Employers dragging the chain on diversity

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Workplace diversity is an ingrained concept for some New Zealand businesses, but not all employers are on board when it comes to formal policies.

The Equal Employment Opportunities Trust’s (EEO) New Zealand Diversity Survey, conducted with the Auckland Chamber of Commerce during the past three quarters, shows that businesses across the country are dealing with the same concerns, particularly around the aging workforce, flexibility and staff wellbeing.

However, two-thirds of organisations do not have policies or programmes in place to deal with such issues.

EEO chief executive Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie told HRM that many businesses had no policies when it came to areas of diversity like disability, the aging workforce, youth, wellness, flexibility, work-life balance, sexual orientation in the workplace, gender and ethnicity.

“Sometimes, a policy will force some behavioural changes. Attitude is one part of it, but behaviour is the thing they really want to be looking at.”

She said that as an example, a simple policy ensuring that the best male and female candidates were sent through to the final stages of job selection could help address gender issues within a company and create a pipeline of female talent.

Making sure there was a woman on the selection panel could also help avoid a situation where a group of “stale, pale males” simply chose candidates like themselves, she said.

“Diversity is about difference so we if can get more diversity around that table, we’re going to get more creativity, more innovation, we’re going to get higher productivity and higher performance. The research tells us that, best practice tells us that, everything is there to back it up.”

Cassidy-Mackenzie said that a lack of policies existed in across businesses of all sizes.

“We would have thought that it was mainly the small and medium-sized businesses, but it wasn’t. There was no particular size. A lot of the corporates that have access to and are part of global entities had access to policies. Have they implemented them? Not necessarily.

“One of the things that we are encouraging is not to have just one policy or not to promote based on one diversity platform, but diversity as a bigger umbrella. Gone are the days of it just being about gender and getting women on boards. It’s about bullying and harassment and you have to start talking about it. It’s about bias – everyone’s got it.”

The trust has created policy templates to help employers create their own and it provides other free resources. Click here for more information.

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