Four ways to encourage diversity and inclusion in business

08 June 2021 Consultancy.com.au 5 min. read

A more diverse, equal and inclusive workplace environment results in numerous benefits and fostering one can be straightforward and inexpensive, writes Achievers manager of client services, Emma Harvie.

In today’s increasingly competitive environment, having a diverse team is critical for success. Similarly, creating an inclusive environment, where all employees feel like they belong, are respected, and have a voice, is also key for those organisations that want to provide a world-class employee experience, and therefore, maintain a competitive advantage.

In recent years, large businesses and organisations around Australia have talked the talk and a growing number are walking the walk, investing in a wealth of initiatives aimed at making their workplaces more diverse and inclusive.

Emma Harvie, Manager, Achievers

International consultancy Accenture, for example, aims to achieve 50-50 gender balance within four years and has implemented programs to support employees with disabilities and those from the LGBTI community.

Telstra, meanwhile, went to  great lengths to support affected employees during the same sex marriage debate in 2017 and, among other initiatives, is committed to providing greater opportunities for indigenous Australians, and more support for family violence victims.

However, not all enterprises in Australia have the resources to employ dedicated diversity and inclusion leads to champion flagship programs or employee resource groups such as these.

That doesn’t mean they can’t take some simple, inexpensive steps to make their workforces more diverse, and to ensure everyone on the team feels heard, valued and included. Four examples:

Expanding interview panels

General Manager, Talent Acquisition Specialists, Head of Operations…in many organisations, the same person, or same small group of people, is responsible for interviewing job applicants. Not infrequently, that can lead to those individuals hiring a similar type of candidate each time a position becomes vacant – often someone who appeals to them personally – rather than objectively analysing the strengths of the other contenders.

Panel interviews, which include women, men and employees from diverse backgrounds, can provide greater diversity of thought when it comes to making hiring decisions. This can help to give all candidates an equal opportunity to shine. 

Revisiting job advertisements

Job advertisements and position descriptions can be unwittingly skewed towards one gender or age bracket, thereby discouraging able individuals from applying. Ensure you are using gender neutral language throughout the advertisement so people don’t subconsciously rule themselves out from the application process.

Examples cited by Glass Door are "analyse" and "determine", which are typically associated with male traits, while "collaborate" and "support" are considered female. Having several employees from different backgrounds or an online language tool review the job advertisement before it’s published, can result in more neutral wording that opens your business up to a broader talent pool.

Also eliminate the “nice to have” job requirements, as research from Harvard Business Review suggests that women will only apply for jobs where they meet 100% of the requirements, whereas men will apply if they meet 60%. You’ll widen the talent pool by keeping the list to the “must have” job or experience requirements.

Offering flexible opportunities

The Covid-19 crisis taught Australian businesses an extraordinary, unplanned lesson about how successful flexible and remote working can be. That’s a lesson that can serve them well in more ‘normal’ times. Blanket policies, such as mandated minimum hours or days in the office, can make it harder for diverse candidates to hold down employment, particularly those who have disabilities or caring responsibilities.

Be open to hiring from new locations, and offer flexible hours or days to significantly increase the talent pool. Consider the potential impact of your current arrangements and make them as flexible as possible to help you to attract and retain great talent who, for whatever reason, can’t work a standard nine to five day.

Recognising great work

Many organisations have diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives already living within their business, and in smaller organisations, these are often driven by volunteer led employee resource groups.

One important, but underutilised, way to amplify these efforts is through the use of recognition strategies that reinforce behaviours promoting diversity, equity and inclusion. In fact, research suggests that recognition programs can serve as a catalyst of inclusive and welcoming behavior inside organisations.

Recognition programs with high frequency and transparency can also encourage managers and employees to recognise each other for taking an active role in diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, and for sharing their unique ideas, perspectives, and skillsets.

This type of recognition not only promotes a more inclusive culture but also helps to accelerate the advancement of a diversity of employees.

Stronger together

Diversity, equality and inclusion aren’t just feel-good concepts. Employees are an organisation’s greatest asset and taking steps to make your organisation more diverse and inclusive will result in a more innovative and engaged workforce that’s better equipped to tackle the challenges of tomorrow.