Include and conquer

September 1, 2016

Variety is more than just the spice of life; it’s a key ingredient for business success in a rapidly changing labour market.

 “We want our team members to thrive.” - Anna Young, Wesfarmers

Ageing populations, mobile workforces, an increased awareness of how diverse teams drive better business outcomes and expectations for flexible, family-friendly work arrangements are redefining how businesses attract, recruit, retain and develop talent.

A Mercer survey of 31 companies in the Asia Pacific showed companies in the region built diversity and inclusion strategies on a well-founded business case that clearly links diversity to the organisation’s mission and goals.

The leader of Mercer’s Diversity and Inclusion consulting practice, Yolanda Beattie, says more and more organisations acknowledge the benefits of embracing difference and are working hard to create a culture of inclusion.

“Inclusion is about valuing and including different perspectives into decision making to help organisation’s deliver better customer solutions and create new market-leading ideas,” Beattie says. “Concepts of diversity and inclusion are redefining how businesses attract, recruit, retain and develop talent.”

Anna Young, Leadership and Talent General Manager at Wesfarmers, says an organisation’s management team needed to lead from the front, ensuring employees have every chance to thrive.She says offering flexible working to everyone so that employees can best manage their work and life commitments is increasingly common.

Young says Wesfarmers’ leadership group provides objectives, guidance and governance on diversity and inclusion while creating networks and forums to raise awareness and share ideas.

“The goal is to foster an inclusive culture, improve talent management, enhance recruitment practices and ensure pay equity,” she says. “It boils down to getting fundamental practices right, such as good job design, non-biased hiring and promotions, flexibility and sponsorship.”

Head of HR and Organisation Development at chemical group BASF Tracey McPherson says more women are being encouraged to take on leadership roles at the company as part of a drive to increase the global proportion of female leaders from 20 per cent.

“We aim to increase this figure to 22-24 per cent by 2021, so that the proportion of women in leadership reflects that of women in the global company workforce,” McPherson says. “Inclusion and diversity helps improve our team’s performance and power of innovation, by increasing creativity, motivation and identification with the company.”

Investing in diversity and inclusion also helps align an employee base with its customers and the communities in which a business operates, says Vanessa Hicks, General Manager Organisation Effectiveness at Vodafone.

“Key to our strategy is our recognition of diversity as a business asset that fosters innovation and helps us better understand and meet the needs of our customers,” Hicks says. “Diversity definitely plays an important role in the success of our business.”

Young says having exceptional people committed and contributing to the business will underpin Wesfarmers’ future performance.

“We absolutely want our team members to thrive – and to do this they need a safe environment,” she says. “That means physically safe and psychologically safe, a place and culture where employees know their opinions are respected and considered, they know they can depend on their colleagues, they have clarity on what they need to do, enjoy what they do and see the impact of their work.

“We expect our leaders to create these environments.”

Beattie says individuals also have a responsibility to advance the themes of inclusion and diversity; for their own career success and the future of the business they work for.

“Lean in; talk to your employer and partner about your goals and how you will balance work and life to achieve them,” she says. “Setting yourself up for success in life is about setting yourself up for success in carer – with commitment from employers, they get committed employees.”

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