Fostering inclusive workplaces

Attaining, and maintaining, targets as a means of demonstrating positive diversity and inclusion outcomes has become common place in the public sector. While there is value in setting voluntary targets, striving to achieve 'ideal' rates of representation is only one part of the equation. Creating and fostering inclusive workplaces, where all individuals are respected, is equally a demonstration of success but largely more difficult to measure.

Time for action: Diversity and inclusion in public employment (2016-2019)

Time for action, launched in June 2016, outlines the DEOPE and Public Sector Commissioner's joint commitment to support public authorities to create diverse and inclusive workplaces. It is an aspirational statement which will be supported in practice by employment strategies for each diversity group.

Time for action calls upon leaders and people managers to join the commitment by taking action to:

  • improve representation in our workforce of people from all diversity groups
  • encourage current employees to feel empowered to disclose their diversity status
  • reduce structural, process and cultural barriers to employment for people from all diversity groups
  • develop meaningful, action-orientated and data driven plans aligned to business planning processes.4

Building inclusive workplaces takes time and resources, and may involve considerable cultural change for an organisation. The challenge, and the opportunity, is to bring everyone in the organisation along on the journey.

4 The plans can be an EEO management plan or integrated workforce and diversity plan as required under the EO Act and the Public Sector Commissioner's Circular 2013-04, respectively.

Increasing awareness of unconscious biases

As part of fostering an inclusive workplace the DEOPE, in partnership with the Public Sector Commission, has worked with public authorities to raise awareness of the role unconscious and conscious biases play in public employment. All leaders and people managers are encouraged to develop awareness of biases in their workplaces and provide tools to minimise their prevalence to create an equitable work environment for all employees, irrespective of their individual background or differences.

The 2016 Public Sector Commission Equal Employment Opportunity Survey, issued to public universities, local governments and other authorities, found that 100 per cent of public universities, 41.3 per cent of local governments and 52.9 per cent of other authorities had considered the role that unconscious biases play in organisational practices and procedures.

The Managing unconscious bias in the workplace series of forums enabled people managers to understand the impact of conscious and unconscious biases, ways to identify biases in the workplace and, importantly, strategies to manage and reduce biases. This work will continue during the next reporting period.

Measuring inclusion

Each year the Public Sector Commission Employee Perception Survey seeks to measure inclusion by asking a sample of employees for their views on equity and diversity in their workplace.

Figure 2

Co-workers treat employees from all diversity groups with equal respect: 88.5% respondents agreed

Immediate supervisor treats employees from all diversity groups with equal respect: 87.5% respondents agreed

Workplace culture is equally welcoming of people from all diversity groups: 86.6% respondents agreed

Agency is committed to creating a diverse workforce: 76.6% respondents agreed

Figure 2: Public sector employee views on equity and diversity in their workplace 2015/16

Source: 2015/16 Employee Perception Survey

There were strong perceptions of respectful treatment between co-workers, including from leaders, and the prevailing workplace culture was welcoming. However, the perception of agency commitment to creating diversity did not rate as highly. With the introduction of Time for action and a greater emphasis on building diverse and inclusive workplaces, the DEOPE anticipates seeing an increased perception in agency commitment in the next reporting period.

Sharing good practice

Part of building the momentum around inclusion is the sharing of good practice. Through Time for action, and relevant employment strategies, the DEOPE is committed to sharing public authorities' good practice and strongly encourages public authorities to share programs and initiatives informally. In honour of this commitment the information presented in this report highlights the good work being achieved in the pursuit of inclusive workplaces.

The DEOPE will continue to engage with leaders and people managers across the public sector to discuss the new agenda for diversity in public employment, primarily through the practices of Chief human resource officers. This will help continue the conversation on inclusion and provide authorities with an opportunity to share their experiences with their peers.

Page last updated 15 September 2016