Leading Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace

Does Diversity mean better performance?

In the last few months, there has been a lot of news about gender issues and how our Government has handled complaints by women for serious alleged incidents.

Many private business leaders were horrified and I have heard many say, ‘This would never be tolerated in private business!’.

We have strong laws in this country that regulate Occupational Health and Safety, but I have seen many workplaces that have zero focus on Diversity and Inclusion (D&I).

Diversity is generally defined as acknowledging, understanding, accepting, valuing, and celebrating differences among people with respect to age, class, ethnicity, gender, physical and mental ability, race, sexual orientation, spiritual practice, and public assistance status.

The latest McKinsey report, ‘Diversity wins: How inclusion matters’, found that the most diverse companies were more likely to outperform less diverse ones on profitability.

In actual fact, they state that the greater the representation in the workforce, the higher the likelihood of outperformance.

The five areas of action the report highlighted are:

  1. Ensuring the representation of diverse talent – advancing diverse talent in to executive, management and board roles
  2. Strengthening leadership accountability and capabilities for (D&I)
  3. Enabling equality of opportunity through fairness and transparency – Advancing to true meritocracy and leveling the playing field
  4. Promote openness and tackle microaggressions – zero-tolerance policy for discriminatory behaviour
  5. Foster belonging through unequivocal support for multivariate diversity – build a culture where all employees feel they can bring their whole selves to work

Embracing D&I will increase profitability, but the progress of making it a priority is slow, in large and small companies.

I believe part of the reason is that implementing D&I policies may seem overwhelming and organisations are concerned about the risk of unintended negative outcomes.  Such as discrimination and conflict, emanating from employees not accepting the differences.

Simply making pledges and having a policy is not enough when considering D&I policies.  Managing diversity is more than equal employment opportunity and affirmative action.   It’s a comprehensive process for creating a work environment that includes everyone.

Diversity is not about differences among groups, but rather about differences among individuals.

Diversity leadership requires a commitment and understanding that every individual in the organisation contributes to its diversity. 

Leaders capitalising on the skills and talents of an individual who is different on some dimension and making them feel a valued member of the organisation.

Leaders must consider diversity of opinion with the team, find shared ground and reach agreement through focused communication and understanding.

They must incorporate commitment to diversity and inclusion as part of their business strategy and add to their values.

In conclusion, in order to succeed with implementing effective workplace D&I policies and processes and create a culture of belonging, leaders must:

  • Include their team and work together to understand what is best for the organisation based on teamwork and group dynamics.
  • Review constantly. At least every twelve months and adapt as required.

Risks of getting it wrong

There are many benefits of creating an inclusive and diverse workplace where employees feel a sense of belonging.  There is a moral and ethical duty to ensure the safety of employees.  There are also significant risks to the business for failing to take steps to provide a safe working environment. These include:

  • Reputational damage: people ignore it, but one bad news story (or several) can significantly damage your relationship with your clients, employees and the public.
  • Penalties: you can face significant financial and/or criminal penalties for each breach of your state’s occupational health and safety, and discrimination legislation. You can also be on the hook for damages if an individual claims you failed your duty of care.
  • Personal liability: individuals involved in a breach of a business’ duty of care can potentially be held personally liable.
  • Injuries: if an employee is discriminated against, or sexually harassed at work, they may suffer an injury (mental and/or physical), go on leave and/or lodge a workers’ compensation claim.
Download some helpful tools:
Considerations when implementing D&I policies
Questions Leaders need to ask in regards to Discrimination and Harassment

Leading Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace Read More »