What about ethnic diversity?

The latest online Leadership, Employment and Direction (L.E.A.D.) Survey on workplace trends conducted by LMA shows that while two-thirds of the Australian and New Zealand workforce sees ethnic diversity as positive, only half actually consider it offers benefits to their organisation. Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that only one quarter to just over third of the workforce want to see more diversity in their workplace in the future.

“The results suggest that ethnic diversity in the workplace is more tolerated than truly embraced,” said Grant Sexton, LMA’s executive chairman. “While there is reasonably positive attitude towards workplace ethnic diversity, there’s mixed feelings about the value of extending this diversity.” 

The research highlights the need for an attitude change, particularly in this country’s biggest workplace of Auckland where it is estimated that as little as one third of the population is likely to be of European ethnic descent by the year 2050. 

Just over 2000 respondents (246 business leaders/senior managers, 455 middle managers/supervisors and 1438 non-managerial employees) in Australia and New Zealand participated in the LE.A.D. Survey, managed by Chase Research.

A glimmer of hope from the survey came in the fact that 37% of leaders indicated they would like to see their organisation become more ethnically diverse, compared with 30% of middle managers and 25% of employees. There are also large number of people who are undecided on this issue, ranging from 45% for employees to 29% of managers. 

“Across the board, leaders are more prominent in favouring greater ethnic diversity than employees suggesting that leaders believe they understand the potential benefits and advantages of more diverse workforce,” Sexton said. 

“Not surprisingly, in organisations where diverse workforce is perceived to produce positive outcomes for the individual and the organisation, increasing diversity is looked upon favourably. The attitude towards future diversity is therefore being driven by current experiences and outlooks. 

“The big challenge for leaders and managers moving forward is how to create an environment that celebrates diversity and leverages and harnesses its potential rather than fearing it or resisting it,” he said. 

Sexton suggests leaders and managers undertake the following actions: 

• identify and document actual benefits and outcomes from diversity;
• audit levels of ethnic diversity to identify gaps, opportunities and avenues to derive greater benefit; 
• celebrate the impact that diversity has on the organisation; 
• look for opportunities to build appreciation and application of that diversity into the strategic, tactical and operational planning of the organisation, in concert with other aspects of diversity in areas such as age, gender and experience.

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