Building inclusive workplaces for a diverse workforce

Sep 15, 2017

Feeling welcomed and included has a huge positive effect on whether we feel good when we’re at work, our ability to perform in our role, and our overall wellbeing, too. But the benefits aren’t limited to individual employees – there’s a strong business case supported by research telling us that diverse and inclusive workplaces provide clear wellbeing, productivity, and retention benefits.

Australia’s workforce is one of the most diverse in the world. Employees come from a wide range of cultural, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, gender identities, ages, sexual orientations, and different family responsibilities.

Yet discrimination, bullying, and harassment in the workplace remain ongoing issues, particularly for people from different cultural backgrounds, people with disabilities, mothers returning to work, LGBTI people, and mature age employees.

Experiencing discrimination, prejudice, and exclusion at work can be hurtful, and can result in employees feeling disengaged and dissatisfied at work.

It’s a key contributor to an increased risk of anxiety, depression and self-harm for many Australians who feel 'on the outer' at work.

Research from Diversity Council Australia suggests workers from culturally diverse backgrounds are up to three times less likely to perceive their workplaces as being inclusive.

And, only 11 per cent of Australian workers ‘strongly agree’ that their manager actively seeks out new information and ideas from all employees; a key indicator of inclusive leadership.

The good news is there are some really clear benefits to be seen for leaders who start working on making workplaces more inclusive.

This great video from Accenture shows the many dimensions to inclusivity in the workplace. 

Diversity and inclusiveness – what’s the difference?

  • A diverse workplace is one that includes people from different types of gender identity, age, language, ethnicity, cultural background, sexual orientation, religion / belief system, family responsibilities, education, socio-economic background, and marital status.
  • An inclusive workplace is one that sees a diverse range of people encouraged to provide their own individual skills, knowledge and background to the organisation.

In order to see significant improvements in performance and wellbeing, workplaces need to work on improving both their diversity and inclusiveness.

Six ways you can make your workplace more inclusive

So, you’d like to start working on making your workplace more inclusive. Great!

If you’re wondering how you can get started, you might like to consider adopting some of these strategies and putting them into practice in your own workplace:

  • Commit to individual diversity and inclusivity policies, led and endorsed by senior managers, and designed to lead to clear measurable, transparent outcomes.
  • Explain the business case around why workforce diversity and inclusivity makes good business sense
  • Acknowledge your employees’ intersectionality; everyone has many dimensions to who they are, and many people will identify with multiple parts of their identity.
  • Widen your gender diversity policy from a focus on gender binary to actively recruiting people from a wide range of gender identities, opening your business up to more opportunities in terms of talent pools.
  • Look for ways to recognise and celebrate the strengths and talents of others who are different to you.
  • Using inclusive language; a powerful tool to neutralise discrimination in the workplace.

EEO (equal employment opportunity) policies also have an important role to play in addressing the continued disadvantage experienced by particular groups of people in the workplace.

The business case for inclusion

A 2011 report by Deloitte called Waiter, is that inclusion in my soup?found a direct correlation between diversity, inclusion, and business performance.

The study found more diverse and inclusive workplaces saw on average an 83% improvement on their ability to innovate, a 31% improvement in the ability to respond to changing customer needs, and a 42% improvement in team collaboration.

The study also found greater diversity and inclusion has a direct outcome in higher levels of employee engagement.

Inclusive workplaces provide a range of benefits, including:

  • Improved conflict resolution and problem-solving skills
  • Increased empathy and understanding of customer needs
  • A larger, more diverse talent pool from which to recruit
  • A more attractive proposition for potential candidates from more diverse backgrounds.

A diverse workplace that actively seeks ways to be more inclusive is likely to see their staff experiencing less discriminatory behaviour, as well as a host of other wellbeing and productivity benefits.

Read more

Learn more about creating a mentally healthy workplace

Find out what strategies you can put into place to make your workplace more mentally healthy

Check out Beyond Blue’s Invisible Discriminator Campaign



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