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Diversity and inclusion: How data can inform HR initiatives.

With so much mention of the need for diversity and inclusion in the workplace, conversations naturally move to how to measure the effectiveness of any initiative being put forward. 

It was this topic that captured the interest of our audience last week, when JobAdder hosted a panel discussion around the topic of Diversity and Inclusion: Making sense of the numbers.

The speakers included:

  1. Rebecca Fox, Executive Director at Public Works Advisory: Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
  2. Stuart Pearson, National HR Manager at Mirvac Group, and 
  3. Brooke Shaw, Senior Manager of People and Culture at Dexus

The event was led by Capstone’s Managing Director, Nicholas Page, who said that diversity and inclusion is a broad and varied area, and means different things to different people and businesses. Here’s what was discussed during the panel discussion. 

Defining diversity and inclusion 

The speakers discussed the definition of diversity and inclusion as individuals as well as within their respective businesses. It’s important to note that within the workforce diversity and inclusion may bring to mind the more commonly discussed points of gender inequality, racial profiling, LGBTQ discrimination, ageism and so on. All are significant and all are important when establishing a place of work that is psychologically safe for its employees and candidates. 

According to Brooke, “we’re about creating a space where people thrive. Predominantly about keeping our people safe and well. A part of that is psychological safety, sharing ideas freely, being respected and not judged,” she said. 

It’s important at Dexus for their company’s transformation to ensure those behaviours are being followed at all levels of the business. 

Meanwhile, Stuart noted that at Mirvac, their purpose is to “reimagine urban life.”

The questions Mirvac ask when establishing their purpose include: 

  • Who are our customers? 
  • Who are the communities that we want to serve? 

“We need to reflect that,” Stuart said. “To do that we need to think about having a diverse workforce to match the communities that are out there, and provide an inclusive workplace; free from discrimination and encouraging diversity,” he said. Mirvac “embraces the differences.” 

Rebecca explained that “diversity is a visible and invisible, seen and unseen characteristic that makes us all unique. Inclusion being genuine participation, collaboration and contribution and bringing your whole self to work.”

As an individual, she personally believed that diversity and inclusion means respect and kindness. 

 

Brooke added that the core theme for the panel discussion was data and how it had a bad rap and had become a “soft and fluffy topic, leading to the question: Do you agree? 

For Brooke, she believed that diversity and inclusion meant competitive advantage and culture. “The only way to achieve an inclusive environment and culture is by changing not only the policies but by providing individuals with the opportunity to speak up,” she said. 

“It’s about the invisible and visible diversity.” 

Rebecca pointed out that the important note here was “you don’t get diversity unless you have an inclusive culture, so you actually need both to get the benefits.”

Data is king

When working with data, the proof is in the pudding. The value of diversity and inclusion can simply be established according to Brooke as “measure, report, repeat.” 

“Data has been absolutely crucial for us at Dexus,” she said. The clip below reveals how the company uses its data. 

Stuart added that “when you make some claim, the response should be ‘prove it,’ and with data, you can prove it.”Stuart gave an example of how Mirvac uses their data. The company has a shared cared parental leave policy for male or female employees. This includes 20 weeks of paid parental leave, and interestingly, 16% of individuals who take it are male. 

“Mirvac is now seen as the second-best place for dads to work, and it’s normalising the idea that fathers can spend time with their children,” Stuart said. “Data is king, but it doesn’t mean we’re beholden to it and that we must justify everything we do, but if someone says to prove it, we should be able to prove it,” he added. 

Diversity and inclusion policies

As mentioned above, Mirvac has its paid parental leave policy for new mums and dads. They also have further diversity and inclusion policies such as: 

  • Superannuation whether on paid or unpaid leave for the first 12 months
  • Flexible arrangements on how you return to work where 75% of Mirvac’s workforce have some flexible arrangements (“We’re not concerned where you are, we’re only concerned on outcomes.”)
  • Unlimited paid volunteer leave since January 2019 (“This policy has enabled staff to connect with communities.”)
  • Family domestic violence – 10 days paid leave per occasion, plus $5,000 financial support per occasion

“These [policies] are absolutely respected by our workforce, and what I would say creates a psychologically safe employer,” Stuart said. Mirvac has been an employer of choice when it comes to gender equality 5 years in a row. “We do it because it’s the right thing to do,” he added. 

And you can’t underestimate the importance of role models. As Executive Director, Rebecca is the first non-technical female lead in a company that has been running for over 160 years. Rebecca noted that “promoting even one [person] and then bringing some more – that role modelling is really good. It has created energy and it’s visible.” 

Rebecca then shared an example of a not so successful and a successful initiative they ran within the organisation.

Female all-staff meeting

Generic leadership support 

 

As for Dexus, “there’s only so much you can do, and that’s okay” said Brooke. She added that you can break diversity and inclusion down through two lenses. “You can go ‘okay there are the focus areas. So do I want to focus on LGBTQ? Do I want to focus on gender? Do I want to focus on disability?’”

She advised the audience to look at the different areas and see where they want to focus. Ask the question of ‘what makes sense for your business now?’

“If you have a rough idea of what your shape and profile is now, then use that data to figure out what you want to focus on,” she added. 

Brooke then discussed the importance of multipliers below.

 

Authenticity for diversity and inclusion

It’s important to stay true to who you are as an organisation when developing and implementing your diversity and inclusion strategy. Mirvac does this beautifully by focusing on both diversity and inclusion equally. 

