Australia is a multicultural society. Almost half of our population was born overseas or has a parent who was born overseas. One in five of us speak a non-English language at home. It’s important that this rich cultural diversity of our everyday lives be reflected in our workplace.
What does cultural diversity in our workplace mean? Workplace diversity means creating an inclusive environment that accepts each individual’s differences, embraces their strengths and provides opportunities for all employees to achieve their full potential. The importance of cultural diversity in the workplace cannot be stressed enough. Valuing the differences of each employee allows them to contribute their own unique experiences to the workplace. This can impact positively on both the environment and relationships within the workplace as well as externally e.g. relationships with customers and clients.
In Australia it is unlawful to discriminate an employee (or a prospective employee) in the workplace because of a protected attribute. Protected attributes include race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age, pregnancy, religion and social origin. Therefore, for example, you cannot fire an employee because of their sexual preference.
Diversity in the workplace should be seen as a valuable resource for an organization, not simply because the law prescribes certain obligations. A company known for its ethics, transparent recruitment and employment practices and appreciation for diverse talent will always attract a wider pool of qualified candidates. Moreover, a company that actively engages in cultural diversity will be rewarded with loyalty from clients who prefer to do business only with companies that are socially responsible. A culturally diverse workplace will enable you to broaden your client base and in the long term increase your profitability. Cultural diversity will also lead to the retention of valuable staff and maintain high staff morale. Undoubtedly, costs associated with high staff turnover will be reduced.
Below are some tips for employers in creating a culturally diverse workplace:
Discuss diversity with your employees, highlighting the benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workplace;
Ensure flexible work options are available to all employees, including parental leave policies for both men and women;
Be aware of different cultural practices and special needs of employees and make workplace adjustments;
Identify and address any unconscious bias in the recruitment of potential employee.
Value individual skills that employees bring, including language skills and international experience.
Take steps to address and prevent discrimination and harassment in your workplace.
By law, employers are responsible for their employee’s physical and psychological health and well-being and should encourage tolerance and respect for cultural differences in the workplace.