5 ways to take responsibility for diversity in the workplace

Colleagues discussing diversity in the workplace

These days, most organisations understand why they should support equality, diversity and inclusion. Most also have a coherent agenda to achieve genuine equity, diversity and inclusion progress in their workplace.

However, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take on personal responsibility for making our workplaces more equal, diverse and inclusive. After all, our individual behaviours, attitudes and mindsets have an impact on the lives of others and help shape both our workplace and society.

So, what can each of us do to drive forward equity, inclusion and diversity in the workplace?

Diversity in the workplace – what you can do

1. Small steps can make a big difference 

During a stressful day at work, with deadlines looming and issues that require urgent responses, it can feel hard to prioritise inclusion. However, the more you make a conscious effort to be inclusive in your everyday workplace actions, the more it will become second nature.

Inclusive behaviours often seem small and inconsequential, but they can have a huge impact in a work environment. For example, have conversations outside your usual work clique and make meaningful connections. Be aware of your own biases and reconsider stereotypes. Be an ally to communities that are different to your own and learn how to challenge biased language – from yourself and from others. Welcome newcomers and respect everyone from the newest joiner to the most senior leadership. Try to ensure that your actions and reactions are considered, thoughtful, conscientious and kind to all employees.

2. Learn why diversity in the workplace is important

Do you know why equity, diversity and inclusion is so important? Each of us has a personal responsibility to learn what we can. There is a plethora of information available about the business benefits of equity, diversity and inclusion, so dedicate some time to upskilling your knowledge in this area.

3. Check your organisation’s diversity policies

Are you familiar with your organisation’s diversity agenda and how it plans to achieve its goals? What about your equal employment opportunity policy and employment practices? Do you understand the connection between company policy and the overall business objectives? Reviewing your organisation’s diversity policies and coming to understand the practical implications can help you avoid falling back into habitual thinking and guide how you can have a positive benefit within the organisation.

If you are responsible for hiring new staff, you can also learn how to improve diversity through recruitment. Meanwhile, ask if your organisation offers diversity training – if so, put yourself forward for any diversity training available. 

4. Take a holistic view of workplace diversity

We all have issues that are close to our heart. Gender diversity in the workplace, for example, may be something that you are particularly passionate about, and quite rightly – after all, corporations that embrace gender diversity in their executive teams have been shown to be 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability

But this is only one piece of the diversity puzzle and we should be mindful of extending our frame of reference when we discuss diversity in the workplace. What about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment and workplace inclusion, for example, or employees living with a disability? A diverse and inclusive workplace is one where a range of underrepresented demographic groups can thrive and grow their career. After all, the concept of diversity is a very wide (and increasing) one and should not be limited to solely well-known and understood demographics. It should be applied to all types of ethnicity, background, orientation and experience.

Furthermore, diversity of thought is important, too. After all, the things that make us ‘us’ – socio-economic background, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and neurodivergent status, for instance – also shape our unique thinking, provide different perspectives on customer needs, product improvements and wellbeing, and can’t be ignored. So, make sure you consider all aspects of diversity and listen to all the voices around you.

5. Get involved and lend your voice

Each of us brings unique experiences. We are all different and have huge value to add to our organisations because of these differences – so if there are any occasions to get involved in diversity and inclusion events or activities, seize them.

If these opportunities are not currently available, look to start them. For instance, perhaps you could set up an employee group, celebrate awareness days or attend external training sessions. Position yourself as a leader in this space and help shape the conversation. 

For example, here at Hays our diversity steering committee leads our activity to support awareness days, such as International Women’s Day and Pride, but everyone is encouraged to offer their suggestions and ideas to help shape the day, so see if your organisation has a similar set up.

Support difference

Whatever the situation, welcome ideas that are different from your own and support your colleagues. The creativity that comes with equity, diversity and inclusion can help generate new ideas or improve current processes. It can also make work more interesting, engaging, and exciting – for yourself and for everyone else.

About this author

Adam Shapley, Managing Director, Hays New Zealand and Hays IT Australia & New Zealand, began working at Hays in 2001 and during this time has held significant leadership roles across the business including responsibility for multiple specialisms in various locations across Australia & New Zealand.

In 2018, he was appointed to Hays ANZ Management Board and made Managing Director for Hays New Zealand.

Adam is also responsible for the strategic direction of the Hays Information Technology business across Australia & New Zealand including driving growth across Digital Technology, Projects & Business Change and IT Operations & Support.