Inclusion & Diversity – Are these Qualities Alive in the Australian Workplace?

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The Australian Human Resource Institute has released a report highlighting Australia’s current state of workplace inclusion and diversity. We’ve selected some of the highlights from the report below. If you’d like to read the full report click Inclusion-and-Diversity-Insight-Report.

According to a 2013 Diversity and Inclusion Study of Australian and New Zealand businesses by Korn/ Ferry and the Diversity Council of Australia (DCA), we are struggling to replicate our diverse culture in our businesses.

While there have been some advances in gender equity in the past few years, the issue is much broader than this. To better understand the perceptions of Australian business leaders, we polled our LinkedIn group members about how inclusion and diversity is currently viewed, the level of awareness about it and the outlook for the future.

Key Insights

Inclusion and diversity is considered a high enough priority for around a third of Australian organisations to run official programs that help embed it into the organisational culture.

Other initiatives in such organisations include designing leadership programs for women, internships, membership of Equal Employment

Opportunity and disability associations, participation in indigenous mentoring, partnerships with other businesses to access senior female talent and other programs that encourage a broad range of cultures, languages, backgrounds, ages and so on.

A third of Australian organisations are presently doing nothing or paying lip service to inclusion & diversity.

One of the stumbling blocks seems to be convincing leadership of the true value of making the cultural change required to make inclusion and diversity part of the “business thought process”:

“In a recent corporate role I tried hard to get D&I on the leadership agenda but struggled to keep it there. In spite of the rhetoric used I don’t think many senior leaders saw the clear commercial advantages that flow from having a genuinely inclusive culture where diversity of thinking can thrive.” – MD, Staffing and Recruiting

What are the main challenges? 

  • Leadership issues (top down approach) 31%
  • Education/Training 25%
  • Aligning business values/Change issues 25%
  • Prejudice/Inequality/Bias 19%

NSW respondents previously highlighted the problem of convincing leadership of the true value of making the cultural changes that better promote inclusion and diversity in the workplace. This was mentioned above.

A third of respondents in the later survey also singled out various aspects of leadership as the main reason why almost a third of Australian businesses are doing little or nothing about it.

“Moving diversity and inclusion from the strategy or plan to impact the lived cultural experience of diverse employees is the challenge. You can’t do this if you do not allocate leadership and resources to it, or if leadership is not bought into diversity as a business imperative rather than a nice to have or “tick the box”. There has to be a mindset change.” – Director, Nonprofit Organization Management

What will drive the changes?

  • Demographic/Culture changes 29%
  • Growing focus on CSR and Diversity 21%
  • Government obligations 18%
  • Pressure (from businesses and community) 18%
  • Rewards 14%

“Collaborative work spaces online mean that you work with all types of employees and this makes the organisation more horizontal. The idea is for everyone to benefit from shared knowledge and make the organisation more productive overall. To understand different ways of working will be important in order to drive that type of cultural change.” – Sales Specialist, a Global IT Company

“Pressure to be more competitive in the “war for talent”. I think more people are looking for broader social responsibility in their workplace and the top performers want to see these ”people approaches” embedded in the workplace. I think as more of the organisations doing this get recognition the more obvious it becomes that other businesses have a long way to go.” – Employee Engagement and Culture Program Manager

“Inclusion and diversity is a way of life. Progressive organisations acknowledge the significance and reap benefits that diversity and workplace inclusiveness brings in, whereas those gripped in insecurity and ignorance prefer to disregard it.” NSW respondent

Fiona Krautil’s article Diversity: it takes cultural change outlines interviews with ten leading CEOs about this topic:

“What’s clear to these workplace chiefs is that harnessing workplace diversity will not be achieved with an ad hoc HR-driven approach. They all describe being on a strategic journey that by necessity must be led by the organisation’s leader.” 

This view is well backed up in the Korn/Ferry/ Diversity Council of Australia survey, with “81% of respondents believing that senior level management are the most important people contributing to the success of a diversity and inclusion strategy in an organisation.”


Finding Clear and helpful information on this topic

  • Diversity Council of Australia (DCA)
  • Australasian Railway Association (ARA)
  • Government bodies such as the DoE
  • Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI)
  • Unions
  • Australian Human Rights Commission
  • WGEA


Source: Australian Human Resource Institute.



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