The drive for diversity in the workplace has picked up pace in the past year. At the top end of town, pioneering projects and practices are paving the way to a more inclusive and creative workforce. Last year, professional services firm PwC launched a new consulting company, PIC, which is mostly owned, led and staffed by Indigenous Australians. Ernst & Young announced it had achieved gender parity in all ranks up to and including senior managers by introducing point-in-time targets. More than 60,000 jobs have been committed and more than 17,000 roles filled through the Australian Employment Covenant and Generation One’s recruitment initiative, and measures starting last month that require businesses of 100 or more employees to report their gender make-up to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, are pushing Indigenous and gender diversity. Meanwhile, Reconciliation Australia has launched its Workplace Ready program, offering businesses a step-by-step guide to recruiting Indigenous staff. But how are smaller organisations with less resources faring in the field of inclusivity? Catherine Petterson, acting CEO of Diversity Council Australia says it is important SMEs understand the legalities and benefits of inclusiveness, which are widely credited with increased productivity and creativity, better problem-solving, higher attraction and staff retention rates and a more satisfied customer base. “Talent comes in many different forms and harnessing this diversity doesn’t have to be complex or expensive,” says Pettersen, who recommends being open to flexible working practices. “Start by looking at how diverse your workplace really is. If there are gaps, think about what might be filtering out diverse talent which could offer real benefits like innovation, links into new markets and customer insight,” says Pettersen. “We have a contracting workforce and an ageing population so broadening the talent pool is not just a social nicety but an economic imperative,” says Craig Harrison, CEO of Disability Employment Australia.
Case study: disability
- Employing people with disabilities has resulted in a more friendly, stable and fulfilling work environment for staff at online training company Leap Training.
- The Melbourne-based business offers internet-based educational resources to help the long-term unemployed and people with disability get back to work. Having a diverse range of employees, with a wide mix of cultures, skills and backgrounds, was critical to its growth and success, says communications manager, Ranjeet Starr.
- “We realised that culturally and linguistically our client base was really diverse, so internally our workforce needed to reflect that,” says Starr.
- The company took simple steps to become more inclusive. Staff underwent disability awareness training through Disability Employment Australia and looked to alternative avenues of hiring, such as disability employment service providers.
Case study: Indigenous
- Cheryl Vickery-Nicholls was so impressed with her experience working at the Australian College of Optometry that she recommended the not-for-profit organisation for an indigenous employment award.
- In 2012, Vickery-Nicholls, a descendent of the Yorta Yorta people from the Goulburn-Murray region, became the first long-term Aboriginal employee.
- As part-time Aboriginal liaison officer, she assists and reassures people during appointments and informs them about the Victorian Aboriginal Spectacle Subsidy Scheme, which offers glasses for just $10.
- “I feel I am being treated well and I am not just a token indigenous employee,” explains Vickery-Nicholls.
Case study: LGBTI
- In recent years, the sexual diversity debate has gathered pace, particularly after amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act in August last year.
- Pride In Diversity (PID), a not-for-profit employer-support program, is designed to assist Australian employers with LGBTI inclusion.
- The program was set up in 2010 and offers employers support, consulting, training and education on all aspects of LGBTI inclusion in the workplace.
- The Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA), which employs around 40 people, won the Australian Workplace Equality Index’s Small Business award for LGBTI workplace inclusion last year.
- As well as overhauling its policies and procedures and introducing training on the topic, the organisation launched support groups for gay and bi-sexual men.