The Diversity Council of Australia recognises six main principles for managing diversity in the workplace. They include the advancement of women, dealing with people with disability, ensuring cross-generational diversity, handling gay-lesbian bisexual transgender (GLBT) matters, enhancing cultural diversity, and ensuring there is adequate work-life balance (Strachan, French & Burgess 2010).
This paper seeks to describe the current situation of workplace diversity management in Australia and link it with the scholarly literature on the same topic. The objective of the paper is to present business practitioners in Australia and around the world with a reference point for evaluating diversity issues in the workplace.
Many companies seek to implement diversity policies, but they adopt generic principles that do not appreciate their uniqueness and emerging workplace diversity issues. Therefore, this paper will find critical literature on the topic and discuss the literature to form a background for additional discussion on the Telstra company case study. A critical thinking section then provides a deeper analysis of theoretical and practical observations, which yield implications for practitioners.
Selection of research findings on workplace diversity
Immigrants in the Australian workplace are likely to retain their heritage identity. However, those who choose to assimilate are likely to develop better language skills in cases where the host country speaks a different language than their home country. In addition, they will show better performance in teams or group related activities because of their assimilation compared to those who separate (Lu, Samaratunge & Härtel 2012).
Among the cultures that immigrants bring to Australia are religious practices. Research by Syed and Pio (2010) called for sophistication when dealing with complexities that are caused by immigration, ethnicity, religion, and gender. Women are likely to face complex issues that relate to their diversity in the host labour market. Other than being different from men, they will also face issues that are different from those that the local women face in the workplace. The best way to deal with the challenges is by having multiple-level conceptualization of diversity management.
Immigrants face racist problems. If they are women, then they also face sexist problems. Meanwhile, organisations that can manage diversity in their workplace can gain from the creativity of a mixed workplace population, they can solve problems faster, and they remain innovative in finding social and technical solutions. In addition, they are likely to enjoy faster resource acquisition and system flexibility (Syed & Pio, 2010).
Syed and Kumar (2010) explain that the legal framework governing the conduct of Australian companies only offers limited obligations for handling cultural diversity. Consequently, there is no single dimension of managing workplace cultural diversity in the country. Many businesses in the country fail in their attempt to manage their cultural diversities because they lack integrated approaches at the macro-national and meso-organisational levels. Australia has anti-discrimination legislation that should provide equality in workplaces.
However, the country still registers many cases of minority women discrimination, despite the presence of the Sex Discrimination Act of 1984 and the Workplace Relations Act of 1996. Employers have to forward any proposed changes to their workplace policies to the employees before enacting them. While doing so, they must take into consideration the particular circumstances of the employees. Some of the circumstances to consider include gender, age, origin, and education (Syed & Kramar 2010).
The best way to achieve success in acculturation programmes is by first understanding the context and motivations of the immigrant workers’ acculturation strategies, and then working with them to design effective host workplace solutions (Lu, Samaratunge & Härtel 2012). At the most-organisational level, the focus should be on the relevance of organisational approaches towards diversity, benchmarking, and evaluation. Another issue that is relevant to workplace diversity management is the effect of external influence on work environment cooperation and identity. Workers can receive prejudicial treatment outside work and become alienated from their environments. The alienation can detach them from any diversity programmes existing in their workplaces and cause them to miss help (Syed & Pio 2010).
Women are a minority in Australia in technical careers like engineering, just like in many other developed countries. At the same time, their numbers continue to dwindle due to higher job turnovers. One proposed way of dealing with the problem is introducing sexual politics and ensuring that stakeholders understand the relational, contested, and political notions of gender. With political engagement, it is possible to highlight the systematic nature of organisations that places men at an advantage position and puts women in victim positions (Sharp et al. 2012).
Workplace diversity and management remain as broad concepts in theory and practice. For an organisation to appear as managing diversity appropriately, its initiatives must show in the structure of the organisation and its informal or formal channels of communication (Leveson, Joiner & Bakalis 2009). Based on theoretical assumptions of organisational commitment, individuals will identify with a particular organisation and its goals, and then wish to maintain their membership in the organisation for them to enhance their participation in the realisation of the identified goals (Leveson, Joiner & Bakalis 2009). In addition, workers will be forming beliefs about their organisation’s perceived support for worker’s contribution and demonstration of organisational care to workers’ well-being (Strachan, French & Burgess 2010).
Workplace Diversity Management at Telstra
Telstra has an explicit employee diversity and inclusion policy that is attached to relevant business principles of the company. For example, the policy highlights the company’s respect and value for human rights. It also highlights the intentions of the company in handling diversity and equal opportunities to ensure that it treats its employees fairly. Diversity and inclusion are business requirements at Telstra. The company uses diversity to drive business success, enhance its reputation, and become an attractive place to work. The company also embraces diversity because it realises that many of its customers have diverse backgrounds and motivations for dealing with diversity. Thus, it uses the strategy to identify better with the people it serves. The company’s diversity policy hinges on customers, communities, and persons (Telstra 2015).
