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Why do diversity efforts fail? Could it be that organisations are not practicing what they preach?

In a poll of both employers and employees by recruiting experts Hays in Australia, 52% of employees say their organisation’s public face and the way they portray themselves on issues like diversity isn’t a true representation of the real business culture.

Of these, 23% said diversity is not a genuine concern for the organisation, 21% said the public face is a goal not reality, and 14% said line managers fail to genuinely embrace policies such as diversity when they recruit.

In further stark evidence that more needs to be done, just 57% of organisations value mature-age workers, 26% employ people with a disability and 66% employ people from various cultural backgrounds.

“Over recent years there has been a notable increase in the number of diversity initiatives within both private and public sector organisations,” says Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director of Hays in Australia & New Zealand.

“Yet those efforts do not seem to be achieving the changes we need to see. There are numerous reasons why organisations fail to deliver on their diversity strategies. For some the challenge is about hiring or promotion mechanisms. For others, it is due to branding the diversity plan in a certain way, failing to secure executive commitment, or using ineffective training techniques,” he said.

According to Hays, there are 7 main barriers preventing diversity in workplaces. These include:

1. Failure to promote the business benefits:
Many managers, executives and even HR teams fail to understand and promote the benefits of diversity within their organisation.

2. Personal prejudice:
This is a difficult topic to explore, but unless hiring managers truly embrace diversity with a positive attitude no edict from on high will lead to true change.

3. Unconscious bias
We need to unravel unconscious bias in the recruitment process, particularly when it comes to managers recruiting candidates like themselves.

4. The ‘merit’ argument
A common argument against diversity holds that if you focus on recruiting a diverse workforce you do not recruit the candidate with the very best skills or experience. Of course the final recruitment decision should always be based on who possesses the most suitable skills and experience, but if there is not diversity in your application pool how do you know you have attracted the very best shortlist from which to select from?

5. Business culture
Many organisations have inbuilt and often hidden elements in their business culture that do not support diversity, such as the perception in IT that women can’t code. HR, with the support of the CEO, may need to drive cultural change in support of diversity, which is no easy task.

6. Diversity fatigue
Diversity fatigue refers to disinterest in diversity activities after months or years of diversity programs. Causes include a lack of executive involvement, failure to link programs with a business case, or lack of accountability.

7. Failure to integrate differences
Rather than merely accepting people from different target groups, diversity also means managing and integrating their varied lifestyles, beliefs and needs to your business.

For more read our white paperThe Balancing Act: Creating A Diverse Workforce. It is based on a survey of 239 employers and 348 candidates in Australian workplaces. 

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