What is the state of play at your business for equality?

Organisations still struggling with creating equal opportunities are feeling the pressure to catch up…and fast! However, if equality, inclusion and diversity haven’t been on your organisations radar until now, probably time to start! However, I empathise as the question ‘where do I start’ can seem like a daunting one to time poor, busy owners and business leaders.  Hoever, the modern workplace must be an arena for equal opportunity and inclusion. If your organisation isn’t getting it right, its time to evaluate why, where and how? 

The modern business has its people and customers at the centre of everything.  Why? Because people who are valued, respected and enabled to do their best work create great products and service experiences for customers. Put it this way, not a lot of grumpy, dissatisfied employees are likely to create positive, memorable experiences for your customers.

So where are you at? Starting with understanding your current state of play is the way to go.  Read on for some my mini-playbook about where you can start the journey to an inclusive, equal workplace which will lead to long term value and prosperity.   

Equal Pay

Easy to say and obvious to some, but some say more difficult to tackle.  In Australia, men take home $26,527 (15.3%) a year more than women. Globally, there are still many companies that pay their male staff more than their female staff.  This remains an endemic problem and from a business leaders perspective, one that must be avoided. Undertaking a gender pay gap audit exercise is not only the right thing to do, it is also sensible risk management from a brand reputation management perspective. 

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The Hiring Process

The recruiting process is a key opportunity area for increasing the diversity of your workforce. The race for talent is on and your organisation will not access highly skilled, motivated talent from all walks of life without deliberate, purposeful action. Gender balanced recruitment panels are one step. Diversity of age, cultural background and experience are another. Diversity in recruitment teams and interview panels provides risk mitigation against bias and prevents  one type and style of person interviewing the candidates. It’s a simple, tactical change however even ensuring gender balanced interview panels can really make a difference to the long-term outcomes.

Everyday Prejudices

I was once asked how I managed to have no bias. My answer was that just because I am a gender diversity expert doesn’t mean I am free from biases and prejudices.  Humans are hardwired with bias (in all its forms; race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, politics or any other group affiliation) and research shows us that humans instinctively and innately judge anyone who is different from us as a threat. This is part evolutionary requirement (controlled by the amygdala) and part influenced by environmental factors (social and cultural experiences) since birth.

For leaders, it is essential to build awareness of bias so as to put mitigating strategies in place. Biases are the domain of all genders and bias does not make you a bad person, but left unchecked across your organisation, will prevent an inclusive and equal opportunity workplace.

Know the Law

Sounds fairly basic. However small to medium organisations, particularly those that have had rapid growth, may well have overlooked IR and equal opportunity legislation due to being under-resourced or focussed on growth and customer. If your organisation is employing people, you have a moral and legal responsibility to ensure that you are informed and taking appropriate action. Ignorance is not an acceptable response to those who have a mandate to ensure workplaces are safe, fair, equal and inclusive.

Every Job, all abilities, all access.

When I was Chair of the NAB Disability Committee, I learned many things about how to think differently and more expansively about who can do what job and how. All human have abilities and inclusive, equal opportunity employers ensure that they are deliberate about identifying opportunities to create safe, inclusive workplaces that enable people to do the work they love.  Occupational Health & Safety regulations are stringent in Australia, for good reason. As a leader and business owner, I want people to be in workplaces where they can be the best version of themselves, well, safe and ultimately, go home to their loved ones as safe and healthy as when they left them.  Expertise in OH&S is essential to an inclusive and equal organisation, so turning to organisations like Occupational Safety Solutions for advice can be an ideal solution.  

Having a physically accessible company is incredibly important to not only your employees but for your customers.  Creating disabled access facilities, is just the first, most obvious step. Think about your website, your contact centres, your written correspondence from the perspective of people who may be physically challenged.   Again, seeking expert guidance and advice is key to ensuring you have all bases covered and included!

Empower HR

Organisations that prosper are serious about getting the best guidance and advice from expert human resources people. Having your HR business partner at the leadership table and on the ‘shop floor’ means that your leaders are accessing the right advice and that your employees are seeing a genuine commitment to getting it right for people, diversity and inclusion. As a business leader its imperative to engage, include and empower your HR business partner to help your business flourish.

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Change is lead from the top

Business leaders and owners have the responsibility to set the right tone for what happens elsewhere in the company.  Remember the definition of culture is “the way we do things around here”.  Role modelling the right behaviours, rewarding and celebrating when you get it right, acknowledging and fixing when you don’t, are all the hallmarks of inclusive leadership.  They are also the key to creating a competitive advantage. 

For fear of stating the obvious, equality is not something that can be viewed as optional in the modern workplace.  Equality, diversity and inclusion should now be the cornerstone of your strategy to outperform and create long-term value and prosperity.  You’ll probably enjoy your business and workplace a fair bit more too!

For a confidential, no obligation discussion about your organisations approach to equality, inclusion and diversity, please drop me a line: michelle@michelleredfern.com 

Michelle Redfern Advancing Women Founder

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