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Improving diversity in the workplace – 5 actions you can take

What is Diversity in the Workplace?

It might seem complicated, confusing, overwhelming and even touchy to some, and that’s because it is. Diversity is a complex and multifaceted topic that requires some undoing on both a collective and an individual level. Diversity in the workplace means to appreciate differences between individuals and acknowledge how their unique characteristics form an integral role within the organisation.  

What are the Different Types of Workplace Diversity?

In the past, the scope of diversity was limited to a handful of areas. It has now expanded to encompass a multitude of characteristics, which is defined by Diversity Council Australia as “all the ways in which we differ.” These difference might include:

  • Race, Ethnicity, Culture, Language
  • Gender, Age, Sexual orientation
  • Physical abilities and disabilities
  • Religion and Political beliefs
  • Education and Socioeconomic background

Why is workplace diversity so important and what are the benefits?

For many businesses across the globe, respecting and accommodating diversity in the workplace is not just a banner to wave, but becoming an absolute necessity for current and future successes. Within businesses, McKinsey Research states that companies with a more diverse workforce are able to outperform industry norms by 35%. Outside of the businesses, 67% of job-seekers are actively seeking to align with companies and workplaces with higher levels of diversity (Glassdoor). With numbers like these from both an internal and external standpoint, it is clear to see that diversity is the future. 

Where is diversity in the workplace?

In the corporate world, as you move up the ranks within organisations, diversity dwindles and disappears. 95% of senior executives and CEOs are of Anglo-Celtic or European background, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission. In other words, you will find the most diverse staff population at the grass-roots of organisations. With this in mind, it makes sense that a move towards diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) would need to be an effort that spans an organisation, not just limited to upper management levels.

Who is responsible for workplace diversity?

With a lack of direction coming from the top, we are starting to see employees and HR professionals taking matters into their own hands. By embedding good diversity practices at a ground level, people can actually feel that they are part of the change, rather than waiting for those above to instigate new processes. These practical, micro-actions encourage transparency, mutual respect and compassion, and have the power to reverberate across all areas of an organisation. 

How to get started with workplace diversity from a grass-roots level?

Be open to unknowns and wrongs

Misunderstanding, ignorance and shame are some of the biggest contributors when it comes to stifling conversation. If you are ignorant on the topic, or think you might have been misinformed, and could be touching on an unconscious bias, stay open and honest. Admit that you do not know and offer your ear to learn. Inversely, making another staff member feel uncomfortable or shameful because they are misinformed on a topic is not healthy grounds to learn either. Encourage generous conversation and patience when it comes to touchy topics around diversity so everyone is able to learn and right their wrongs. The more these types of conversations can rest on the surface (and not below), the better.

Encourage your team to “Call-In” (rather than “Call-Out”)

Diversity is a passion-powered topic and when we speak out of turn others might offer advice from a judgemental or condescending standpoint because they have been hurt personally in some way. This leaves the person in question to feel shamed, with a loss of engagement and drive to properly address the issue at hand. When you call someone out, you issue a direct challenge to something that they have said or done, usually in public and with the intent of exposing this persons’ wrong-doing to others. Calling someone in is more personal, communicative, conversational and diplomatic. There is a time and place for calling out, and if we want to work from an open and understanding perspective, this is not the time or the place.

Use Reverse-Mentoring

Some companies have adopted reverse mentoring by age in order to train senior level employees on tech updates and tools that younger millennial staff are familiar with. This same concept can be applied to diversity practices, where unconscious biases have space to surface and be addressed. Often these employees can be a great entry point in opening up the conversation, helping both parties improve on their conversation skills around the topic of diversity. Reverse mentoring can also create a sense of inclusion, having the power to close generational gaps and tacking age-bias along the way. Not only can reverse mentoring allow for development when it comes to views around diversity, but it can also open doors in digital learning and leadership development.

Communicate DEI efforts to the entire company on a regular basis

Send ongoing diversity emails to the entire company. This tactic can work three-fold for it keeps diversity as a hot-topic in employees minds, allows the topic to remain comfortable and perpetually open for discussion, and encourages the rotating “Captain of Diversity and Inclusion” to learn and source information and articles that are then shared with the entire company. 

Test and address your unconscious biases

Unconscious biases are attitudes beyond our regular perceptions of ourselves and others that are often reinforced by our environment and past experiences. Making efforts towards learning more about others outside of your usual circle is one actionable tactic in learning more about your unconscious biases. Better yet, Diversity Australia offers a testing system through Harvard University that can measure your conscious bias, as well as your implicit associations. You can test yourself on many biases including skin-tone, sexuality, age, weight, gender and religion – to name a few. 

Keep the Conversation Alive

The conversation around diversity can be overwhelming to say the least. Making informal, minor changes can act as baby steps towards a much larger goal. These small things not only add up, but keep the conversation around diversity alive, which is fundamentally what is missing from most workplaces today. Maintaining a comfortable and accessible dialogue around diversity is the key. 

 

At Moir Group, we believe that a satisfying job is a key factor to achieving a fulfilling life. We write articles and run events across the year, which aim to support finance professionals to get the most from their job role. You can sign up for our events and news updates here. 

 

Further Resources

Are you experiencing inequality in your workplace? HERE’s who to talk to

Investing in Diversity: put your money where your mind is

The Importance of being yourself at work

How to keep your workplace connected, engaged and motivated in these tricky times.

How to build more resilient, caring and inspiring teams during a pandemic

3 ways you can build more resilient teams

Creating connected teams: how to bring out the best in each other

 

 

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