Jasleen Kaur is an advisor on the HR practice and she works closely with the DE&I counterparts. She has been helping the DE&I leaders to strategise around building an inclusive environment. Commenting about the opinions and practices that vary from region to region, she said that the learning curve has been amazing for her. Having gathered such a variety of experiences, she shares the DE&I practices of Australia.
As you have had the experience of working with different organisations, how would you compare DE&I in Australia with respect to the DE&I in other countries, how mature is it?
In the ANZ region, leaders are generally considered ahead of the curve from the rest of the world when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Especially in New Zealand, there are some amazing policies being undertaken. There are some organisations, especially government ones that have been taking this seriously. But yes, across Australia, in general, there are certain organisations that are really doing amazing progressive work. But then there are other organisations that are just getting started on that journey. So, within Australia, there's definitely a wide range with maturity, but ANZ as a region against the rest of the world is certainly slightly ahead of the curve.
A lot has happened with respect to the pandemic over the last one and a half years. How those have especially affected DE&I programs and focus in Australia?
It's been a really interesting time. I think that's obvious. Last year was driven by two key elements, right? Firstly, it was COVID, which impacted all of us around the world. And then ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests happened in the US. And the reason I wanted to touch on that is that no country in the US was technically immune to any of those events. In Australia, I've worked with government organisations, MNCs operating in Australia with headquarters in the US, and Australia based organisations serving the domestic population. Every entity to some extent has been impacted by these events, both COVID-19, as well as the 'Black Lives Matter' protests. Every company all of a sudden renewed focus on DE&I and with a thought that we need to do something about that in the region.
Most organisations saw this as a really good opportunity to put DE&I back on the table. Because with COVID for a certain period of time, a lot of organisations halted their DE&I strategies. But they recognised the opportunity for DE&I within COVID-19, and on the back of Black Lives Matter. So, took that opportunity with the thought 'let's strike while the iron is still hot'. And they sped up their DE&I efforts and the strategies that they were working on.
One of the key things that happened was that they continued with their efforts, but they shifted their channels. They just shifted the channel to virtual from face to face, but the efforts were still on. It all kind of came together, and this happened not just in Australia, but specifically here. Because there were many variables namely the pandemic, health issues, emotional and mental wellbeing. What in a way that did for us with an organisation's thought about DE&I culture and wellbeing as these three big buckets coming together and merging under the big umbrella of employee experience? So, it's no longer a separate issue of ‘let's do a culture transformation’, or ‘let's do a DE&I thing’. It's now a big sort of employee experience, agenda, where all of these things are playing a part together.
While answering the first question, you also touched upon, how things have changed with working remotely. With the emerging hybrid workplace models, talent management has changed with a lot of practices around recruitment, L&D, and employee experience and engagement. There were also talks and debates about how this has proved to be a blessing for people who belong to, disability category along with their chances of employment. So, I wanted to understand your perspective of how the hybrid workplace model or remote working have been impacting the talent trends when it comes to DE&I.
I think it's been a bit of a double-edged sword if you will. One of the key questions that have come out of COVID-19 is that how can we make work more accessible to people who we couldn't bring into our workforce earlier. And that's been a theme that many progressive organisations have been asking where they have been taking this as an opportunity to say. So, your diverse talent that traditionally we couldn't cater to in terms of the physical environment can also work from home and they have that opportunity. The same goes for many parents around the world as well, where they have the opportunity to juggle between all of our personal and professional priorities. So that's been the positive side of things, definitely.
But there has been a negative toll on some of the demographics as well, because of this. A lot of research and data points have come out suggesting that the workload that women have had to take up during pandemic was actually a lot higher than pre-pandemic levels. Because they're at home, they're working, along with domestic work. And that's just added to burnout and stress to them as a community. And that's leading to some of the very negative consequences for diverse talent.
What are some of the missteps that organisations can avoid to hamper their DE&I efforts?
So, to answer your question about missteps, if I were to pick three, number one is probably quite obvious but something that many organisations get wrong, or miss out on. It is linking your DE&I goals back to organisational objectives and HR goals. Sometimes we focus on DE&I because everyone else is focusing on it and we don't want to look like we're falling behind the curve. But if competition and reputation are what get the conversation started, then also that is fair enough. But that doesn't lead to sustainable longer-term efforts. So, link it back to business goals and value.
The second point is not measuring progress. So, I've many DE&I strategies here in Australia. There's not a single metric that goes next to measuring success against all those efforts without showing progress or success. It's not possible to build that sustainability again in the efforts. The third thing can be contentious but we have been focusing on this as a journey for a long time. And it is indeed a journey. The journey has been really slow, right? We haven't been doing enough to speed it up.
