Diversity in the workplace isn’t a radical idea by any means, but it’s one that’s never been more vital or timely for businesses to take on board.

It’s imperative businesses put in the work to achieve diversity, not least because there are numerous benefits to be gained for both employers and employees working in a diverse and inclusive professional environment. We’ll explore what diversity is, why it matters and how you can gain the skills a leader needs to encourage it.

What is diversity?

Diversity in the workplace is the practice of including people with similarities and differences in age, gender, disability, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and more. Diversity doesn’t only refer to someone’s personal status but also to areas like lifestyle, values, working style and their role at work.

In Australia, all people have the right to employment opportunities and equal treatment at work. However, the reality is a little different and there is room for improvement.

The hiring processes and workplace cultures within many organisations mean modern workplaces are not as diverse as they should be.

It’s not just diversity that employers should be concerned with but inclusion as well. The push towards D&I, or diversity and inclusion, is needed to ensure everyone feels incorporated in a business.

All employees should have a chance to work and thrive as equals. This means feeling valued, respected, empowered and included in organisational culture and leadership opportunities.

How diverse are today’s workplaces?

The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Transforming enterprises through diversity and inclusion 2022 report highlighted a need for greater diversity in workplaces globally. The organisation interviewed staff, managers and senior executives of various backgrounds and industries to compile a comprehensive report.

These were just a few of their most telling findings on the current state of D&I in the workplace:

  • Half of the respondents said there were no identifiable D&I actions in their workplaces.
  • Only 12 per cent stated that people from minority backgrounds held senior positions and none of them were people with disabilities.
  • 92 per cent of respondents in senior positions reported feeling included at work compared to just 76 per cent of respondents at the staff level.

Common challenges to workplace diversity

One of the biggest hurdles in achieving a diverse and inclusive workplace is an organisation that’s unwilling to change. This can occur because of outdated beliefs, a lack of information or those in senior and executive positions who don’t consider diversity in their workforce to be significant.

According to the ILO’s 2022 report, only a third of respondents said that their workplaces measured diversity and inclusion actions, highlighting a major issue. Without this type of ongoing assessment and the inability to identify future goals, there’s no authentic way for a business to move forward.

The impact of the Covid pandemic on businesses also halted some of the progress toward D&I. As the world came to terms with the effects of the pandemic, efforts in diversity and inclusion took a back seat. However, as businesses try to rebuild better than before, now is the perfect time to make D&I a priority.

5 benefits of embracing a diverse workforce

Having a diverse workplace isn’t just beneficial for the employees. Employee diversity has benefits for the business, its clients and consumers as well. Here are just a handful of the benefits that diversity in the workplace can achieve, with many more to be enjoyed.

  • According to the ILO, businesses that promote diversity do better at attracting and retaining employees and reducing absences from illness and staff turnover.
  • A McKinsey and Company report revealed that companies with diverse staff are 35% more likely to have greater financial returns.
  • One of the key benefits of diversity to clients is working with an organisation that can meet the needs of its customer base, no matter how diverse or niche.
  • According to a report in Harvard Business Review, companies with diversity in decision-making will have a 70% likelihood of capturing new markets compared to teams with little or no diversity.
  • A diverse workforce will bring new ideas and talents to the table, giving your business a boost of creativity and capacity.

How leaders can make a change

To enjoy these benefits, a business and its leaders must be willing to put in the effort toward change. Most importantly, upskilling with an MBA that teaches you traditional business practices and new ones — including the importance of hiring and supporting a diverse workforce or creating a new company vision — is critical.

The best place to start in the workplace is by speaking to your staff to hear their thoughts and feelings on diversity and inclusion. From there, you’ll want to design a company vision incorporating D&I in its values and integrate this into your company’s policies and procedures.

Fostering a diverse leadership team is also essential. According to the ILO, mid-level and senior-level employees are among the least diverse in workplaces worldwide. When other minority employees see diverse leaders, they’re more likely to strive for career progression and promotion.

These changes won’t happen overnight, however. You should have short-term and long-term goals that enable your business to meet this vision, which should be measurable and actionable.

Positive examples of D&I leadership

These businesses are implementing diversity in corporate culture in real-time and embodying the future of work. Here are just a couple of global companies with examples of good leaders who have implemented solid D&I values:

  • Tech giant Apple releases an annual public D&I report, fostering open communication with staff, consumers and shareholders. Most notably, CEO Tim Cook has ensured his executive team includes more women and employees from underrepresented groups.
  • The Sub-Saharan strategy director of multinational snack food company Mondelez International Inc. has spoken out about the importance of not just representation with diversity but true inclusion. Their business has a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion division, with commitments including spending with minority-owned businesses, delivering annual DE&I objectives and investing in an early careers program for staff.

Leading a diverse workplace

Promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace is imperative for the employees and the business’s performance. Leaders who embrace D&I actions will experience these benefits, but it sometimes takes a shift in thinking towards a more modern approach.

If you want the tools that will enable you to be a modern leader and advance your career, enrolling in an online MBA is the best place to start.

Speak to one of our Student Advisors to help you find the best study path and become the change you want to see in the workplace.

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