Highlights: Workplace Diversity & Inclusion Conference, Melbourne

Last week I had the great pleasure of co-chairing the second annual Workplace Diversity & Inclusion Australia Conference held in Melbourne over 25 & 26 October 2017.

The conference was packed with expert panel discussions, keynote speakers and a round table session enabling participants to contribute their ideas and experiences through in-depth discussions.

I have highlighted some key topics and their take outs from the conference below…

Inclusive Leadership & Unconscious Bias

  • Inclusive leaders create a psychologically safe environment for employees to bring their full selves. This results in talent retention and increased productivity
  • It’s important to reflect on our own personal biases before trying to shift the change with others
  • Leaders must communicate, embrace, support and role model for an organisation to move forward
  • Mentoring programs are a powerful way for leaders to learn about barriers to progression

Several speakers and panel members discussed the power of taking a creative or disruptive approach to inspiring action and engaging men in the D&I conversation. For example:

  • Police Commissioner Ken Lay invited 600 men to the MCG to talk about Domestic Violence – a powerful event that inspired many participants to action
  • Holding suppliers responsible and accountable for diversity through tough tendering or RFP requirements (including questions on D&I to send a clear message) is important to work with like-minded organisations
  • Setting targets for board positions and suggesting that a diverse board is a fiduciary responsibility
  • The “leaving work loudly” initiative at Pepsico to promote flexible working
  • The MD at Holden works part time demonstrating his commitment to flexible working

Organisations shared their initiatives to attracting women into non-traditional roles at such as:

  • Challenging non-inclusive behaviours eg. “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept” (quote from David Morrison, ex Army Chief & 2016 Australian of the Year)
  • Changing perceptions of careers in “non-traditional” roles begins with the relationships built with high schools
  • Utilising data to combat resistance and highlight barriers for women eg. WGEA statistics
  • Tackling physical barriers such as the lack of amenities to cultural change

When a female staff member at Metro Trains was asked how she copes in her environment she simply explained she uses her “Tongue-Fu” to diffuse any confrontation.

The theme of Flexible working ran throughout the conference, with advice such as:

  • Barriers to Flexibility are just an ‘excuse’
  • CEOs must be on board eg. Pepsico leader with flexible hours leaves the office “out loud’ and the Holden MD works part time
  • Flexibility is a game-changer and must be made available to everyone
  • Technology enables Flexibility eg. VPN to work from home, and providing employees with laptops
  • Flexible working requires attention to job design
  • The Optus digital learning strategy focusses on – freedom to learn anywhere – micro learning such as Ted Talks and JIT learning opportunities. Flexibility is also linked to sustainability and they provide shuttle bus services to work and encourage cycling and use of Go Get cars.

Achieving LGBTI diversity & Inclusion

  • Clayton Utz suggest ‘just get started’ – although they were not ready, they took the challenge and dived straight into completing the AWEI which gave them a Roadmap on what to focus on next time.
  • Focus on the business case for bringing full self to work to improve employee safety and minimise the loss of talent and productivity
  • Develop a charter – terms of reference
  • Competition (eg awards) works well to drive achievement and progress toward inclusion

There was stimulating dialogue on the forthcoming outcome of the same sex marriage survey and how organisations are preparing for a potential YES or NO outcome to the vote on 15 November. Some companies are organising celebrations, some have suggested it’s ok not to come in, others are totally unplanned, and most will have EAP on standby.

Cultural Diversity is gaining traction for organisations in Australia because Asia is the fastest growing group of countries in the world and is becoming the largest middle class in the world. Australian organisations are seeking opportunities to either buy or sell goods and services to Asian suppliers or customers and need to ensure that their organisations understand and can connect with their needs. This demands a greater diversity of cultural leadership and talent in their organisations.

  • PWC in partnership with Westpac, Telstra & University of Sydney – published a Blueprint for Cultural Leadership across Australia
  • Without role models at leadership level people from diverse backgrounds “Can’t be what we can’t see”

Building Disability Confidence tips:

  • Don’t assume – ask the person
  • Every situation and experience are unique
  • Take a ‘whole of business approach’ to your disability strategy – every aspect of your organisation (including leadership and champions) should be encouraged to partake in courageous conversations
  • ANZ will be launching and Index for measuring outcomes on 8 November 2017
  • Disclosure is hard – suggest sharing stories in the workplace or involve speakers from Beyond Blue
  • A continuous challenge is: “how do we engage the unengaged?”

Leveraging Analytics along with the Narrative

  • Must measure and use the numbers combined with the narrative and the stories to really drive change
  • Measure how we are progressing toward a ‘great place to work’ through AON Hewitt
  • Use quarterly pulse surveys or D&I surveys to drill down the questions and what is working
  • Use traffic lights to measure progress and aspirational targets to build the talent pipeline
  • Benchmark your metrics eg. WGEA tool
  • Survey fatigue –encourage employees to self-identify on HR systems
  • Data beats ideology – you can’t argue with the numbers

Embedding Inclusion – Values, Strategy & Governance

  • Don’t forget the WHY: avoid ‘gender fatigue’ – when we forgot why we are doing this
  • The first thing our new CEO did was introduce the value of Inclusion” – The context for Diversity & Inclusion is underpinned by Values that describe what we do in the workplace
  • Use storytelling to overcome barriers and highlight the great work that is already going on
  • Prioritise what is of most importance to your organisation and then get to the other areas later
  • Must choose the top priorities first – you can’t do everything well or be everything to everyone
  • Think global, act local – lift and shift what you need from the global strategy and apply it locally
  • D&I must be able to influence and report into the CEO
  • Employee Action Groups/Networks or Resource Groups are an important voice for employees supported by a strong Diversity or Leadership Council governance structure
  • Inclusion and Diversity strategy should reflect the Customer and Community you are serving and focus areas should align to the most pressing business issues
  • Targets don’t come without backlash

Alec Bashinsky, CHRO of Deloitte, reminded the delegates not to look to the USA for answers that in fact, Australia is leading the way on Inclusion and Diversity.

The Workplace Diversity & Inclusion conference was a wonderful way to showcase the thought leadership and talent we have right here in Australia.