The study – ‘Building Inclusion: An Evidence-Based Model of Inclusive Leadership’ – found that managers are lacking in inclusive leadership capabilities, which are vital for harnessing the benefits of diversity.
Participants in the study rated the current level of inclusive leadership capability of senior leaders in their organisation as ‘low’; the average score was 5.8 (on a scale of one to ten), with 17% of respondents rating their leaders below five.
Previous research by DCA has shown that just 11% of Australian workers strongly agree that their manager actively seeks out information and new ideas from all employees to guide their decision making – this is defined by DCA as a key capability of inclusive leaders.
It was also found that Australians from culturally diverse backgrounds are up to three times less likely to experience their working environment as inclusive.
The ‘five mindsets’
Lisa Annese, DCA’s chief executive, told HC
that there were five capabilities necessary for a leader to effectively create an inclusive working environment.
According to DCA, Australian leaders and organisations can build their capabilities by adopting the ‘five mindsets’ of an inclusive leader:
1. Identity aware
This can be improved upon by teaching leaders that diversity can significantly improve organisational performance, encouraging them to learn about their own and others’ identities in regards to aspects such as age and gender.
These leaders create teams and networks in which a diverse range of people feel they belong, and are valued and respected.
3. Open and curious
This capability is about leaders being curious about, and open to, new and different perspectives from a diversity of people.
4. Flexible and agile
Flexibility about, and being responsive to, a diversity of people and perspectives is vital.
Growth-focused leaders challenge accepted practices, and incorporate new and different perspectives into how business is conducted.
“We encourage organisations to integrate these inclusive leadership capabilities into their existing leadership frameworks,” Annese told HC
“We recommend they also use the model to identify the next generation of leaders and refine their learning and development
activities to build their inclusive leadership capability.”
What are Australian employers doing?
“Inclusive leadership is increasingly recognised as key to creating environments that not only harness diversity, but lead to a true sense of belonging and community,” said Mark Steinert, CEO at Stockland.
He explained that this is “at the heart of Stockland’s purpose” – the company lives by its value of ‘We believe there is a better way to live’.
“We strive to achieve this purpose every day through the creation of sustainable, inclusive communities,” Steinert explained.
“Success in delivery of our purpose depends on our ability to create that same sense of belonging and inclusion within our workforce.
“This starts with inclusive leadership. Unlike broader leadership that has been documented and debated for years, exactly what inclusive leadership is, and practically what leaders need to do and say to create inclusive cultures, is not always clear.
“Solving this challenge presents an incredible opportunity for Australian workplaces.”
Susie Babani, chief HR manager at ANZ, said that having a diverse and inclusive workforce is critical to ANZ’s success as a super-regional bank.
“To build the best connected, most respected bank in our region, we must attract a talented workforce which reflects the markets within which we operate,” she said.
“If we are to truly understand, respond and deliver services to our global customer base, we must be able to harness the variety of experience, backgrounds and perspectives such diversity brings.
“To unlock the value of this diversity, our leaders need to have an inclusive leadership style which seeks to respect and value every voice, and thereby drive innovation and creativity, and give all employees a sense of belonging.”
“Understanding and drawing on the diversity of our people is at the heart of meeting the needs of our customers, building strong relationships across the communities we serve and engaging the many talents of the Programmed team,” explained Chris Sutherland, managing director at Programmed.
He added that leadership is the key to achieving an inclusive culture.
“The ability to engage our people to connect with our vision for our future and to navigate the evolving business landscape is crucial for our ongoing success and continued growth,” he said.
According to Paul O’Sullivan, chairman at Optus, diversity is “simply good business”.
“It’s a key ingredient in the creativity and innovation that makes Optus a successful “Challenger” brand,” he said.
“But we also know we only derive real value from diversity when we make the effort to be inclusive.
“We need to ensure we involve all of our people to shape our strategy, our organisation, and our values.”
New research conducted by Diversity Council Australia (DCA) has found that there is still a way to go for Australian employers when it comes to inclusion in the workplace.