Is discrimination holding your employees back?

New research shows that perceptions of unfair barriers to career progression persist in New Zealand workplaces

Is discrimination holding your employees back?

Most organisations would be quick to refute any suggestion that their employees’ progression is limited due to gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disability or socio-economic background, according to Adam Shapley, managing director of Hays in New Zealand.

“However, they should be aware that these perceptions do exist amongst the wider employee population,” added Shapley.

“Employees should feel confident to express this sentiment, and there should be a process in place for any feedback to be responded to and acted upon where appropriate.”

Shapley’s comments come as new research from Hays found that 63% of New Zealand professionals feel that their chances for career progression have been limited at one or more points during their career because of their sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, gender or a disability.

This figure was higher for respondents living with a disclosed disability (83%), women (77%) and people who identify as LGBTIQ+ (67%).

The recruiter surveyed over 1,000 working professionals across New Zealand and Australia as part of its 2018-19 Diversity & Inclusion Report to identify key diversity and inclusion considerations.

The research found that half (51%) of all survey respondents said career development conversations with their line manager are open and transparent. However, this figure drops to 48% of women (compared to 55% of men), 47% of mature-age people and 37% of people living with a disclosed disability.

Additionally, 40% of all survey respondents believe they are more likely to be promoted if they have a similar socio-economic background to the organisation’s management.

Moreover, half of the survey respondents said their leaders have a bias towards those who look, think or act like them. People living with a disclosed disability are the most likely to believe this bias exists (66%).

Furthermore, 56% of all respondents said there had been an occasion where they felt that their chance of being accepted for a job was lowered because of their sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, gender or disability.

This figure was even higher among respondents living with a disclosed disability (83%) and those who identify as LGBTIQ+ (65%).

As for other strategies that can help to facilitate the even handed career progression of traditionally underrepresented groups, Shapley suggests several:

“It starts with sourcing talent from the widest possible pool, acting to mitigate bias throughout the talent selection process by involving a range of diverse stakeholders when reviewing and selecting CVs, and includes diversifying your interview panel,” said Shapley.

He added that data should be used to enhance career development programs.

For example, demographic diversity data (baseline workforce demographics across factors such as age, disability, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation) can highlight if there is an issue with the promotion of employees from traditionally underrepresented groups.

Shapley added that organisations should also clearly communicate their commitment to offering career progression opportunities to all, and have clearly defined progression pathways and transparent objectives.

“This ensures all staff are aware that their personal career progression is tied to specific aspects of their performance, which will only be assessed on merit,” said Shapley.

“Training at managerial level is important too and should prioritise bias mitigation.”

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