Following our attendance at the AHRI National Convention, we asked our team to answer the following questions based on their experiences during the 3 days when speaking to delegates.
Q. What are the challenges that you have heard organisations face when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
I think one of the biggest challenges that I’ve personally heard throughout this convention is companies wanting to comply with psychological safety and the new ISO standard that are coming into force under the Work, Health and Safety Act. Companies are wanting to mitigate risk. They are also wanting to ensure that they have got their employees at heart, so employees feel safe in their working environment, but also ensuring that they are compliant with an organisation, and then doing their due diligence to ensure that they are meeting those requirements for compliance.
Q. Who has been most keen to embrace DEI?
We have been so lucky to have spoken with hundreds of people during the convention listening to their unique perspectives, but what has really struck me has been the number of government agencies that are so keen to be moving in this space, promoting diversity for a better employee experience. Much more so than the private sector, it is the government sector that has been so enthusiastic and realise the benefits of diversity, equity, inclusion.
It’s already a really good back pitch that they have with the values that they are talking about and it’s just about taking that next step to make sure that their organisations are really reflective of the society we have here in Australia. We’ve spoken with hundreds of people, but it really is the government sector that is leading the charge.
Q. What are the challenges that you have heard organisations face when it comes to Diversity?
We’ve really been hearing a lot from different people, either in the presentations themselves or when they’ve come and had a chat with us direct, that the challenge that everyone is facing is talent shortage and the retention of staff. And we keep linking to them that if you have a really good DEI strategy in place, and really inclusive behaviours in your workplace, some of those problems are actually going to become much smaller for you.
Q. What are some of the key themes that you’ve seen throughout the convention?
One of the key themes I’ve seen throughout the convention is ensuring workplace wellbeing and recruiting for diversity; making sure that because there’s such a diverse talent shortage that companies are recruiting against all of the different backgrounds. The psychological status and recruiting for diversity, were two huge key elements that come out of this convention.
Q. From the people that you’ve spoken to, which are the particular sectors that you’re seeing that are doing more in the DEI space?
Government. They are really looking at doing more in this space regarding diversity initiatives. And if they don’t have a programme, they are starting to evolve at programme. And I have spoken to many people in the construction industry and they have asked ‘where do we start’?’ We know we need this, how do we do this?’ ‘We need help’. So definitely construction and double sector.
Q. What surprised you the most from the people that you spoke with when it came to the topic of DEI training?
I guess what really surprised me the most was that I thought people were having a lot more conversations within their organisation about inclusive culture than they actually were. I didn’t expect that people had a lot of structured programmes around their diversity, equity and inclusion strategies, but I certainly thought they were having some conversations and there was a lot of awareness raising that was going on. So, it was really interesting when people were coming around and talking about how we’re just kind of starting to talk about it, but we’re not really talking about it.
In terms of that entry level engagement, it surprised me just how far we still have to go to just initiate some of these conversations. Whereas I thought in terms of conversation initiation, we’re probably a little bit further away on that continuum. I think moving forward for us, we need to really look at what the opportunities are in different company cultures that can still open up those conversations.
Because we live in the DEI world, we think everybody is having this conversation in some way, shape or form. But when you actually go out and talk to industry, you find that they’re not actually having those conversations. I guess we need to step back and try to see how we can meet people where they are, which is pretty awesome to be at the beginning of their journey.
Q. What reaction did you get from people who came to the stand?
I think my favourite reaction was just people after people or coming to the stand saying, they’ve been sent here. A colleague has said to them ‘You’ve got to go and see it. It’s so good. You’ve got to go and check it out’. And that has just been such a lovely thing to hear. Other people have been just really thrilled about the opportunity to have these uncomfortable conversations in a really safe, comfortable environment and really extend their cultural diversity journey.
Q. Can you tell us about some of the key things that we’ve seen here at the convention this year?
Some of the key themes that have really emerged have been HR managers and leaders are really struggling with how to address DEI within their organisation. There was a strong push around the sense of we need to do something, but what does that something look like? There was a range of people that came around the stand, people who were quite well developed in terms of their DEI strategies and others were really just on the cusp of trying to figure out where they were at.
People are asking what ‘should we be doing in the long run?’ ‘What should we be focusing on for a diverse workplace?’. There was a lot of focus around intersectionality, particularly in the gender space regarding sexual orientation, where organisations have spent a lot of time achieving gender targets. But now it’s, ‘what do we do about disability?’ ‘How does that intersect with gender?’ ‘How does gender and race intersect?’ ‘How does age intersect?’. So, intersectionality was a big theme and where to start from was the other one.
Q. What stories did you hear?
The stories that people shared were more what they were experiencing in their own workplaces, and a lot of it came from how they lived, their life experiences. Experience was not necessarily recognised in how the organisation was progressing the conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion. Their organisations were talking about diversity, but they weren’t really incorporating the lived experiences of people within their organisation. People didn’t feel like they were being seen or being heard in terms of who they were.
A lot of their skills are recognised, but who they were and the essence of their background and things that impacted them, particularly when they had things like invisible disabilities. One person actually talked about the fact that disability, if it’s not visible, is invisible and therefore isn’t catered for in terms of people’s thinking around diversity, equity, inclusion. It was really having that people centred focus and bringing that into the forefront of the strategies is a lot about what people shared around their stories.
Q. From the conversations you have had since being here at the convention, what key themes have come through when it comes to a great question?
We’ve seen so many different companies come and have a chat with us, but the really overarching conversation that we’ve been having with people is that they are at the very start of their journey, and don’t know where to start. They’re not too sure what to do. But they know this is really important. They need to be doing something.
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