I would say time for taking small incremental steps is gone. Now it's about organisations being bold with their DE&I efforts, as they're trying to make a significant impact and a change.
We would like to know some of the challenges that organisations face when they have to pick a few people from different communities in the corporate and that how they can?
One of the biggest challenges that they often face, is to link to organisational goals, and, and so forth. The biggest challenge, there are still leaders at the top of the organisations who don't understand the business case. I was speaking with a really senior leader at an Australian leader. He told me, “Look Jasleen, I don't even understand why we're having this conversation. I don't think there's a problem. I don't think DE&I is such a big issue for us, and I think we shouldn't really be caring about this. I just don't know, what's the purpose?”
A highly diverse and inclusive organisation can increase collaboration by 12%. Highly inclusive teams can they increase or they collaborate 57% better than non-inclusive teams.
So, a highly diverse and inclusive team performs 1.4 times better than teams that are maybe diverse, but not very inclusive. That's a business performance issue.
The second challenge is, oftentimes, some leaders think “Let's focus on bringing people in, then we'll focus on creating a safe, inclusive environment for them, that will keep them and then we'll build that equity in our talent processes so that we can create a fair environment for everyone. If you focus on one after the other, then all the diverse talents are going to leave faster than they joined. Because they don't have that fair, equitable and inclusive environment to operate in to feel safe and to be able to bring their whole selves in.
The third one is that when we are trying to create that culture of diversity and inclusion, we focus significantly on our people. We try to fix our people by providing them with more training. There are many organisations that are jumping on the bandwagon of unconscious bias training. It's absolutely helpful. But the thing is, if we only fix our people and not the processes that our people are operating in, they're eventually going to fall back into their old bad behaviours, because the process that they're operating in is working against them. So instead of just fixing your people, fix the processes that stop you from creating an inclusive culture, and inclusive environment.
So, when we talk about narratives and metrics, what do you think are some of the top metrics one could review to really understand where they are progressing? How do we view those steps, those efforts that we are progressing in the right direction?
Oftentimes, the most common one that organisations fall back on is engagement and experience surveys, and what are the outputs and the results of that? And why I'm focusing on experience is because the last time we conducted a bit of analysis, we learned that being discriminated at work was the number one moment that matters to employees in Australia impacts a very small segment nearly 25%, but the impact on that segment is very high. It's the number one moment that matters, basically. So, measure employee experience with the culture of inclusion of how you could you can do that there are few channels to leverage, happy to go into depth if that would be helpful that I think I draw the focus on other metrics as well. But I'll mention it very quickly. So, organisations have different chat channels that they can leverage. They can build certain practices in terms of capturing that ongoing experience. But from a gardener, from God's perspective, we actually created what we call goodness inclusion index.
There are two things that I would like to understand. One would be more about the leadership mindset, and why do we need to shift that? How, how we can further you know, make that shift? The second would be what's next for DE&I and that how can we speed this journey of DE&I for a better future?
The three elements are 'talk the talk', 'walk the walk' and ‘operate’. What I mean by that is talking is all about saying that, you know, DE&I is important to us and walking is about behaving in an inclusive manner. And then the third element is ‘operate'. Now it is about two things. It's about a man making business decisions based on diversity and inclusion or inclusive decision making. And the second thing is about removing barriers.
The idea is not to invite every single one on under the sun. But think about who has the kind of experience that will be valuable in that decision making, and who will be impacted the most by that decision. Then, invite those people to provide feedback on those decision making. So that's how a lot of organisations are bringing diversity and other business units together.
Think about the barriers that are stopping your employees from being inclusive towards each other and creating that safe space and belonging.
So, understand the issues that your employees are facing, and help them navigate through those by removing the same in terms of being inclusive.
My last question is how do we speed it up?
We have been on a journey about DE&I and that journey entails a long-term commitment but it also entails very long-term efforts and not seeing results immediately. Often, we see that it is taking a long time to make any kind of progress. And the way we have been doing that in terms of leadership and their role in that journey is by focusing on what we call collective accountability. And what collective accountability means is we have been focusing on shifting their mindsets.
And then we've put metrics in place, tracking recruiting and succession numbers, tracking our demography as it progresses through the organisation. But it's not working fast enough. Right now, we need to be bold, as organisations and as HRs and be bold about our efforts.
Second thing is, we all have that global DE&I strategy on which we set our big goals. But we need to be a little bit more hands-on. We need to sit down with our individual business leaders and say, “Let's build a strategy and a plan for your business unit.” Women are not the underrepresented talent in HR but the men are. So, the strategy for improving diversity and inclusion in HR will look different to what it will in it, or marketing, or sales. Thus, we have to assess things and strategise accordingly.