Diversity: Undervalued, under-resourced and in decline

by Cameron Edmond31 Jul 2013

While diversity may have been touted as a focus by many organisations for many years, a collaborative research effort by Korn/Ferry International, Futurestep and Diversity Council Australia (DCA) uncovered 41% of organisations are still at the ‘foundation stage’ of their programs, with many not realising the full gamut of benefits diverse and inclusive workplaces reap.

Most senior level managers are only ‘somewhat involved’ or ‘not very involved’ in the diversity and inclusion strategies of their organisations, despite 81% of respondents feeling their involvement is critical to success.

“Many CEOs have not been exposed to what true workplace diversity looks like. Our research suggests they view it as recruitment and compliance process, [sic] rather than a strategy that helps to grow and engage talent and competitiveness required for business growth,” Jacqueline Gillespie, senior partner at Korn/Ferry International, said.

This lack of awareness has resulted in many diversity teams consisting of as little as two members, with 62% of diversity managers combining diversity with other responsibilities, such as talent and leadership development or HR.

While the results may show diversity initiatives are in decline, they also indicate that HR managers looking for a slight career move may consider moving into a diversity-oriented position. The results found 67% of diversity professionals come from an HR background, with 85% having university qualifications. Most (60%) who enter a diversity role do so with little to no experience in that field, with 40% of diversity professionals having less than three years’ experience.

Gillespie feels this lack of experience indicates diversity is not being viewed as the senior leadership responsibility it should be.

Nareen Young, CEO of DCA, stated that the findings explain – in part – why some areas of progress in diversity are so poor, citing the absence of disabled and Aboriginal Australians in workplaces as being indicative of the ineffectiveness of current strategies.

“We aren’t going to see a lot of improvement in these areas if organisations don’t value the diversity function, aren’t strategic about planning for it or don’t properly resource it,” Young said.

“I urge business leaders to take another look at their diversity function to ensure they have the skills, resources and strategic engagement they need to achieve change and harness the benefits of diversity,” she added.

Gillespie advised that organisations should focus on building strong leaders as part of their diversity initiatives in order to open up the possibility of more inclusive career programs and mentoring.

“It is vital that organisations also focus on building leadership capability around inclusion. One without the other does not change things,” she added.


  • by SDM 1/08/2013 9:43:23 AM

    I work for a publically listed business where we have ASX obligations around diversity. Before those obligations came into place, in truth we never really thought about it. The industry I work in is pretty fast paced & reactive so although people is high on our agenda, diversity itself was simply not thought of. So as we venture on our diversity journey what we have come across is a whole lot of nothing. It was weeks before the we could speak with anyone at the diversity council because our calls were always answered by a voicemail. When we finlaly spoke with someone they said they were really busy & weren't very helpful. What they want is a very large membership fee for not much in return. We have since googled our hearts out to try to find someone who can provide training & consultation on how we can build a diversity strategy & we have come up with very little. So without going on about it more, we are an organisation that believes in diversity but we just can't get REAL assistance & consequently I can see how what you say in your article comes to pass. If the ASX & Workplace Gender Equality Agency are going to have expectations & we want real cultural change, then someone might want to provide the tools to assist employers in getting there. My organisation is actually interested & even we're about to throw our hands up in the air!

  • by HLH 2/08/2013 12:30:19 AM

    I would like to specifically respond to SDM with my comment. I am saddened by your experience with the "diversity council", specifically because it is obvious that you are trying to identify good diversity resources so that your company may begin to do some diversity work.

    I agree that finding and validating helpful diversity resources can be next to impossible. Mainly because diversity itself is a workplace topic that very few people have experience successfully applying to drive business outcomes. Often times people that I talk to don't even know what questions to ask or what they are trying to achieve.

    I always say, start by taking steps to understand how diversity is actually impacting your organization right now. How do you do that? Look at the most crucial activities that take place at your organization, employee/customer interactions on the phone or in person? Business development efforts in new communities? Manager/employee interactions in factories? Whatever it is that your company needs to do well (now and in the future). Now look at who the people are at the heart of those interactions and how are those people being impacted by diversity? The impact can be evident by communication patterns, employee complaints, productivity or the lack there of. Once you understand how diversity is impacting your actual business operations you can start to craft business goals that address those impacts and figure out what interventions to put into place (proactive or reactive).

    I am in the US, and I am guessing that you are in Australia? But I am happy to exchange emails with you if you have any questions. Diversity in the workplace is my mission. hominyh@aol.com

Most Read