The three biggest diversity issues for employers

The biannual New Zealand Diversity Survey has revealed employers’ biggest anxieties when it comes to encouraging diversity within their workforce.

The three biggest diversity issues for employers
Researchers from AUT University recently released their April 2015 New Zealand Diversity Survey, which had 762 individual responses from employers.

The study was conducted in collaboration with the Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) Trust, New Zealand Chambers of Commerce and New Zealand Work Research Institute.

The majority of the respondents were from organisations with fewer than 200 employees, and those organisations were distributed across various industries.

New Zealand workplaces’ top diversity issues

The report found that the three biggest issues employers feel they are facing in relation to workplace diversity are wellbeing, flexibility and ageing. Other diversity issues organisations were struggling with included bias, ethnicity, gender and religion.

“While technology’s increased prevalence in the workplace has given employees more freedom to work regardless of location, it has also made it difficult to for employees to ‘take a break’ and ‘turn-off’,” EEO Trust chief executive Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie said. “Home-life responsibilities such as caring for children or parents have taken their toll on the working population and have made stress, burnout and work life balance a real challenge for organisations.”

Since the November 2014 report, the issues which have seen the biggest differences are ethnicity (4.3% decrease), flexibility (2.8% decrease), wellbeing and wellness (2.3% increase).

Interestingly, the weight of the issues’ importance varied depending on the size of the respondent’s organisation.

For small organisations (with 0 to 19 employees), bias, ethnicity and bullying and harassment were the most important issues after wellbeing, flexibility and ageing. Medium organisations (those with workforces of 20 to 199 people) said that bias, bullying and harassment and gender were the next most important, while large organisations (with 200 or more workers) said that ethnicity, bullying and harassment and then gender were the most important diversity issues.

Policies and programs

Although respondents were able to identify these issues, many of them were falling behind when it came to putting diversity policies into place.

Just 32% had a formal policy in place when it came to managing the biggest issue, with 36% saying they had a wellbeing program or incentive in place. Thirty-two per cent had nothing in place to manage employee wellbeing.

Only a quarter of organisations had a formal policy in place to offer flexibility to staff, with 35% saying they had no form of flexibility program in place.

The most common program that participants had implemented was related to bullying and harassment: over half had a formal policy in place, while 18% had an informal program in place. However, 27% of New Zealanders are still working in an environment with no established method of protection from bullying and harassment.

Cassidy-Mackenzie added that it is important for employers to acknowledge their employees’ wellbeing.

“Accepting the whole person in the workplace and taking into account your employees’ health and wellness is no longer an altruistic act but a necessary part of your business plan,” she advised.

Alternative methods of addressing diversity

Participants in the survey outlined their alternative methods to formal ways of addressing diversity issues:
  • Top management commitment to and involvement in diversity issues (49.4%)
  • Consideration of diversity in relevant HR policies (48.4%)
  • Diversity strategy or plan (23.4%)
  • Communication and promotion of diversity to internal stakeholders (23.1%)
  • Diversity support networks (18.5%)
How is diversity measured in NZ organisations?

The most common ways of measuring diversity were also revealed in the report. Half of employers said they used metrics or surveys, while a further one in four used reporting as a method of measurement. Twenty per cent used measuring against targets, while just over 10% said they measured diversity in their annual report.


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