The continuing steps for diversity at work

As businesses need diversity in their customer base, they equally need diversity among their employees and leaders.

Creating an environment which is welcoming and accepting of diversity at work, gives your employees a sense of belonging. It gives them a safe place, where they feel they can be themselves, and thrive.

However, it has emerged that 46% of Australian workers say that they either some, or all of the time, feel unable to be their true selves at work.

The effect of this is people from diverse backgrounds, specifically minority groups, don’t feel comfortable to speak up openly at work without fear of criticism, suggesting that working environments aren’t as supportive as they could be.

What diversity in the workplace looks like

When thinking about diversity, it is useful to consider it in a social context.

Diversity refers to the existence of variations of different characteristics in a group of people. (Source: Workable).

At work and school, we meet people who have different characteristics to you, like age, gender, and ethnicity.

The people we meet can have a range of different experiences, talents, skills and personalities.

Other areas of diversity can include:

  • Citizenship status
  • First language
  • Disability
  • Education
  • Faith
  • Race
  • Skills
  • Beliefs
  • Upbringing
  • National origin
  • Sexual orientation
  • Management status

Employee mental health matters

Leaders in the workplace can set the tone when it comes to diversity, also mental health.

A survey by the Diversity Council Australia (DCA), 31% of workers reported discussing their mental health at work with anyone. By contrast, 63% of senior executives had spoken about their mental health at work.

Level of seniority is a factor which clearly influences our mental wellbeing at work.

For example, employees who experience being left out of social gatherings are three times more likely to report poor mental health than they are to report good mental health.

Inclusive managers value differences, seek out and draw on a diversity of ideas, treat everyone fairly and address inappropriate behaviour. (Source: DCA).

Feeling included in a team makes us feel connected to our colleagues. We feel respected, like we can confidently contribute and progress at work, our ideas are valued respected.

Bringing our authentic selves to work

Social belonging is a fundamental human need and businesses who actively seek diversity perform better.

“…there is no magic wand for correcting diversity and inclusion. Change happens one person at a time, one act at a time, one word at a time" says Melinda Epler.

Making progress to enhance diversity and inclusion presents a wealth of benefits. Diversity and inclusion policies have holistic benefits for employees and cost effective for employers.

According to research 'The Value of Belonging at Work' (source: Harvard Business Review) a strong sense of belonging is linked to a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days.

The primary goal of a policy should be to create an environment which is welcoming and accepting environment at all levels of employment.

Recognising microaggressions

The presence of microaggressions at work can hinder measures to build a welcoming workplace.

They are the everyday, subtle, intentional – and oftentimes unintentional – interactions or behaviours that communicate some sort of bias toward minority or marginalised groups.

Microaggressions are a comment or action – sometimes unintentional - that negatively targets groups of people who might be underrepresented, face barriers or discrimination in the workplace.

Examples of microaggressions can include:

  • Using your phone or laptop throughout a meeting without engaging
  • Mispronouncing someone’s name because 'it is too difficult to say'
  • Continuing to use words or phrases which others might find offensive
  • Not providing accessible buildings or facilities

(Source: Culture Amp)

They can target the communities or groups which can make a workplace diverse. Unaddressed, microaggressions can decrease employment engagement and create a toxic work environment.

How organisations can create a welcoming environment for diversity, equity and inclusion

  • Ensuring job descriptions and job application processes actively seek those from different backgrounds.
  • Promote flexible working arrangements: this allows a focus on outputs, which is known to support people with diverse needs.
  • Ensure that your company meets accessibility standards for those with a disability.
  • Providing mentors for new workers with a disability.
  • Find ways to celebrate and support employee diversity, including those with disabilities; and
  • Ensure that all employees are aware of the support they have available to them.

Source: WorkLogic

6 ways to lead by example/be a better ally at work

  • Educate yourself to recognise microaggressions and how to address them
  • Be willing to listen, give your full attention by putting down your phone and laptop
  • Be open minded, be open to learning, re-learning positive behaviours
  • Don’t interrupt people when they are talking or sharing
  • Normalise allyship by advocating for people who are underrepresented
  • If you witness something, say something
  • Make it safe to talk about mental health at work