February 2016
How Inclusive is Your Organisation

I have been coaching a client for the past few months and recently spent a day at his office.  An observation that I made early in the morning (and continued to see throughout the day) was that people seated in the kitchen and eating areas were sitting in groups that appeared to be determined by their ethnicity and age.  While this organisation appeared to have a diverse workforce, I wondered how well they managed their diversity.
I began to speculate that there would be very few homogenized workplaces in countries such as Australia and the US for example; and that although organisations may lay claim that they have a diverse workforce, but how well do they in fact support their diversity?
I ask you to take a moment and consider how well your organisation manages and supports the diversity in your workplace?  Do employees in your workplace mix and converse with one another across the different gender, generational and cultural groups? If not, why do you think they don’t?
You may argue, it doesn’t matter what staff do in the lunchroom, it only matters how well they work together.  While this argument has some merit, I would also contend that performance is enhanced, we are more inclined to go ‘the extra mile,’ when we are at least acquainted and familiar with our colleagues and team members on a more personal level.  Not only does this make for a happier workplace; it also in my estimation, makes a difference to employee productivity. If we can remove the “Us and Them” mentality and encourage meaningful contact with other diverse peers. The outcomes are demonstrated by a much more effective, connected workforce, who feel a greater connection with their peers and the wider organisation. 
Here are a few simple suggestions to improve the inclusion of all staff:
  • Use your internal newsletters and social media networks to share employee stories and backgrounds. For example, if you are featuring someone from a Chinese background ask them their favourite local Chinese restaurants, Chinese authors or artists, films, etc.  This can be a good conversation starter for people to approach each other. Conversely, interview an older employee; ask them about their interests, experiences and their stories
  • Small celebrations can go a long way when developing employee interactions. Celebrate some of the events and holidays in the cultures that are represented within your employee cohort
  • Conduct a simple survey for all staff to identify their thoughts and preferences of current and desired social interactions with their co-peers. This information can be shared (anonymously of course) to begin discussions of potential barriers and possible suggestions to improve interactions that will cross the age, ethnicity and gender divides
  • Consider establishing mentor programs that cut across cultural, generational and gender divisions
  • Actively promote the benefits of diversity that exist in your organisation through ongoing advocacy.  Share and illustrate examples of how diversity enhances the organisation
  • Provide diversity and inclusion training for your staff
  • Remember that leaders and managers are the ultimate mentors.  Encourage them to share stories of their background and identity.  This will help others to open up and also share their stories.
Hiring culturally diverse employees is the first step to creating an effective, diverse workplace.  Retaining employees and creating a truly inclusive diverse workplace is an ongoing process that needs to be continuously supported.



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'The Belier Family' 2014

This month I am recommending a film - La Famille Belier a comedy/drama that was a hit in France over a year ago and now, as The Belier Family. I recently saw this film with my family; it was one of those rare moments in time where we all enjoyed it.
The Belier Family is set on a farm where 16-year-old Paula lives with her parents and her younger brother.  They are a close-knit family and all contribute to the running of the family dairy farm. Paula is the only member of the family who is not deaf and, as a result acts as their indispensible interpreter.
Paula’s music teacher discovers her musical talent as a singer.  One of Paula’s challenges is breaking the news to her deaf family that she wants to be a singer.  Without giving too much away, I particularly enjoyed a concert scene that was void of sound, providing the viewer an opportunity to experience, amongst other things, the bafflement and boredom of those who cannot hear. It encourages the viewer to think about what it must be like to live in a world where not only you can't hear but where you're physically unable to appreciate the talent of your own child.
Although this movie has had mixed reviews, I think it is a true mix of sensitivity and rude exuberance and thoroughly enjoyed it. 



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