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2023 resolution: Make diversity a core part of your business strategy

Business leaders have a full plate heading into 2023. While there may be fewer pandemic-related worries, that doesn’t mean things are smooth sailing; we still face ongoing concerns about economic headwinds, talent shortages, and ever-changing geopolitical events. Amongst all this, it can be hard to manage competing priorities. 

But one item that should still be high on the list is diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Why? Because happy and engaged employees are essential to organisational health—which is exactly what businesses need in times of turbulence. 

The companies that get ahead during times of uncertainty are those which develop programs and policies centered around creating an agile, resilient, and high-performing workforce.

This means investing in your people—and listening to what they want and need. An inclusive workplace is one where everyone feels valued and supported, and leaders play a pivotal role in making this happen.

Taking the Lead on DEI 

Workday’s recent Global Diversity Research explored the state and drivers behind diversity, equity, and inclusion in 23 countries including Australia.

The vast majority of Australian organisations surveyed say they invest in DEI initiatives, but half say it’s not a priority outside of DEI and HR functions, while one-third lack a strategic approach. Although the focus is there, the year ahead holds the potential to create a stronger, more impactful approach.

So, what can make a difference? When senior leadership champions DEI. More than a third (37 per cent) of surveyed businesses say their organisation needs leadership and commitment from the top to move to the next stage of DEI progress.

This means there’s an opportunity for all business leaders—including those outside HR—to make a real difference as DEI advocates.

DEI works best when it’s the priority of a whole business rather than just a select few. Leaders that do champion DEI next year and beyond are working to bolster their organisation’s health and, most importantly, support their people.

Planning the Year Ahead

The most powerful change involves people at all levels of an organisation. Senior leaders who champion DEI in 2023 can actively improve employee engagement and overall organisational health and set their businesses apart. 

It’s clear the passion is there; the research shows Australian organisations care deeply about diversity, equity, and inclusion for their employees. This is the opportunity to strategically progress DEI to the next level. Most of all, to do what’s best for your organisation and your people. 

Maximising Existing Investments

It’s promising to see Australian businesses investing in DEI. According to the research, three-quarters (76 per cent) have a budget for DEI initiatives, and almost half (45 per cent) plan to increase it next financial year.

But this budget can go further by tracking its impact and strategising; accordingly, only a quarter (23 per cent) of those surveyed measure the business impact and perceived value of these initiatives. Investment in DEI is important, but so too is spending it wisely.

For financial services company Findex, intelligent listening has been a powerful tool to improve employee engagement—and as a result, organisational health. In 2019, Findex realised it was tracking plenty of data across the business but lacked insights into its people, particularly engagement. 

The business started using Workday Peakon Employee Voice. It was quickly able to track real-time feedback and uncover insights to connect employee engagement and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) metrics with business KPIs—allowing Findex to craft a strategy based on accurate employee data. 

Buy-in from senior leadership was critical to this program’s success. While it was led by HR, executives across the business were involved in the process. They quickly recognised the value when they saw it could address organisation-wide issues, like attrition. 

Prioritising your People

Focusing on DEI ultimately means prioritising your people. And why wouldn’t you? Almost half of the businesses surveyed say improving staff well-being (47 per cent), retention (45 per cent), and attracting talent (41 per cent) are their biggest reasons for DEI initiatives.

Given that all three are high on the priority list for most Australian organisations in 2023, DEI should be too. 

The first step to this is listening. As Findex soon found with its new program, sometimes what we think about employee engagement isn’t always true. Findex used the data to debunk some views on risks associated with attrition.

Next, act. This is where business leaders can create huge progress. Enable people to make changes from these insights and work towards creating an employee-centric organisation, supporting staff with what they need.

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Jo Anne Ruhl

Jo Anne Ruhl

Jo-Anne Ruhl is the managing director and vice president of Workday ANZ. Ruhl joined the company in 2018 and has been responsible for the growth of Workday ANZ’s mid-enterprise and customer experience divisions. She has also held leadership positions as VP application sales ANZ at Oracle and managing director – Pacific at Infor.

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