Honouring the nation’s history, Australia observes January 26 every year as National Australia Day. On this day, the country celebrates its rich cultural diversity and migrant heritage which it believes to be core to Australia’s unique identity.
With a unique theme shaping the celebrations every year, the theme for 2022 focuses on ‘healing through remembrance, reflection and recognition’. Healing indeed is what the country seeks.
The past two years have encompassed decades worth of change for the entire world. Particular to Australia, the country has undergone and continues to navigate a series of unprecedented circumstances, while also learning and growing through the curveballs. Amid endless challenges, the National Day brings forth an opportunity to indeed pause and remember how the country has thrived in its rich past, while tapping into its strengths to catapult out of the pandemic fueled crisis.
Australia is currently home to 25.6 million residents, 7.5 million of which were born overseas, making it a global epicentre of cultural diversity. In fact, the latest migration data reveals Australia is increasingly culturally diverse. Three in ten Australians (29.7%) were born overseas according to the latest ABS migration data.
While the journey to boost diversity continues, there remains huge scope for improvement in how it leverages this diversity and migrant talent to enrich its cultural heritage and fuel greater economic growth.
How can Australia make the most of its culturally diverse identity? What are the gaps in existing efforts? What is the role of the government and workspaces in fueling the impending change?
Let’s find out.
Moving beyond diversity: Building an inclusive ecosystem for a multicultural workforce
Experts believe that, with the emergence of the remote workplace, diversity has gained new momentum. According to an article published on LinkedIn, hiring in a physical workplace has often been limited to locals, however with the wider adoption of a hybrid set-up, hiring managers are able to tap into a talent pool beyond geographical boundaries, paving the way for a more diverse workplace.
This shift has enabled organisations to bring more diverse perspectives to the table, and at the same time create more opportunities for the global population. However, diversity is just one piece in the multicultural puzzle. While Australia is home to people from various countries and its economy depends heavily on overseas talent, many people continue to face discrimination and unfair treatment because of how they look or where they come from.
In response, some laws and guidelines have been introduced by the government to fight discrimination and promote cultural diversity. But are these enough?
The real change will happen when each individual and community will change the way they communicate and engage with each other. Organisations have a huge role to play in steering this change.
“Once you're inside an organisation, the challenge is around organisations underestimating the complexity of this work, and that it's about transformational cultural change,” said Lisa Annese, Chief Executive Officer of Diversity Council Australia.
“Some leaders do understand this is good for their business. But they still don't understand that to make the change, you need to invest like you would with anything else. For any kind of transformation in an organisation, you have to invest in it,” added Lisa.
In a workplace where all voices are heard, the innovation and creativity arising from constructive conversations can drive significant business growth. Furthermore, as per a report published by talent assessment platform, Thomas, the inter-cultural exchange at the workplace helps build mutual respect between employees and the employer which in turn enhances the brand in the job market.
Organisations are well aware of the benefits of cultural diversity. What remains is moving the needle from tokenistic representation to enabling growth by overcoming biases and barriers to true inclusion. Who plays a key role in ensuring this shift - Managers!
Role of managers in ensuring inclusivity at workplace
With every element of the workplace ecosystem having their own role to play in driving diversity, one common thread through the organization with a wide sphere of influence and impact is people managers. In the absence of inclusive managers, the threat to true equity and inclusion persists.
With the right manager leading the team, employees feel safer in a workplace which enhances their productivity and eagerness to contribute more. But who is the right manager? One that recognises the undeniable importance of psychological safety and weaves that into the cultural climate.
Beyond communicating policies and expected norms, what makes the most impact is when employees see their managers role model these cultural expectations. That’s when the needle truly moves from intent to action. From wanting to build a diverse workplace to actually transforming the organisational culture into one that values this diversity, reinforcement through managerial behaviour is a key element. If employees find their managers being supportive towards a policy or behaviour, they tend to build up faith in that particular practice and its existence within the organisation, and replicate the same in their everyday interactions.
Inclusion is a practice, that needs to be carefully and consciously woven into the organizational fabric that has become prey to unconscious reinforcement of bias and discrimination. Leaders, managers and employees, along with experts must co-create relevant and effective DE&I policies and ensure a meaningful and authentic shift in how they enhance and leverage cultural diversity.