Telstra emphasises on meritocracy in fostering diversity. The company bases decisions on development, recruitment, promotion, and compensation of employee performance and capabilities. It also emphasises on fairness and equality, which relate to the elimination of unlawful discrimination, harassment, and victimisation. The third principle, followed by Telstra is a contribution to commercial success, where the purpose and process of managing diversity match with the company’s business principles and aims. The company relies on monitoring and evaluation practices to ensure that results remain relevant to the organisation and its people.
The programme is for everyone because it helps the company succeed and affects all the stakeholders directly or indirectly. Finally, it touches on the company’s identity, which seeks to define the company culture and tradition (Telstra 2012).
Telstra looks at its goals for female representation at the business unit level and overall in the company to measure its performance in diversity management. It also focuses on the gender ratio in its leadership at different levels in the organisation. The company monitors the implementation of strategies and inventiveness in addressing the gender pay gap. The company has voluntary separation rates; thus, it also follows up the programme to make sure that the identified groups remain within their representation rates. Moreover, it monitors employees’ scores for engagement and matches them with the overall company requirements and the actual scoring.
Lastly, it implements leadership programmes that help to create a diverse pool of expert executives and then prepares them for senior management positions. The transition ensures that the right people who have embodied Telstra’s diversity management policies are the ones rising to the company’s top leadership positions (Telstra 2012).
The implementation task for the diversity, inclusion programme rests with management. However, the Chief Executive Officer can compel managers to increase or decrease their attention to particular diversity issues (Telstra 2012). The company’s Board conducts an annual assessment of the objectives that can be measured, and the progress made. Meanwhile, the company management has to review the policy annually to discuss changes with the company’s remuneration committee and recommend changes to the Board (Telstra 2012).
Some of the diversity performance targets for the company include putting three women on the Board, which has been achieved by having three women directors. The company desired to have 50 per cent female representation in its graduate recruits. It had attained 41 per cent of women’s representation by the end of 2014. The company seeks to exceed women representation targets at the business units, something it has been able to do it in the last few years. The company succeeded in its goal of engaging with identified groups in 2013. It will possibly meet its objective in 2015 (Telstra 2012). Lastly, the company has 30 per cent female representation in its total workforce and 25.9 per cent in the management. It aims to increase the figure to 32 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively (Telstra 2012).
Critical thinking and evaluation
The literature review shows that an organisation can choose to implement best practices for diversity management and fail to contain employee apathy towards the organisation. It can also fail to comply with the legal obligations for diversity management. People have social aspects that require relationship management, in addition to structural components that are available to organisations (Steven & Mace 2010).
The literature evaluated touched on the unique aspects of diversity that are only starting to show in many organisations. For example, Telstra’s does not specifically mention the issue of migrant workers or culturally diverse workers in its diversity policy. The company’s definition of diversity concentrates on gender differences. In addition, it does not capture the political nature of gender roles that require proper relationship management and dynamic policies to handle. Therefore, Telstra is an example of a company that is doing everything right on paper to comply with the laws against discrimination and provide sufficient compensation for its minority and majority workers to ensure fairness. However, the company risks alienating itself from pertinent labour diversity issues that have become critical factors in organisational performance due to the lack of an appropriate definition of its “identified group” class.
The company does an excellent job of tracking its performance on diversity management goals. It even has an annual review process to improve its strategy. In the future, it may increase its range of issues covered by the diversity policy and rely on the current research recommendations for doing so. Overall, the company needs to establish a comprehensive policy that can deal with the complexity of religion, minority status, race, and citizenship, which are increasingly influencing the traditional, diversity elements of gender and age treatment in workplaces.
In addition, the company has to come up with protective measures for its employees who belong to the “identified group” so that the gains made on the diversity, inclusion programme do not disappear when they are active in the community that is external to the company’s environment. It implies that Telstra needs to participate actively in policy and practice formulation and management at the national level to influence the quality of job candidates available in the Australian labour market.
The findings and the discussion sections of the paper show that diversity issues have become complex, but many organisations are stiffly obsessed with lumping many diversity issues into one category. This lumping practice ends up presenting the diversity challenges that the organisation wanted to remove. The realisation that gender needs in the workplace are different led to the development of specialised policies to promote gender equality and fairness. The same goes for age and race in many organisations. However, at Telstra, one category of the “identified group” has to cater to all the potential diversity issues, such as LGBT and cross-generational variations. These are problems highlighted at the beginning of the paper and have been supported by the literature presented. However, they are missing in the Telstra case analysis, which goes on to point out the urgency of reviewing legal frameworks for workplace diversity and individual company policies.
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