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Tips on how to make diversity a priority in the workplace

  • Written by Amie Lyone, Co-CEO, COS


Diversity is a hot topic in business right now, but not all businesses truly understand what this looks like nor are giving it the focus and priority it deserves. Diversity in the workplace is a broad term and can include everything from gender, religion, race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and education.

Empirical studies indicate that firms that embrace ethnic and gender diversity enjoy numerous benefits. These include better utilisation of organisational talent, increased marketplace understanding, as well as enhanced creativity and problem-solving capabilities within their teamsi Additionally, gender-diverse firms have been identified to be 15% more likely to outperform non-gender diverse firms.ii

The benefits are clear; however, businesses are still falling behind when it comes to diversity and often fail to take the adequate steps required to make a difference. Most importantly, companies must recognise that diversity and inclusion are not an option, but a necessity and they must assess how they stack up and identify areas that need greater focus if they want improvement in 2023 and beyond.

  1. Prioritise diversity

If you really want to make improvements to diversity in the workplace, you need to make it a priority. Review what your company values and consider including diversity as one of them. Make sure you communicate this with the leadership team and staff, so they understand the importance of diversity and inclusion in the company. It needs to start from the top down if it’s going to be effective.

  1. Conduct and internal audit

Before you can improve, it’s important to know where the business is currently positioned from a diversity perspective. Carry out a formal review of your company, everything from gender split, pay differences and cultural mix. According to WDEA, Australia's national gender pay gap is 14.1 per cent. At COS, 56% of our 60 leaders are female. As Co-CEO with my sister, it’s important for us to have a strong representation of females at the leadership table and it should be for all businesses. Aside from Australia, our employees come from more than 51 different parts of the world and speak over 60 different languages.

  1. Get clear on your goals

Once you have conducted your audit, it’s time to set goals. Get clear on what you want to improve first. For example, reducing the gender split by 10% in 2023. Or increase the cultural mix by 15%. Once you know your goals you can then take the steps to make them happen. Make sure your goals have clear timings against them as you are more likely to reach them. You can also make leaders accountable, by giving teams and departments individual goals. This can be included in the review process.

  1. Improve your hiring process

To make improvements on diversity in your business, you need to make sure you are implementing this at the hiring level. Broadening your scope will help to open up the candidate pool with more choice. It’s also important that there is a diverse panel of interviewers to make better and more diverse hiring decisions. LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends report found that diversity is a key trend that has impacted the way organisations hire their people. According to the report’s findings, 78% of companies prioritise diversity to improve culture, and 62% of companies prioritise it to boost financial performance.

  1. Educate and engage your teams

For all staff to feel included and supported, there needs to be an ongoing training and education program and a continuous internal conversation. In our company, we respect the unique needs, individuality, points of view, and potential of all team members. We want everyone who joins our team to feel equally involved and supported in all areas of the workplace, regardless of your age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or cultural identity. One way to build awareness and foster inclusivity is to be aware of and acknowledge a variety of upcoming religious and cultural holidays. Use your company’s internal communication system to educate employees and be respectful of these days when scheduling meetings.

Making changes can always seem overwhelming, but first get clear on where your company is at before you focus and improve one area at a time. This will help put your business on the right path with diversity in 2023.

COS is an Australian-owned private company offering products and solutions for the workplace. With a 45 year heritage, the company is celebrating a year since Co-CEOs and sisters Belinda and Amie Lyone have successfully taken over the COS reigns from their father, Dominique Lyone. To find out more about COS visit https://www.cos.net.au/

i (Salter et al. 2008; Hoogendoorn et al., 2013; Ozgena & de Graaff, 2013; Diaz-Garcia & Gonzalez-Moreno, 2013).

ii Mckinsey & Company (2015)

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