“They need to be treated holistically, you can’t separate the two, however, they are both quite different,” said Stuart. Mirvac quantifies the levels of inclusion through an engagement survey and a people leadership index, which measures the inclusive leadership styles of their people managers. 

It comes as no surprise that “if managers have an inclusive leadership style, they have the most engaged and motivated workforce,” said Stuart. “We do apply data to both diversity and inclusion,” he said, and in terms of how they define them both, Mirvac has 50 senior leaders of which 40% are female.

“Diverse groups of people will make better decisions,” he explained, and Mirvac has a diversity and inclusion strategy and inclusion policy, “but you need to live it and breathe it to make it true and make it authentic.” 

Drawing ideas

So, how did the panellists come up with these strategies and diversity and inclusion policies? Each speaker shared where they got their inspiration and ideas from. 

Dexus sourced their ideas from three avenues.

  1. Experts
  2. Peers
  3. Experience design

“For each of the focus areas there’s an expert organisation out there,” said Brooke. For example, Brooke referenced CareerTrackers, Supply Nation, and Diversity Council Australia.

Not only is it important to learn and find inspiration from your peers within your industry, but it’s just as important to learn from peers outside your industry. “There’s always an organisation who’s doing better,” said Brooke. 

As for experience design, the “customer experience design experts out there are further ahead than us,” she said. It all starts by “talking to our people and asking ‘what’s the challenge’?” she explained.

“Once we can understand the problem, we can design a solution that can resolve the problem. So far it’s working – we’re seeing the change.”

With Public Works Advisory, it’s essential to empower your staff no matter where they are and what level they’re at. “Supporting their ideas is very important,” Rebecca said. When conducting interviews “we ask candidates, ‘what does diversity mean to you?’ and 99% of them nail that question,” she said. “They don’t just talk about gender or equality.”

Rebecca added that “think big, start small, often works,” where you should use all your resources. This can be further understood below. 

 

With Mirvac, they’re very fortunate according to Stuart as they have permission to explore what’s possible. For example, Mirvac has a 50/50 male-female board representation for the last 5 years. According to Stuart, they are one of two ASX 50 companies to have that. “On the one hand, it’s great; on the other hand, it’s tragic – there’s just not enough females at board level,” he said.

Mirvac’s recruitment process is focused on diverse candidates and sometimes “you have to be creative on how you recruit,” Stuart said. He believes that when you’re recruiting someone, you should just talk to them and listen to what they have to say. “I don’t have questions, I just want to understand what makes them tick,” he said. This part of the discussion was in relation to a conversation he had with Rebecca on the difference between government and enterprise recruitment. 

Stuart further added that ‘the technical skills are a threshold and maybe you don’t even need them. If a person has outstanding people skills and is a strategic thinker, for me they’re just as important if not more important, and then you have to set them up for success.” 

At Mirvac, “we look at the issue holistically about creating the right kind of culture, and continuing to build on that,” Stuart added.

Rebecca contributed by saying how “the government has a completely different approach to recruitment,” with a very structured panel that is “supposed to create diversity and inclusive outcomes,” she said.

Her concern with the open conversation method was, “how do you ensure that you don’t just get a person that looks exactly like you that does the same thing on the weekend?” 

“The answer to that is possible with an open mind, looking for different criteria, but I think that’s a very hard balancing act. That’s where you’ll be needing to track and use your data to work out what your outcomes are with that process,” she said. 

As for the NSW government’s outcomes, Rebecca disagrees with them. “We can tell with the data because of our People Matter survey. Recruitment satisfaction is the lowest where people are not satisfied; it’s not fair or transparent.” 

Age is just a number

For the first time ever, we have five generations in the workforce. Dexus ran a survey across their business and found 60% wanted age to be a focus. They then conducted workshops to understand what it is about age, and “it turned out to be more about generational challenges,” Brooke said. 

According to Rebecca, within Australia’s labour market 15% of workers are over the age of 55. At Dexus they realised they didn’t have that mature worker representation with only 4% in that group. But it was actually the younger generation wanting more mentoring and expressing their concern with ageism in the business.

Dexus’ solution was hosting trivia nights across the business. Every table had a person from a different generation, where they focused on generational questions, such as when the Nokia phone was released and who was Australia’s first prime minister. They even had an expert from SageCo speak on the topic of ‘what is this 100-year life? What are the challenges?’

Brooke said that in the end “we are all seeking the same thing.”

From a recruitment perspective, Dexus ran an inclusion audit of all messaging, to become more language-conscious when it came to age. For example, why does graduate recruitment say ‘kickstart your career’ when it could be a person who is in a career transition? Dexus is making sure “we’re incredibly inclusive of all ages.”

Stuart gave Mirvac’s experience of age inclusivity. The company hired a 72-year-old candidate who ended up staying with the business until he was 84. Talk about employee of the decade! “We don’t discriminate,” Stuart said. Mirvac simply asks the question of ‘can you do the job? Do you have the right attitude? Are you prepared to do the right thing by the company?’ If so, “we will look after you,” he added. 

A final piece of advice 

The live panel discussion ended with questions from the audience, but the video below shows the three panellists sharing their advice for others in the industry.

 

 

Bianca Compagnoni

Bianca Compagnoni

Communications graduate Bianca Compagnoni is the newly appointed Content Writer at JobAdder, writing all things recruitment. She greets her teammates every day with a snort and has just started her journey on becoming a writer and recruitment software connoisseur. When she's not writing content for JobAdder, Bianca is listening to South American music, eating food whenever she can, dreaming of her next travel adventure and playing with her poodle.