Boosting cultural diversity in the workplace

Despite diversity’s significant benefits to business, Australian workplaces are not seeing that trend translate into leadership roles. 

“Diversity leads to improved decision making and improved attraction and retention of staff,” Multicultural Australia Chief Executive Officer Christine Castley said during a virtual briefing last week, hosted by Governance Institute of Australia, on governing cultural diversity in the workplace. 

“If the leadership of our workforce doesn’t reflect the diversity of our community, then we are failing to capitalise on the strength that comes from diversity and inclusion.” 

Multicultural Australia’s workforce of 200 staff come from 65 different cultural backgrounds and speak 83 languages, which brings a unique energy and vibrancy to the workplace.  

However, Ms Castley said the organisation still experienced challenges in building on that workforce diversity, requiring a strategy to deliberately increase leadership diversity and inclusivity. 

“It starts with having very close connections with your recruitment agencies and networks and being very deliberate in your commitment and actions in how you go about your recruitment and messaging,” she said. 

“You need to ensure there is diversity in interview panels and being very conscious about the bias of systemic issues that might exist in the recruitment process.” 

The organisation promotes diversity and inclusion by celebrating all cultures and religious celebrations, giving staff the chance to share their cultural stories, creating prayer rooms, and establishing diversity working groups.  

Creating a safe and supportive workplace 

Foreign-owned equipment parts business Hastings Deering employees 3500 staff across four countries and introduced its Together as One initiative in 2018. 

The company’s Executive Manager for Employee Experience, Suzannah D’Juliet said a lot of progress had been made for creating an inclusive and diverse workplace culture but there was still room for improvement. 

Having partnered with Multicultural Australia and Reconciliation Australia, Hastings Deering now recognises significant cultural holidays on the company calendar, diversified its recruitment process and encourages staff to bring ideas and solutions to management. 

“We prioritise their voices. We don’t speak for them. We consult and we listen. We ask what it’s like to work in a second or third language and we learn about the ways in which we can make a difference in their lives,” Ms D’Juliet said. 

“We share and partner whenever we can. We report to our board, customers and community on our diversity statistics. We’re honest about where we are and the challenges that we still have.” 

Introducing cultural nuances to the workplace 

Australian Indigenous Governance Institute Chief Operating Officer Ivan Ingram highlighted the challenges workplaces faced around cultural considerations when creating governance frameworks. 

He said culture should be used as an effective tool for enhancing interactions, allowing people to learn from one another. 

Mr Ingram’s key takeaways for boosting diversity in the workplace:

  • Creating space for diverse voices 
  • Identifying and removing barriers that prohibit full participation in the workplace  
  • Executing policies and procedures to achieve buy in from the community and workforce  
  • Allowing effective communication and equal participation from those who you wish to elevate 
  • Ensuring visibility in the workplace through day-to-day implementation 
  • Providing support for all staff, including management, to help educate and understand cultural nuances for better engagement. 

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