Diversity and inclusion is not just the ‘right thing to do’, it is a business imperative 3 and relies heavily on developing and strengthening effective internal and external relationships. Stronger relationships encourage the diversity of thought and innovation required for better performance, decision making and employee engagement 4.
Employee engagement describes the level of emotional commitment an employee has towards the organisation in which they work. While factors that tend to influence engagement vary across authorities, a diverse and inclusive workplace is important—along with leadership, culture and career development—in driving employee engagement.
Engaged employees are more likely to be productive and innovative, more likely to ‘go the extra mile’, and less likely to leave the organisation. Creating inclusive workplace cultures requires respectful and strong working relationships being built and maintained within organisations.
Relationships can be strengthened through training that promotes a shared understanding of the organisation’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Organisations that effectively capitalise on the strengths of all employees’ differences and unique values are likely to benefit from better engagement.
Each year the Commission collects data from a sample of public sector authorities through the Employee perception survey (EPS). Employees’ perceptions are important in measuring employee satisfaction and engagement with their job, their organisation and the sector. The EPS aims to measure inclusion by asking participants to respond to four statements on equity and diversity in their workplace.
Results from the 2017 EPS show a relatively engaged public sector workforce, with the highest engagement index to date at 70. However, levels of engagement are not uniform across all employees with casual, younger, new and executive level employees more engaged and employees with disability least engaged.
The EPS also suggests that employees with disability and Aboriginal Australians have more negative experiences in the workplace. These include exclusion and isolation from others, and teasing.
Partnering and promoting
The DEOPE recognises the advantages that flow from productive, collaborative partnerships and the role they play in promoting diversity and inclusion across the sectors.
In 2017, the DEOPE has continued to partner with the Public Sector Commission, Office of Multicultural Interests, Reconciliation WA, the Equal Opportunity Commission and the Disability Services Commission in a number of employment projects and initiatives.
The DEOPE has also strengthened relationships with organisations including the University of Western Australia, Curtin University and the Perth Pride in Diversity network, harnessing their expertise to assist in the development of guidelines to support the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) employees.
The continuing collaboration between the Public Sector Commissioner, the DEOPE and National Disability Services (WA) has increased open dialogue between the sectors and disability service providers. Forming strong partnerships with the disability sector is crucial to successfully recruiting, developing and retaining employees with disability.
Building effective relationships starts with authorities working together and reaching out to peak organisations to realise shared goals. Broadening networks is a key action from the Commission’s Attract, appoint and advance: An employment strategy for Aboriginal people (Attract, appoint and advance).
To promote the wider public sector as an ‘employer of choice’ for Aboriginal Australians, public authorities must have improved visibility across Aboriginal communities. This can be accomplished by establishing relationships with Aboriginal networks and partnership groups.
To ensure the best outcomes for employees with disability the Commission’s See my abilities: An employment strategy for people with disability (See my abilities) encourages organisations to adopt a strategic approach by collaborating with disability service providers to develop disability employment objectives and plans.
Sharing sector knowledge
Authorities that share knowledge progress dialogue for change. In 2017, the DEOPE has continued to facilitate and support the meeting of Chief Human Resource Officers from across public authorities at Communities of Practice forums.
During the previous reporting period, the first Community of Practice forum was held with Chief Human Resource Officers from the 10 largest public sector agencies, focusing on workforce planning. This network has maintained a successful working relationship, meeting regularly to discuss workforce planning and diversity strategies and issues, and sharing experiences and practical examples.
Following this success, an unconscious bias Community of Practice was established with 15 Chief Human Resource Officers from across all sectors. To support this network, the DEOPE and Public Sector Commissioner held a facilitated workshop that provided the structure and tools to assist in its establishment. Enduring Communities of Practice require strong relationships that lead to the development of resources and ideas that affect practice.
Awareness is the first step in establishing an individual’s understanding of their unconscious biases. Acknowledging and managing the effects unconscious biases have in the workplace ensures that diversity and inclusion becomes a consideration in all workplace practices.
The 2017 PSES reveals that public sector agencies are increasing awareness and making progress towards developing and implementing strategies to manage and reduce unconscious bias in recruitment. Local governments and other authorities require further development as the survey also reveals that strategies to increase awareness of the role unconscious bias plays in the workplace are least implemented.
Over the last year, the DEOPE in partnership with the Commission concluded a 12 month trial of the de-identification of applications in a number of recruitment processes. The trial ranged from graduate to CEO selection, and assessed if there was a benefit to removing names, gender and age before and during shortlisting. To build on the trial results, further work will be undertaken to research best practice for managing unconscious bias in talent acquisition.
James Back, Managing Director
‘Reconciliation WA has been working with the Public Sector Commissioner and the DEOPE to advance the reconciliation movement across Western Australia through the State Government. The launch of the Aboriginal employment strategy by the Public Sector Commissioner and DEOPE in 2016 has enhanced employment opportunities and retention capability with the public sector into the future. A positive step forward.
It must be noted that while in 2017 we have some significant celebratory anniversaries being the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum and the 25th anniversary of the Mabo decision we still have a long way to go.
Reflection and change throughout the whole Western Australian community must be directed around the recommendations and learnings from the following three anniversaries:
Reconciliation WA is proud and committed to our work with the public sector – its departments and agencies. We believe that structural, systemic and cultural change are critical in the push for equity, equality and parity for our First People and pride and respect in their culture and contribution celebrated by all Western Australians harmoniously. We look forward to continuing our collaborative work with the Public Sector Commissioner and DEOPE to achieve these outcomes.’
3 L. Hockridge. Why inequality can’t be treated equally. AustIMM Bulletin 2016;June:34.
4 Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) 2016, Leading for Change: A blueprint for cultural diversity and inclusive leadership.
Page last updated 14 September 2017