Research proves the importance of inclusion

Fri 2 February 2018

Line-up of shadow figures moving towards a platform. First is a man, then a man in a wheelchair, then a woman holding a briefcase, then a man with a cane, and another man.

Across the globe, leading organisations are making diversity and inclusion a priority.

And, why wouldn’t they. We know a diverse and inclusive workplace sparks innovation, improves productivity and boosts morale. Not to mention the good things it can do for a company’s reputation.

Landmark research recently conducted by Diversity Council Australia (DCA) tells a similar story: Inclusion is important to Australian workers and has positive outcomes for businesses.

On the flip side, however, research conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) shows us that organisations are falling short when it comes to the diverse needs of their customers.

Here, we’ll take a deeper look at these reports and what they mean for disability.

Inclusion matters to Australian workers

Led by DCA and sponsored by Suncorp, the Inclusion@Work Index 2017-18 highlights the importance of inclusion in Australia’s workplaces.

The study surveyed a nationally representative sample of 3,000 Australian workers to gain insights into the state and impact of inclusion in the Australian workforce. It found that inclusion at work matters to Australian employees and has tangible benefits for businesses.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • Three out of four (75%) Australian workers support or strongly support their organisation taking action to create a workplace which is diverse and inclusive.
  • If you work in an inclusive team you are ten times more likely to be highly effective than workers in non-inclusive teams.
  • If you work in an inclusive team you are 19 times more likely to be very satisfied with your job than workers in non-inclusive teams.
  • Inclusion at work benefits everyone, not just people from target or minority groups.

It stands to reason that a diverse, inclusive workforce is better equipped to meet the diverse needs of its customers. However, research from the AHRC shows a significant disconnect.

Inclusion matters to Australian customers

Missing out: The business case for customer diversity was produced by the AHRC, in partnership with Deloitte Australia.

It highlights the benefits of treating customer diversity and inclusion as a strategic priority and analyses the experiences and expectations of customers in the Australian marketplace based on specific demographic characteristics (gender, cultural background, age, sexual orientation, disability and noticeable faith).

Here are some of the key findings:

  • Less than half of those surveyed (41%) believe that organisations treat customers respectfully, regardless of their personal characteristics.
  • Customer experiences are better for some and worse for others based on an irrelevant personal characteristic.
  • Negative customer stories reveal a combination of overt stereotypes and unconscious biases, combined with a lack of awareness and/or focus, which create subtle (and, in some cases, not so subtle) acts of exclusion.
  • If diverse customers are not treated respectfully or fairly as a person, they are much more likely to just walk away and/or actively dissuade others from using the organisation’s products or services.
  • There’s extra selling power in communicating an organisation’s commitment to equality, beyond the target diversity group.

These findings highlight some obvious risks and significant missed opportunities for Australian businesses.

Inclusion matters to people with disability and business

With 38% of Australian households including a family member with disability, inclusion of people with disability represents a substantial opportunity for businesses.

Disability intersects with all other diversity groups. Rather than being one distinct diversity category, it also feeds into gender, age, race, faith and sexual orientation. In other words, there’s much diversity within this diversity group that organisations can benefit from.

Thankfully, disability inclusion can be measured, benchmarked and improved. These days, it’s not enough for an organisation to say it values inclusion; inclusion needs to be seen and felt by the people it employs and communities it serves. For it to have a real impact, inclusion needs to be understood, compared and planned.

That’s why the Australian Network on Disability exists. We have a variety of products, programs, training solutions and consultancy services to help organisations make disability inclusion a business priority that sees real results. Find out more about how our services can help you.

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