Diversity and inclusion matters – from the boardroom to the front line

Google is synonymous with innovation. By designing products and services with their customer’s varied needs in mind, Google continues to dominate the tech industry.

An important aspect of Google’s success, and that of other major players like Microsoft and Apple, is a focus on diversity and inclusion. These organisations are actively building workforces that represent the customers they serve. They are doing so not only because it’s the right thing to do – it’s essential for success.

Diverse workforces lead to increased productivity and innovation. Despite this, people with disability remain underrepresented in the workforce.

You don’t have to be a tech giant to benefit from workplace diversity and inclusion. Australian businesses large and small are discovering the myriad advantages of adopting diversity and inclusion practices.

What is diversity and inclusion?

Diversity refers to the differences between people and how they identify themselves. Our individual perspective is formed through a combination of our social and professional identity.

Examples of social identity include age, cultural background, gender identity, socio-economic background, and disability. Professional identity includes education, work experiences, profession, and work role.

Inclusion is a cultural practice. It occurs when:

  • diversity is valued and respected
  • everyone has equal access to opportunities and resources
  • each person can contribute their opinions, perspectives, and talents.

It is only through inclusion that organisations can make the most out of diversity.
Diversity Council of Australia

At EPIC Assist, we specialise in supporting organisations to achieve greater diversity and inclusion by employing people with disability.

How does diversity and inclusion benefit organisations?

Research shows that workplace diversity and inclusion leads to tangible benefits. These include:

  • greater profit
  • increased productivity
  • higher levels of creativity and innovation
  • improved staff engagement and job satisfaction
  • greater employee wellbeing.

Hiring people with similar backgrounds can create a narrow view of the customers’ needs and wants. Businesses who foster diversity and inclusion leverage a wide variety of perspectives, which can translate to improved innovation and a broader understanding of the target market.

This is crucial when considering today’s local and global markets. Over one billion people worldwide live with disability. In Australia, one in five people have disability. These customers are often underserved or ignored by businesses, which can negatively impact commercial success. The first step to better serving this large market segment is to consider a strategic approach to workplace diversity and inclusion.

This is not about ticking boxes. Diversity and inclusion approaches must take a top-to-bottom approach. Here’s how your organisation can achieve it.

Diversity and inclusion in leadership

In leadership, representation matters. Strong executive teams are comprised of people with different experiences and perspectives. But it’s not enough to simply appoint diverse people to executive roles – a culture of inclusion is essential.

Diversity and inclusion in leadership is necessary to remain competitive in an increasingly complex global economy. Diverse perspectives can help business leaders identify new opportunities and set strategic goals that serve their customers with greater impact. This, in turn, can boost the bottom line.

A visible commitment to recruiting diverse senior leaders speaks volumes to employees and customers alike. Employees recognise that the organisation values each individual’s abilities and sees diversity as an asset. Customers assess an organisation’s credibility by looking at whether they ‘walk the talk’. Appointing skilled people from different backgrounds and life experiences into senior leadership positions is a greater demonstration of diversity and inclusion than any strategy document or values statement.

Inclusivity in leadership influences all aspects of business operations. It can translate to more equitable recruitment and retention practices, innovative product and service development to meet the needs of different markets, and many more opportunities seized due to diversity of thought and leadership.

Diversity and inclusion in teams

Diverse teams deliver improvements in complex problem solving, creativity, and performance. Together, these attributes drive productivity and profit, providing a significant competitive advantage.

Consider the experiences of an individual with a physical disability. For years, or perhaps their whole life, they have navigated a world not designed with their needs in mind. Overcoming societal and environmental barriers requires an attitude of resilience and adaptability. They have developed innovative ways to tackle inevitable day-to-day issues, and problem-solve when faced with unexpected challenges. Clearly, these qualities would be an asset to any business that values innovation and a ‘can do’ approach.

It’s worth noting that in an ideal world, a person with disability would not need to carry the burden of adapting to the world around them– society would consider their needs first and foremost.

To create a level playing field for people with disability, a culture of diversity and inclusion needs to exist in every business, community, and industry. Diversity and inclusion should be a part of every aspect of society. Too often, the word ‘different’ is taken to mean ‘bad, when in reality ‘different’ represents a valuable new perspective and way of seeing the world. When difference is embraced in a workplace setting, broader society follows suit, and everyone benefits.

Strategies for diversity and inclusion success

Recent studies have identified specific strategies that increase the likelihood of achieving genuine improvements to workplace diversity and inclusion.

Organisations with strong executive commitment to hiring people with disability were almost five times more likely to have done so in the past year. Two approaches that increase the likelihood of hiring employees with disability are:

  • Committing to explicit diversity and inclusion goals within your workplace
  • Actively recruiting people with disability, for example adding a paragraph to all job advertisements that encourage people with disability to apply.
EPIC job seekers Sam and Danielle stand with DDH Graham Chairman Peter and four other colleagues.
EPIC employer DDH Graham is passionate about workplace diversity and inclusion. DDH Graham Chairman, Peter (far right), says working with EPIC job seekers Sam and Danielle (fourth and fifth from left) is one of the best things they’ve ever done.

Bring greater diversity and inclusion to your business

Many businesses want to increase their diversity and inclusion but may not know where to start. It’s important to ensure the approach is supportive for staff and business operations alike. That’s where EPIC Assist can help.

We’re experts in diversity and inclusion, and can help you with:

  • Recruitment and interviews: attract a diversity of people and demonstrate your commitment to inclusion from the outset.
  • On-the-job support: we provide on-the-job support for as long as you and your employee need us. This could be months, years, or longer. We’re committed to meaningful, long-term solutions for businesses and job seekers alike.
  • Workplace adjustments and wage subsidies: sometimes employees require small adjustments to the workplace so they can perform at their best. We can help you access government funding for these accommodations and ensure your employee’s transition to work is seamless.
  • Customised training for HR, teams, and leadership: boost your organisational understanding of diversity and inclusion with our tailored workshops.

As leaders in disability employment services, we can help your business realise the positive changes that accompany greater diversity and inclusion in your workplace.

Take the first step and enquire with us today.