By Colleen Jones, director of Jones Consultancy
Have you noticed that diversity and inclusion has become a more common topic in business conversation lately? Increasingly organisations are responding to the call to recognise workplace inequities and address the biases – both conscious and unconscious – that we all hold.
Many larger firms have implemented formal policies to provide information to staff, clients and the public about how their company defines diversity, and what their plan is for their business to be inclusive of this diversity.
For the moment though, as reflected in a recent Regional Diversity and Inclusion Survey conducted in Canterbury in late 2018, organisations with this level of structure around a diversity and inclusion policy are still in the minority.
According to the survey (which is available to the public) only 21 percent of organisations have a formal policy in place, and just over 13 percent – who feel like they are leading the way – are active in addressing diversity and inclusion. It also revealed that at the opposite end of the scale nearly 12 percent of organisations never talk about the subject.
Between those organisations leading the way and those who have never discussed it, there is a range of engagement happening. If you would like to see how your place compares with those that took part in the survey, you can have a look at the results on the RDIS website.
Based on the figures from the Regional Diversity and Inclusion Survey, you are not alone if your firm has not yet given much attention to the subject. Being traditionally male dominated, it will come as no surprise to you that the building and construction industry faces higher hurdles than a lot of other sectors. It’s also fair to say that this challenge is already acknowledged within the industry, and is being met head on by many organisations.
Of course most people want to see positive changes bringing about greater equity in the workplace. And many of us want to see it happening faster. The reality is however that there are plenty of construction firms, just as in a lot of other industries, that are still at the beginning of their diversity and inclusion journey.
Yours may be one of them. And that is okay, because this offers an unexpected silver lining. Being at the beginning of your diversity and inclusion path gives you an opportunity to leapfrog those further along the track.
Getting ahead How can you do this? Well, generally when thinking about diversity and inclusion, we consider aspects such as gender, age, sexuality and culture, which clearly make sense. All too often however, there is an important element missing in most diversity and inclusion plans; disability.
Given that 24 percent of New Zealanders live with a permanent disability, it stands to reason that disability be a discreet segment of a diversity and inclusion line-up. This 24 percent equates to one in four people, so on the statistics alone, the numbers add up.
Specifically including disability in your diversity and inclusion conversations, and when developing your policies, gives you an advantage. It will put you ahead of the crowd. Ahead by 24 percent if we think about the numbers!
When you carry that intention throughout your business, not only does it take your own staff into account, but spills over to include clients, potential clients and even visitors, so you will be even further ahead.
What’s in it for you?
So how does implementing a diversity and inclusion plan with accessibility, or expanding the one you have already to include disability pay off? Why is it so important?
As mentioned, straight out of the gate, you will instantly have a 24 percent greater pool from which to draw talent.
And disability is, well, diverse. We often think of disability as relating to someone who uses a wheelchair. This can be the case, of course, but there is also the person who has a hearing impairment, the person who has dyslexia, and the person who walks with crutches, amongst many others.
Information sourced from specialist employment service Workbridge about workers with a disability shows:
• Only 10 percent of people with a disability need equipment or modifications to their work area to do their jobs
• Only 11 percent have conditions that limit their work hours
• The cost of recruiting staff with disabilities is generally lower
• Most employees with disabilities have better attendance than their colleagues
• Most employees with disabilities have a higher rate of productivity
• Most staff with disabilities experience lower health and safety issues.
It’s good for the economy
On top of all the benefits for you as an employer, hiring someone with a disability is also good for the nation’s economy. As per the 2017 New Zealand Institute of Economic Research “Valuing Access to Work” report, it has been shown that the productivity gains from removing barriers to work for people with disabilities is worth an $862 million rise in the GDP.
Question: Who wins when you hire the best person – who might just have a disability – for the job?
By implementing a diversity and inclusion plan or enhancing the one you already have in place to include people with disabilities, the advantages far outweigh any perceived downsides.
1. The individual wins.
2. The economy wins.
3. Your organisation wins. Answer. We all win!