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Diversity lags behind as business ignores benefits Featured
19 August 2013 Posted by 

Diversity lags behind as business ignores benefits

A NEW survey reveals many organisations are still at the foundation stage of their diversity programs and have a declining focus on diversity strategy.

The survey findings also suggest corporations don’t fully realise the business benefits of inclusive workplaces.

Korn/Ferry International, Futurestep and Diversity Council Australia (DCA) surveyed more than 100 diversity managers and human resources leaders in Australia and New Zealand to learn the profile of diversity functions within organisations and the professionals leading and implementing diversity strategy.

The results revealed a lack of strategic engagement, with 81 per cent of respondents believing senior leadership is critical to the success of a diversity and inclusion strategy.

However, most senior level managers were only “somewhat involved” or “not very involved”. Given the history of workplace diversity, surprisingly 41 per cent of businesses indicated they were at the building foundation stage of their diversity program.

A lack of commitment to full-time, experienced diversity leaders was evident, with 60 per cent of respondents having limited or no background in diversity.

Jacqueline Gillespie, senior partner, Korn/Ferry, said CEOs must properly commit to a workplace model that embeds diversity and inclusion in every level of an organisation.

“Many CEOs have not been exposed to what true workplace diversity looks like. Our research suggests they view it as recruitment and compliance process, rather than a strategy that helps to grow and engage talent and competitiveness required for business growth,” she said.

Gillespie cited diversity managers’ limited experience in the field as evidence that diversity is not considered the responsibility of senior leadership.

Sixty per cent of survey respondents have none or limited experience within a similar role before taking on their current responsibilities for diversity, and 40 per cent of diversity professionals have less than three years’ experience.

The CEO of Diversity Council Australia, Nareen Young, said the survey findings are one explanation of why progress in some areas of diversity has been poor, despite legislation.

“Minimal increases in women in leadership positions, persistent barriers to more flexible working and the notable absence of people with a disability and Aboriginal Australians in our workplaces show current organisational approaches are not working,” she said.

“We aren’t going to see a lot of improvement in these areas if organisations don’t value the diversity function, aren’t strategic about planning for it or don’t properly resource it.”

Responsibility for diversity and inclusion is almost exclusively the domain of the human resources function (82 percent) with small pockets following an alternative model. Eight per cent of respondents have a stand-alone team reporting directly to the CEO or senior leadership, three per cent of respondents sit within the strategy team, two per cent in corporate communications or sustainability and five per cent elsewhere in the organisation.

Korn/Ferry believes the structural ‘home’ of diversity doesn’t really matter as long the discipline has a voice at the strategy table.

Results at a glance:

• 66 per cent of organisations had a designated manager with diversity and inclusion responsibilities.

• 62 per cent of diversity managers combine diversity with other responsibilities, usually talent and leadership development and human resources.

• Most (54 per cent) report to either the head of HR or head of Talent and Culture, while 14 per cent report to the CEO.

• 62 per cent of diversity teams have two or less members. • 70 per cent of respondents with diversity responsibilities are female.

• 85 per cent of diversity professionals are degree or higher qualified.

• 67 per cent have career experience in human resources.

• 60 per cent of respondents have none or limited experience in diversity before their current role.

• 20 per cent of respondents have 10+ years in a diversity-related discipline and 40 percent have less than three years’ experience. Men were 10 per cent more likely to have the greatest tenure working in diversity than women.

• 44 percent of respondents had diversity added to their existing responsibilities, 24 per cent were internally hired and 32 per cent were externally hired.

• Half of organisations are only at the compliance (eight perc ent) or foundation (41 per cent) stages of their diversity strategies.

• Gender and women in leadership not the top priority for diversity and inclusion strategies as they have been in the past.

• Flexibility is the biggest issue for business.

Nicole Baines

Nicole Baines runs All My Admin, a business that provides support services to Western Sydney Business Access (WSBA) for its online activities. Call (02) 9894 8682 for assistance.



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