If you haven’t benchmarked yet, you could be in for "a bit of a shock"
HR teams are facing many challenges in 2023 – and with a range of new legislation set to take effect soon, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is on the top of the list.
The business and ethical case for DEI is now well known. However, the Australian HR Institute says there is still a “clear gap” between employer awareness, intent and action. Its 2023 report found that while 84% of HR professionals see DEI as critical to their future success, 49% said their organisation was not placing enough focus on DEI.
According to Valeria Ignatieva, co-CEO and founder of WORK180, one of the biggest hurdles organisations face is a lack of leadership buy-in. She notes that the issue of gender inequality is often placed on the doorstep of talent acquisition – but tackling this issue requires so much more than simply looking at new talent.
“Organisations cannot hire their way to a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace, and it's certainly not something that can be achieved by one team alone. For example, companies need to provide the right benefits and policies (in the right way) to attract, nurture, and retain women and marginalised communities — and this often goes beyond the power or influence of the Talent Acquisition team.” Ignatieva told HRD.
Valeria Ignatieva, CEO of Work180
“It’s very hard to get anything done without leadership buy-in. You also need to get the right people into the right roles – appointing heads of people and culture, for example, where leaders can really influence changes across the whole organisation.”
How DEI data is changing the game
From Microsoft and BHP to Canva and Aesop, employers across Australia, the UK, and the US are working with WORK180 to hone, track, and prove their DEI efforts — with measurable impact. Beyond its trusted workplace endorsement, WORK180 supports and empowers teams with expert tools and a process proven to increase gender diversity within just 12 months.
The first stage is a DEI assessment, and Ignatieva notes that it can be “a bit of a shock” for companies to receive their initial score. One example is their work with property management company BGIS, which initially benchmarked in the bottom 17% of employers for DEI. However, by working through a custom action plan and tackling different initiatives on a regular basis, BGIS now sits in the top 15%.
“We see this often with our customers,” Ignatieva explains.
“It’s not that they’re not doing well, it’s more that they don’t know what ‘good’ looks like in the first place. When they look at how they compare to benchmarks, it can be quite an eye-opener.”
“What BGIS decided to do was implement initiatives that might not cost a lot of money, but will make a big difference. Once you’ve built up some momentum, you can then tackle the larger pieces of work. They were pleased when they realised that all these regular, smaller activities had resulted in such a huge increase in their score.”
Another WORK180 Endorsed Employer is Accenture, which decided to approach DEI goals as seriously as its revenue targets. This made a big difference, and the business is now seeing a significant increase in applications from women in tech.
According to Ignatieva, having the right policies in place at work can help tackle DEI issues on a wider level. This includes concepts like gender roles, which are often being reinforced rather than challenged by policies around flexible working and parental leave.
“Reinforcing those stereotypes by having women be the ones looking after the kids, working flexibly, etc. – that’s not very conducive to addressing the inequality problem,” Ignatieva says.
“When you challenge those stereotypes by inviting men to work flexibly and part time, and allowing them to have an equal role in childcare – that’s really going to make a difference beyond the workplace.”
WORK180 Endorsed Employer Transgrid has tackled this issue head-on, and is reinventing the way men are encouraged to take primary carers’ leave. Today, men make up 62% of those taking primary care parental leave and 30% of employees working part-time. This has challenged the narrative around childcare being ‘for women’ – something Ignatieva says needs to be part of a wider cultural shift.
Preparing for new legislation
HR teams have a range of legislative changes to prepare over the coming 12 months. One of these is the Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Act 2022, which will take effect in November 2023.
Ignatieva notes that from what she has seen, employers are taking preparation seriously. Of WORK180’s Endorsed Employers, 89% have a formalised policy in place for managing workplace bullying.
A further 90% have a formalised policy for preventing and responding to sexual harassment in the workplace, and 83% have a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment in the workplace. 56% formally escalate claims to the leadership level, and 78% have a formalised policy for managing racism in the workplace.
“My recommendation for employers is to assess where you’re doing well, celebrate these achievements, and then focus on where the gaps are,” Ignatieva says.
“Our assessment tool is something a lot of organisations are using in preparation for this legislation change. You can access your customised action plan once you receive your score, and we provide recommendations according to where you are.”
Could your workplace be eligible for WORK180's endorsement and support? Find out in a few minutes by taking WORK180’s short endorsement check on the WORK180 website.