Nora Fraser has an analogy to help organisations understand the distinction between a diverse workplace and an inclusive workplace.
“I’m invited to the party – that’s diversity,” she begins. “Next, I’m invited to dance at the party – that’s inclusion. Then, I’m also allowed to dance any way I like – that’s belonging.”
Nora is the Founder and Managing Director of Multicultural Professional Network, a community-driven organisation that connects and empowers professionals from all walks of life. She recently shared her tips for creating an inclusive culture with local business owners and leaders at Brisbane Business Hub.
“I have had the privilege of working with professionals from diverse backgrounds and I have seen firsthand the benefits that diversity and inclusion bring to organisations,” she says.
“Diversity brings a wide range of perspectives and ideas to the table, which leads to innovation and better decision-making. Inclusion ensures that everyone feels valued and heard, which leads to increased engagement and productivity.
“However, despite these benefits, many organisations still struggle to create truly inclusive and equitable workplaces.”
An organisation that fosters a culture of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, Nora says, is one that ensures diverse talent stays within that organisation.
“Creating a more inclusive and equitable workplace is not just the responsibility of one person, it is the responsibility of all of us,” she says. “We must all be active in creating a culture of respect and understanding, and we must all be willing to challenge our own biases and assumptions.”
Nora says that while more and more businesses are taking the first steps towards creating inclusive workplaces, they often aren’t aware of what that really means.
“A lot of people think diversity is just about having representation of different ethnicities within an organisation,” she says. “But of course, there’s a lot more to it than that.
“It is important to note that diversity and inclusion are not just about race, ethnicity, or gender. It is also about diversity of thought, background, and experience. It is about creating an environment where everyone feels safe and respected, regardless of their differences.
“Diversity and inclusivity are not just buzzwords; they are fundamental to creating thriving and successful workplaces. Research has consistently shown that diverse teams and inclusive cultures bring numerous benefits to organisations. From increased innovation and creativity to enhanced problem-solving and higher employee engagement, the advantages of diversity are undeniable.”
Nora says diversity in hiring is just the first step. If the workplace isn’t supportive and inclusive of diverse talent – if it doesn’t give them a voice and a seat at the table – then that talent you’ve just worked so hard on attracting is just as likely to walk straight back out the door.
So, what can you do to foster an inclusive culture in your workplace?
Take the bias out of recruitment
The first step in creating an inclusive workplace is to attract and hire diverse talent. To do so, there are a number of processes that can be implemented, including:
- Focus on knowledge and skills when writing job ads, rather than a particular type of person. Ensure that job postings are inclusive and free from biased language to attract a diverse pool of candidates – avoid language such as outgoing, young, etc.
- Screen résumés blindly. Strip away identifiable characteristics that are not related to the job, or experiences needed for success.
- Have a diverse hiring panel. Ensure there’s appropriate representation on your interview and employment panels – if you don’t have this in the organisation already, you can also look at engaging consultants from different backgrounds.
- Foster cultural competence. Offer training programs that help employees understand and appreciate different cultures, backgrounds and perspectives, enabling effective collaboration in a diverse environment.
- Partner with diverse organisations. Collaborate with community organisations, professional networks, and educational institutions that focus on supporting underrepresented groups.
- Implement diversity recruitment initiatives. Develop targeted recruitment strategies, such as attending diversity job fairs or hosting networking events, to actively reach out to diverse talent.
Create employee resource groups
Once you have a diverse workforce on board, help set them up for success by establishing employee resource groups (ERGs) or affinity networks to provide support and foster a sense of belonging. ERGs are internal communities of workers with shared identities and interests.
Having ERGs in your workplace can help boost feelings of inclusion for traditionally underrepresented segments of workers, improve the attraction and retention of employees who identify with these segments, and increase representation of diverse talent in line with an organisation’s diversity and inclusion strategy..
Create cultural communication guides
Set your organisation up for success by fostering cultural competence and teaching your teams to communicate in ways that are inclusive.
A few easy-to-implement examples Nora shared are:
- Address your team with “Hi, team”, not “Hi, guys”.
- Refers to people’s “partners” if you don’t know them, rather than assuming their partner’s gender.
- Encourage the use of pronouns on email signatures and in presentations.
- Have non-alcoholic beverage options at social gatherings.
- Share meeting responsibilities to make sure everyone has a voice.
Why do it?
Apart from the legal risk that’s posed to businesses who actively discriminate in their hiring process or within the workplace, there’s another good reason why organisations of all sizes are embracing cultural diversity and fostering inclusion – it’s simply good for business.
- 2 x more likely to meet or exceed financial targets
- 3 x more likely to be high performing
- 6 x more likely to be innovative and agile
- 8 x more likely to achieve better business outcomes
The Glassdoor study showed that candidates care about working for a diverse company, with 76 per cent of job seekers reporting that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.
The sooner you can start implementing and fostering an inclusive workplace environment, the better. Nora says the key is to stick with it – you need to continuously monitor and assess diversity and inclusion metrics to measure progress and make informed decisions.
“You can’t just hire diverse talent,” she says. “You have to actually see out the whole process of inclusion and belonging, and it takes time.
“Building inclusive cultures is not only beneficial for organisations but also for society as a whole. By creating environments where everyone feels valued and respected, we can foster innovation, collaboration, and a sense of belonging.”
The Multicultural Professional Network Inc. is a non-profit professional association established with the purpose of connecting professionals from all over the world living in Australia for role model visibility, career opportunities and personal development support.