HRM spoke to one organisation about turning words into action through a reconciliation action plan.
This article is being written on the land of the Gadigal and Wangal people on the second day of NAIDOC week 2020.
This year’s theme for NAIDOC week is “always was, always will be”, a timely reminder that for those of us who live and work in Australia we do so on land occupied and cared for by First Nations people for over 65,000 years.
In the August edition of HRM Magazine was an article about ‘How to create a Reconciliation Action Plan’ this time we are following up with how to implement a Reconciliation Action Plan. A plan is good, but implementation is where the real work starts.
To re-cap, Reconciliation Action Plans or RAPs were introduced by Reconciliation Australia in 2006 as a way for organisations to include strategic reconciliation initiatives in their business plan. The Reconciliation Australia website lists over 600 valid RAPs, almost half of those are at the ‘Innovate’ level, the second maturity level of the RAP. The Innovate level is for organisations who have scoped out where they can improve in their reconciliation journey and are now working to fill those gaps and strengthening their relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
In June last year, Fujitsu Australia implemented its Innovate RAP. The company had instituted a Reflect rap in 2018 and after consultation with Reconciliation Australia, were approved to move to the next level. HRM spoke to Fujitsu’s director of responsible business Blaise Porter to find out what they learned from their RAP journey.
“One of the lessons we’ve learned is the importance of partnerships and having the right partners when building and implementing your RAP,” says Porter.
Fujitsu works with Walanga Muru, the Indigenous unit at Macquarie University, and the Indigenous Defence Infrastructure Consortium (IDIC) to ensure the organisation and the RAP Working group are getting the right advice from Indigenous voices.
(Read HRM’s interview with IDIC director George Mifsud on how Indigenous employees have coped with COVID-19.)
“No organisation implements any kind of cultural shift like ‘here’s the plan, let’s do it’. You need the right partners to guide you and minimise the mistakes you might make along the way,” says Porter.
“The right guidance will make sure you’re implementing these initiatives in a way that is respectful to the community and allows you to get the results you want the first time around.”
Porter says many organisations don’t realise that a RAP isn’t just an organisational thing, it has a much wider impact on communities and related organisations.
The replication recipe
One area where Porter says they saw a lot of success was supply chain diversification.
“Before we started [our RAP] we were spending less than $5000 on Indigenous owned businesses, but last year we hit a milestone of $1 million and that wouldn’t have happened without the RAP.”
Porter believes wins like that help staff stay invested in the plan because they can see its impact on the business and community.
“RAPs are a long-term commitment but really seeing the difference they make and that we could be successful in diversifying our supply chain really gives people confidence,” says Porter.
“Once you get that confidence, other parts of the business begin to see the benefits and it really galvanises momentum.”
Porter says “confidence builds competence”. Once one part of the business gains the confidence that a RAP is making a difference, other parts can begin making plans with the confidence the changes can work.
“All of a sudden your team is like, ‘oh, that works. Let’s try this’ and over time it builds and these diversity initiatives become standard operating for you.”
One of the biggest initiatives to come out of Fujitsu’s RAP was implementing a new internship program for Indigenous graduates.
“The number of Indigenous graduates coming out of science and technology degrees is very small, improving Indigenous employment has been a bit of a challenge for the sector. So we made sure we targeted some technical areas but we also have people in supply chain, HR, someone in my team etc.”
Porter says they wanted to ensure the internship program went beyond just setting a quota for how many interns they would retain and instead be just as much about setting them up for success beyond Fujitsu.
“We worked with not-for-profits and established a kind of mentorship program so they’re receiving mentorship outside Fujitsu with successful Indigenous people in STEM. We wanted to find a way to make sure they could stay engaged with the sector that feels really safe and relevant.”
RAPs begin conversations
“It wasn’t a surprise as such, but it was really nice to learn just how many of our employees supported implementing a RAP in the workplace. And I think many organisations would find that true for themselves,” says Porter.
“Employees do genuinely want to see their employer engage and be active in reconciliation.”
Porter says implementing a RAP at Fujitsu Australia made them think about how the company interacts with Indigenous communities in other countries.
“It started this conversation about ‘what are we doing in New Zealand? Is there more we can do there?’ Having a RAP really had a profound impact on how we categorise ourselves and view ourselves as an organisation,” says Porter.
“We’ve set all these targets around climate change and taking responsible actions on a global level. But when you live in Australia, and we’ve particularly seen this with the Black Lives Matter movement in the past few months, it’s something people care about so the organisation should take charge and keep it as a national conversation.”
Day to day changes
Porter lists a few changes Fujitsu made to the DNA of the company to make sure reconciliation is always present:
- Including a Welcome to Country in all printed publications and the opening of events
- Acknowledging NAIDOC week and Reconciliation week
- Creating communications that lift up the achievements of Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people
To ensure the success of the RAP, the working group made it a “company success factor”. This means Mike Foster, former CEO of Fujitsu Australia and New Zealand took on the responsibility of the RAP as well as tying it to his salary, which gave him a personal incentive to see the RAP succeed.
“It’s one thing for executives to be like ‘yep, that’s great I endorse it’ and another for them to really put their salary on the line and stand behind it. I think that makes all the difference.”
Diversity and inclusion is an ongoing journey. Thankfully AHRI has excellent resources to assist organisations of all sizes to acknowledge, listen and learn.