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The case for diversity and inclusion in workplaces has been well established. A diverse and inclusive workplace is beneficial to multiple aspects of business performance, and is known to enhance individual employee engagement and job satisfaction.
Yet how well and how often does this translate into business practices?
This answer is less clear. In fact, there has been very little systematic work undertaken to explore this question – particularly in Australian organisations. While some organisations are paving the way in establishing leading diversity management practices (Poynton & Doraisamy 2017) the question remains – are they the exception or the norm?
Dr Paul Davis, Dr Yuliya Frolova and Dr William Callahan (KIMEP University, Almaty, Kazakhstan) conducted an exploratory study to better understand the state of Workplace Diversity Management (WDM) in an Australian context and determine the extent to which diversity management practices are embedded within Australian organisations.
In essence, the research revealed that more work is needed to uplift management understanding and organisational prioritisation of WDM initiatives.
This research aimed to understand the current state of Australian Managers’ attitudes and understanding of WDM and the practices that are being incorporated into Australian organisations.
In late 2014, a self-administered survey was mailed to 650 mid-level HR and non-HR managers from medium-large (500+ employees) private sector organisations in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. Survey data was analysed from 198 respondents, representing a 30% response rate.
The survey comprised two types of statements and respondents indicated the extent to which they agreed on a 5-point scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree:
Exploratory in nature, the research yielded a number of findings, together suggesting that understanding and practice of diversity management within Australian organisations is not well advanced.
The following four key findings especially enhance our knowledge in this area:
Although there has been an increased focus on workplace diversity management in recent years, this research suggests that it is far from “universally understood and appreciated” in contemporary Australian organisations. Furthermore, the researchers concluded that there is a “relative invisibility of WDM” practices in organisations compared to other HR-led programs, such as talent or performance management.
As such, there is a need to increase understanding and practice of WDM within an Australian context. These research findings suggest that to achieve this, organisational leaders should consider the following:
Bourke, J., & Dillon, B. (2018). The diversity and inclusion revolution: Eight powerful truths. Deloitte review, 22, 81-95.
Bouton, K. (2015). Recruiting for Cultural Fit, Harvard Business Review, 17 July 2015.
McCuiston et al. (2004). Leading the diverse workforce. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 25, 105-124
Shein, E.H. (1992). Organizational Culture and Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Sarah is a Consultant in Deloitte’s Human Capital Consulting practice. With a background in Psychology, Marketing and HR Management, she has a passion for solving complex client problems with people-centric solutions. Sarah is diligent in applying rigour and structure to problem solving. Combined with her strong interpersonal and communication skills, she is able to engage meaningfully with clients to deliver high quality solutions. With cross-industry experience, Sarah’s consulting background has predominantly focused on strategic transformation, change management, and diversity and inclusion, with Financial Services and Public Sector clients.