Diversity no longer just ‘nice to have’

by Elizabeth Barnard05 Jul 2012

Ensuring a work-life balance and seeking diverse talent is no longer exclusively the domain of HR – for the most forward-thinking and successful organisations, the issue is nothing short of a critical business imperative firmly on the boardroom agenda.

At a forum of HR, workplace relations and business executives hosted in Canberra this week by the Diversity Council of Australia (DCA), Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten told a packed room that smart employers are leveraging diversity for increased productivity.

“Smart employers know that attracting and retaining talent from all sections of the community including people with a disability, Indigenous Australians, mature-age workers and people from non-English speaking backgrounds, as well as offering family-friendly working arrangements, will enable them to reap the benefits of higher staff engagement and lower turnover,” Shorten said. He added that these key hiring decisions must be driven by innovative leaders at all levels of organisations.

The right to request flexible working in the Fair Work Act and clauses for EBAs to assist employers who wish to offer flexible working arrangements are examples of how diversity and workplace relations concerns can intersect to benefit employers and employees alike, Nareen Young from DCA also commented.

Shorten commended Australian employers who recognised the benefits of employing a diverse workforce and urged those lagging to embrace diversity in their organisational culture. “As the economy continues to change so too does the identity of the workforce and yet we know that prejudices exist in Australia. Ultimately, there is a clear business case for employing a diverse workforce and if we want our economy and businesses to continue to grow, we have to maximise the potential of those who are willing and able to work,” he said.

The way in which the current workplace laws aid diversity outcomes was also discussed, and the positive practical impacts the Fair Work Act has had on workplace flexibility was noted.“[Employers] understand that flexibility will continue to be an important issue for employees and therefore key for them in relation to employee attraction, engagement and retention,” Dianne Banks, from law firm Gilbert + Tobin said.


  • by Shane Higgins 5/07/2012 3:15:58 PM

    A diverse workforce is a healthy workforce and smart, forward thinking employers worked this out some time ago. In the meantime we have companies saying we can't find workers, largely due to the fact that they are still looking where they have always looked, still doing what they have always done to recruit and retain workers. They haven't yet worked out that those times are gone. At www.olderworkers.com.au we have over 18,000 registered jobseekers over the age of 45 looking for work. They have a huge range of skills and attributes that make them good employees including life skills, mentoring, problem solving and even basics like reliability. Companies that aren't including older workers, indigenous, disabled and culturally and linguistically diverse people in the mix of applicants are not giving themselves the opportunity to find the best employee.

    There is no doubt that flexibility will impact enormously on an organisation's ability to find workers. Companies that don't offer appropriate flexibility in the challenging environment of skill and labour shortages will always struggle to find good workers.

  • by Malcolm King 5/07/2012 6:05:01 PM

    Shane is 100 per cent right. Diversity is important but flexibility for older workers to drive corporate and national productivity will be mandatory.

    Currently there are no allowances in the Fair Work Act to allow older workers to work in mixed modes. That will change. The time will also come when the EBAs change to recognise the wants and needs of the transitioning boomer demographic.

  • by Richard Greiner 6/07/2012 2:58:05 PM

    I'm sure sex and gender diverse people were an accidental oversight or were intended to be included under the culturally diverse.

    Diversity is the key to long term survival and growth in just about anything. Monoculture is like putting all one's eggs in one basket, is high risk in the short term and is certain to fail in the long term.

    I once managed a military intelligence cell with not only cultural, age, sex and gender diversity but also psychosocial diversity, i.e. bipolar workers, sufferers of depression, workers with family tragedies, workers with stress and anger difficulties and so on. We bonded so well as a team, produced fantastic work and had sometimes an 'electric' vibe going in the workplace.

    The keys are tolerance, engagement, inclusiveness and preventing dogmatism amongst workers.

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