice to clients on best practice in induction and ‘onboarding’ processes to help new executives and board directors settle quickly into their roles.

– Wayne Bruce, CEO

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