What does diversity and inclusion actually mean?

Austin Health is starting work on a Diversity and Inclusion Workforce Plan, kicking off with a number of staff focus groups to hear your ideas on how to make Austin Health an even better place to work.

Nicole Harvey is the director of the Diversity and Inclusion team, She says as part of our People Strategy, we have committed to accelerate steps to support a diverse workforce and a culture of inclusion.

"Our plan will primarily focus on workforce initiatives as we recognise that if drive the right culture and mindset of our people, it will also have significant benefits for those in our community who use our service," Nicole says.

However, it's not necessarily clear to everyone what the terms ‘diversity and inclusion' actually mean. Will they actually make Austin Health a better place to work, and do a better job at serving our community?

So...what does it mean?

People often underestimate the full breadth of what diversity means, says Edwina Ross from the Diversity and Inclusion team - often limiting it to cultural and gender diversity.

"Diversity is about what makes each of us unique, and includes our backgrounds, personality, life experiences and beliefs - all the things that make us who we are. These differences shape our view of the world, our perspective and our approach," says Edwina.

"Inclusion is about creating a work environment that includes everyone and excludes no-one - it creates a sense of belonging where people feel supported and can do their best work," she says.

It includes characteristics like gender, ethnicity, age, ability/disability, sexual orientation and family status, but also diverse thinking styles, perspectives and experiences - someone who has work experience in a different sector, for example, or within a very different country or community.

"An inclusive workplace not only recognises and respects the differences between people, it also values and leverages the diversity of thought and experience that those differences bring", Edwina says.

What are the benefits?

A workplace culture in which people feel valued and respected is clearly an attractive one, but evidence shows that increasing workforce diversity and inclusion also boosts innovation, creativity and empathy.

Research by Deloitte found that when staff think their organisation is committed to diversity and feel included, they also report an improved ability to innovate (an 83 per cent uplift), responsiveness to changing customer needs (a 31 per cent uplift), and better team collaboration (by 42 per cent).

Other research has produced similar findings, showing that organisations with inclusive cultures are twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets, three times as likely to be high performing, six times more likely to be innovative and agile, and eight times more likely to achieve better outcomes. 

Nicole says that increasing workforce diversity and inclusion is particularly important in public healthcare.

"Our local community is diverse and relies on us to meet their needs. The best way to do that effectively is by reflecting that diversity within our workforce," Nicole says.

"We're very keen to hear from a diverse cross section of our workforce to participate in these focus groups, so that the plan represents what our community needs and what our people think are important," she says.

How can I get involved?

All managers & staff are invited to participate in focus groups running in early August to offer their perspectives and ideas for the Workforce Diversity & Inclusion Plan.

The sessions will run for approximately 2 hours & will be facilitated by an external consultancy, Diversity Knowhow.

To find out more or book yourself into a session, visit http://hub/PeopleandCulture/DiversityandInclusion/Plan