In modern workplaces, organisations are increasingly focusing on diversity and inclusive practices. However, there is still a long way to go despite this trend in terms of daytoday interactions, unbiased acceptance, and policymaking. Diversity and inclusion are not just formal requirements for legal purposes and to minimise legal risks.

Organisations need to rethink their approach and understand why it’s necessary to embrace diversity and eliminate racism. Diversity and inclusion are no longer HR sideline activities – they are now mainstream business strategies for organisations that are serious about surviving and thriving. While some organisations are doing it because it’s the right thing to do, there’s also a strong business case for it. The reality is that we are seeing a large gap between what organisations are saying and the actual outcomes for minority workers and employees.

A Shift in thinking

Organisations need to shift from an exclusive business perspective to a moral one, promoting real conversations about race, implementing better career development initiatives, and revamping the current diversity and inclusion programs. Given the increasing embracing of social impact and purpose, there’s no better time to make this much-needed transformation.

Taking these proactive steps will not be an easy task. Senior management executives will need to think deeply about their ethics and look at their current corporate culture for a cause that they may not yet consider as core to their progress.

The increasing relevance of diversity

Research shows that heterogeneous work cultures yield better performance and innovation compared to homogenous ones. However, in reality, thousands of minority workers experience explicit and covert racism and discrimination during a typical workday. Diversity not only includes ethnic and cultural differences but also extends to age, sexual preference, socio-economic background and disability issues.

Older employees, for example, have experienced discrimination and the perception that only younger workers bring fresh ideas and thinking to the table. Older workers, in turn, may have stereotypical views of younger workers. When ethnically different employees experience discrimination among their peers, their ability to contribute becomes diminished due to emotional distress. As a result, minority workers often hide ethnicsounding names, subdue their beliefs, suppress their emotions, and try to conform to the majority as far as possible.

A minority representative may be officially or unofficially appointed to represent a group in the organisation. Such representatives often experience what is known as ‘diversity fatigue’. They struggle with their official job as well as their other role, which often involves training, conversations about race, and other related tasks.

Organisations need to ensure that minority employees are well supported and are provided with adequate opportunities to learn and grow and a hospitable environment that increases retention and loyalty. Diversity and inclusion initiatives have gained traction in Australia, and organisations can implement these techniques to help their minority employees integrate:

Accept the moral case.

Many organisations in Australia, backed by relevant legal regulations, have begun to push for more purpose-driven capitalism that focuses on shared value rather than just profits. Corporate leaders need to consider the financial as well as the ethical implications of their decisions. Diversity and anti-racism initiatives need to be solidly backed with a humanistic and ethical approach rather than just a business one. Approaching the idea of diversity with just a business case may soon border on becoming exploitative. In effect, senior executives need to ask, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ rather than, ‘What’s the most lucrative thing to do?’

Encourage open, honest conversations about race.

Matters related to race need to be candidly and openly discussed in the workplace and not swept under the carpet as an uncomfortable subject. It’s necessary to get a clearer idea of the problems, obstacles, frustrations, and barriers faced by minorities in your organisation. Subtle discrimination prevents employees from offering their best and most honest efforts. Many minority employees feel hesitant to speak about their problems for fear of being labelled as agitators.

Sooner or later, they are bound to look out for an employer that offers a fair and level playing field. Authentic exchanges help everyone feel heard, supported and appreciated, and also help to sensitise other employees. Organisations need to adopt a top-down approach to creating psychological safety so that employees can share their concerns without fear of reprisal.

In addition, the following steps can help improve diversity and minimise discrimination:

  • Acknowledge that there is a need to take concrete steps to embrace diversity.
  • Incorporate fair and unbiased recruitment strategies.
  • Establish mentorship programs and develop cultural competency.
  • Implement a workable complaint and grievance resolution system.
  • Adopt cross-cultural training programs.

Our qualified consultants at ESN offer valuable training and development programs that can help your organisation increase diversity, engagement, and retention. We offer an impressive range of corporate training courses that can help improve communication and acceptance of differences and encourage healthy conversation. ESN is well placed to assist your organisation to tailor customised strategies to promote workplace diversity and inclusion.

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