This week with the announcement of David Morrison as Australian of the Year 2016, there has been a lot of discussion in the media about cultural and sexual diversity. The concept being; by promoting these issues that it will result in ACTION by business to create a more diverse workforce. In other words, lead from the top, educate and drive the vision of equality, move from exclusion to inclusion.
But in business does this work? Firstly I believe diversity needs to be in the mind of the employees not necessarily based on their person physical status. Secondly it needs to be led from the top and in small business that means you. Thirdly it needs to be systemised, there needs to be a structure in place that ensures through policy and procedure that all elements of discrimination are minimised.
So as a small business how do you shape up? Are you talking the talk but not taking ACTION and what actions are you to take? It is a good idea to do some research, you can go to The Diversity Council Australia http://www.dca.org.au or the Australian Human Rights website and view the employers section https://www.humanrights.gov.au get a feel of what is required and how you can infuse the requirements into your business.
5 Actions to get started on the path to diversity.
1. Start by reviewing or creating your internal policies, particularly your recruitment policy and procedures. How many times have you heard a story of a women being asked if they have kids at an interview? it is totally off limits! I have friends now who remove their wedding ring prior to an interview to avoid these situations.
2. Ensure you know what the legislation and acts are, last year I developed diversity and inclusion training for Vision Australia to be distributed to all staff across Australia, it was surprising to learn the detailed obstacles those with sight loss or low vision have to overcome. Something as simple as the colours chosen or font used for your newsletter may be impossible for someone with certain vision impairment to read. You need to ensure everyone is included and remove these obstacles.
3. Review your training ensure you have trained all staff on diversity and worked to create a consciously aware team who actively practice inclusion. I have chosen these words carefully as unconscious bias abounds. A few years ago I went to a new starter induction session for an American company in the meet and greet section the first question I was asked was what degree did I study. I have never been asked this before and it seemed extremely odd (especially as it had been 20 years since I was at Uni! I then realised this company only employed university graduates, your value was to some extent determined by your chosen degree, those with vocational degrees such as engineering, law and accounting were treated with higher regard despite a degree not being relevant to the job.
4. Create regular discussion among your team about how included they feel within the group and if they have any concerns. Ensure you have a procedure for concerns to be raised in a formal manner so that employees feel reassured that the process is fair as well as creating documentation in the event it is taken to court.
5. Gain buy-in, get your team together to create some team rules and ensure the rules include observable behaviour that the team agree to work towards, ensure these are easily accessible on your intranet or on a wall poster as a reminder.
Good luck! it is not hard to be inclusive, it just takes conscious effort, consideration and a goal of being an outstanding employer!