Far from inclusive: Australia facing a growth crossroads

by Cameron Edmond08 Aug 2013

With the roll-out of the NBN continuing, Australia is reaching a point where it can successfully compete globally, if not having already reached that point. However, fear of change and innovation is holding Australia back, one business growth strategist says.

“Australia has a decision to make,” Pamela Young, author of Stepping Up, said. “Resist change and face the consequences, or evolve its thinking and take the next steps towards prosperity and a better future.”

Young, a returned expat, believes that Australian organisations need to foster a closer relationship with Asian businesses, through both employment and growth opportunities of current and potential Asian candidates.

To achieve this, Young suggests that organisations improve diversity on all fronts, allowing those of all cultures to impact and participate in the future of Australian business.

“We may look like a multicultural society on the outside, but we are a long way from operating like an inclusive society on the inside,” Young said. “The exclusive behaviours cost Australia in productivity and GDP, limit innovation and growth and affect our global position and reputation.”

The need to equip Australian businesses with the skills and knowledge required to enter the Asian markets is known to the Australian government. Richard Marles, trade minister, announced last month a government-funded National Centre for Asian Capability.

The centre will align individuals with the skills, abilities and attributes necessary to expand understanding of Asia, establishing new links to help Australian organisations flourish during what is being referred to as the ‘Asian Century’, The Australian reported.


Key HR take-aways

A number of major issues prevent people from becoming fully productive and reaching their full potential. Young has assembled a number of issues HR managers can work towards identifying:

  • The ‘Force Field’. This is the barrier which prevents skilled immigrants, females, young workers, racial minorities and returning expats from accessing privileged positions.
  •  ‘Old Boys Network’ and ‘Queen Bee’ phenomena. These hangovers of previous workplace cultures can generate stagnation, blocking progress and innovation.
  • The ‘Bamboo Ceiling’. Similar to its (still prevalent) cousin, the Glass Ceiling, this prevents those of Asian heritage from becoming fully integrated and rising to the C-suite.
  • The lack of acceptance of overseas experience and qualifications. Not recognising these qualifications pushes skilled migrants and returning expats into lower skilled and lower paid work, despite their squandering their potential.
  • The ‘Fear of Asia’. An inverse of the Bamboo Ceiling, this prevents organisations from conducting business in Asian markets and with potential Asian colleagues, clients and associates. This is compounded by a lack of understanding of Asian cultures.


  • by Nigel Collin 9/08/2013 8:09:26 AM

    Agree. We're still thinking the way we did decades ago. When we need an idea we tend to turn on the ideas switch and hope the innovation machine works. No no no. We need to think ingeniously. We need to look beyond adequate obvious ideas and challenges ourselves and our people to push the boundaries in their thinking.
    To help them overcome fear we need to give people permission to think ingeniously so they feel safe to place an idea on the table without fear of ridicule of failure. In all the workshops and training we do fear consistently comes up as a major block to finding viable ideas.

  • by Banya Barua 12/08/2013 9:23:20 AM

    Pamela Young has brought forward a number of valid points. Agree with Nigel Collin. We need to genuinely and honestly integrate without pointing a finger on culture fit as an acceptable excuse to disengage.

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