Are your employees faking it?

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HR professionals may have seen many small victories when it comes to providing an inclusive workplace but it seems the battle isn’t quite over as a new study reveals the majority of employees still aren’t comfortable being themselves – and it could be causing serious damage.

A recent study revealed that 61 per cent of employees hide certain aspects of themselves while they’re around colleagues and the effort is impacting their personal engagement.

In fact, 50 per cent of employees who said they felt pressured to suppress certain aspects of their personalities indicated that it was affecting their sense of commitment to the company.

Many respondents asserted that if a similar job became available at a more open and diverse organization, they’d be quick to jump ship.

Kim Herrick is the senior consultant of diversity and inclusion at IAG – she says it makes business sense to create an environment where employees feel comfortable being their authentic selves.

“We’re doing quite a lot of work in that space in terms of people bringing their whole self to work rather than just bringing their work self,” she told HRM. “Everyone’s unique and that’s part of the value they bring to the job,” she added.

Herrick – who recently picked up HRINZ awards for the HR Specialist of the Year and HR Person of the Year – says companies can benefit from making employees feel more comfortable.

“It’s like anything in life, if you can be yourself you’re going to be happier, you’re more open to challenge, you’re more confident, you make braver decisions, you reach your potential,” she stressed.

“I think the challenge is that if you disguise part of your identity, it takes a lot of energy and effort and it can be taxing,” she added.

From race, age, gender or disability to religious beliefs, political persuasion or sexual orientation – the survey revealed a multitude of things that employees are sometimes afraid to fully reveal.

Herrick says companies can empower these employees by demonstrating support for certain groups.

“One of the things we offer is employee action groups, where environments are provided for open conversations on inclusiveness and understanding. Importantly the groups themselves are empowered to make a difference,” she revealed.
“We’ve got a Maori action group that’s helping our business mature its cultural understanding and looking to launch a LGBTIQ action group.”
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