Balancing a diverse workforce

Actions you can take to promote diversity and inclusion in your business.

Diversity is not a new concept, however the importance of its existence in businesses is clear. In order to stay relevant, you must offer an inclusive space to work and a diverse team to match. 

Giving opportunities to individuals from a variety of races, genders, ages, family situations, marital statuses, religions and abilities creates a workforce that is not only diverse from first glance, but can offer a mixed range of opinions and experiences. 

Matt Taylor from HeartHR suggests this broader mix of human resource capital will create a greater degree of innovation. By integrating team members from a wide range of cultures, you give your business the ability to understand how to communicate and manage a wider audience, therefore increasing the market in which you can target. 

“When you promote diversity in your workforce, you are bringing a wider range of thoughts and experience, giving increased opportunities for unique approaches to problem solving,” Matt says. “Diversity isn’t just who we are physically, but also relates to the diversity of thinking. When you have different experiences in learning, you are bound to approach issues in differing ways.”

Don’t think of it as making allowances for employees, but rather as welcoming a person who has access to a whole realm of experience and knowledge that is different to what you currently have. 

Promoting diversity starts even before the recruitment process. According to Matt, you need to look at your current team and understand where gaps may lie. 

“When you understand where the gaps exist between your current workforce and the one that will deliver you the best outcomes, you will know what changes you need to make,” Matt says. 

“Without doing this, you cannot expect to have the most efficient or effective workforce.” 

How your business balances work and expectations with how you accomodate the needs of your team is the foundation for a solid workforce. Flexibility and accessibility considerations are two major actions you need to consider. 

Following COVID-19 and work-from-home capabilities increasing from 8 percent to 40 percent in Australia, the global workforce now has higher expectations for flexibility at their place of employment. 

While this may be relevant to most of the current workforce, integrating this process has also removed barriers for those with physical or mental disabilities, Gen Z staff, those who have familial or carer responsibilities in addition to those who live in far away locations.  This increase in accessibility for a workforce opens opportunities to improve your business diversity. 

“A hybrid workforce that has the opportunity to work from both the office and home where possible is a great way of offering flexibility on a sustainable level,” Matt says. 

“By removing barriers to labour, you allow individuals who otherwise would not have an opportunity to work for you to do so. Working from home can also improve physical and mental health for many by providing more time, flexibility and control over their workday instead of being restricted by the rigid nine-to-five, office-based routine.”

These people can bring you fresh insight and a new subset of ideas to improve the way your business thinks, communicates and operates.

For businesses that require in-person staffing, you should consider location accessibility and entry points for those with physical disabilities.  Thinking about a diverse range of generations on your team can also benefit your business long term. Some businesses can have up to four generations working for them at once. While this sounds overwhelming, Matt suggests most people defy stereotypes associated with their generation.

“While it is important to recognise that each generation comes with different workplace attitudes and behaviours, in reality individuals often defy these age related stereotypes,” Matt says. “For each generation, there is value in how people take on new challenges, gain experience, and view their place in the workforce.”

It is important to recognise that different cultures, age groups and abilities will come with unique needs, expectations and experiences. 

For example, certain cultures may require specific days off for religious purposes, some individuals may act as full time carers for a family member and are thus unavailable in certain hours, and staff with physical disabilities may struggle to travel to the office on a daily basis. 

Your business will also come with working expectations that should be made clear prior to hire. By sitting down with each of your team members, considering their needs on the job and communicating your needs as a business, you will create an open dialogue, not only increasing diversity but also the chances of staff retention. 

In reality, promoting and balancing a diverse workforce benefits every business that considers it a priority. By opening up communication and discussing the needs of staff, you allow for increased diversity, leading to innovation in the long run.

Matt Taylor, Heart HR

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