Diversity in the workplace

 

Diversity in the workplace has become a key focus for organisations in recent years as the benefits of implementing equal opportunity and inclusive initiatives have become increasingly apparent. 

While creating and fostering a culture of diversity is undoubtedly a challenging task for business owners and managers, the reward that a diverse workplace culture brings is an investment well worth making. 

What do we mean by diversity in the workplace?

Although embedding diversity into workplace culture can be a complex undertaking, the idea of diversity in the workplace can be explained rather simply.

A practice which prioritises diversity designs tailored policies and takes deliberate actions to develop a workforce compromised of people of varying genders, religions, races, ages, ethnicities, sexual orientations, educational backgrounds, and other personal attributes.

Why has diversity emerged as such a hot topic?

As globalisation has increased, making our societies more diverse, the need for a workforce that reflects this reality has become progressively more important.

To identify and take advantage of the opportunities which present themselves, a diverse labour force is not only desirable but essential.

To understand the significance of diversity in the workplace, it is helpful to explore and analyse the advantages and challenges it presents.

What are some of the advantages?

Distinct points of view

Our personal attributes and experiences shape the way we perceive and interact with the world around us.

In the workplace, a variety of perspectives is valuable as it can enhance problem-solving abilities and drive up productivity levels. Staff who bring unique perspectives to work are more likely to explore a wider field of possibilities in a more efficient and effective manner.

Although it can be intimidating to create an environment where people may have dissenting opinions, it has been shown time and time again that a diverse labour force actually improves decision making, despite there being greater levels of discussion around numerous possibilities to find a solution to a single problem.

Better quality candidates

A practice that embraces diversity as a cornerstone of its culture is more likely to attract better quality candidates to fill their vacancies.

In today’s competitive environment, individuals are looking for employers who offer more than the traditional nine-to-five clock in, clock out model.

If your practice can show that you embrace and celebrate diversity, chances are you will be a top priority for those high-quality candidates looking for their next professional adventure.

Stronger performance

It should come as no surprise that in situations where workers feel more comfortable being themselves, they perform better. In diverse workplaces, staff are constantly exposed to people who bring a wide variety of attributes and experiences, which makes everyone feel as though their unique contribution will be appreciated and celebrated.

This will lead to higher levels of wellbeing that allows workers to perform to their optimum potential.

Increased innovation

Linked to the benefits of having multiple points of view, workers with an array of characteristics and experiences are also more likely to innovate as they will have the capacity to raise and evaluate a wider range of possibilities.

A homogenous workplace will find innovating to be more challenging as workers are more likely to bring uniform perspectives to issues.

What are some of the challenges?

Resistance from within

Not everybody in the practice will be on board with the idea of prioritising diversity.

This resistance may appear for a number of reasons. No matter the reason, it will be the employer’s and manager’s job to educate workers about why diversity is important to the practice and the benefits that it will bring.

Training

Everybody in the practice must be clear on the path that will be taken to embed diversity in workplace culture. It is often beneficial to arrange diversity training so that everyone—particularly leaders—understand how the organisation defines diversity, why it is a priority for the practice, and what is expected of them to engrain diversity in their actions.

Unconscious bias

It is an unfortunate reality that we all carry biases, some of which we are not even aware.

Understanding how to recognise, address and avoid unconscious bias will be critical to successfully implementing diversity in the workplace.

In order to do this, it is often necessary to seek professional advice from organisations that have experience in this area.

As diversity has become an increasingly popular practice, so too have the number of organisations providing training for managers and workers in this area.

How can we implement diversity in the workplace?

Develop a policy and action plan

To foster a culture that embraces diversity, employers and managers should develop a policy that:

  • defines what diversity means to the practice
  • outlines the aims of the policy
  • explains the roles and responsibilities conferred by the policy
  • highlights any applicable regulation and legislation with which the policy interacts
  • explains how the policy will be enforced—including where breaches occur.

In addition to a policy, a written action plan will help to ensure that your vision becomes a reality.

The HR in Practice Service has templates for both a diversity policy and a diversity and inclusion action plan. These can be a great place for practices to start.

Appoint a diversity and inclusion officer

Delegating a senior staff member/s responsible for identifying opportunities to support diversity in the workplace will ensure that it remains on the agenda and avoids a well-intentioned initiative from existing solely on paper.

Seek advice from the experts

There are numerous organisations that provide practical guidance on embedding diversity in the workplace.

Consider conducting team training with an expert who can communicate your vision and provide your team with the tools they need to ensure this initiative is delivered in a meaningful way.

>> The HR in Practice workplace advisory service is operated by Wentworth Advantage for APA Business Group members. For more information about joining the APA Business Group email info@australian.physio or call 1300 306 622. For specialist workplace relations and work (occupational) health and safety advice, the team at the HR in Practice Service are available by phone, email and online chat Monday – Friday 8:30am – 5:30pm AEST. A host of resources are also available on the dedicated HR portal for members at australian.physio.

Disclaimer: The material contained in this publication is general comment and is not intended as advice on any particular matter, nor should it be relied upon as a substitute for legal or professional advice. Wentworth Advantage Pty Ltd expressly disclaim all and any liability to any persons whatsoever in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by any such person in reliance weather in whole or in part upon any contents of this publication.

 

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