It’s been quite a year for diversity in the Australian Mining industry with diversity and inclusion amongst the most hotly discussed topics in the boardroom, at industry events and around the ol’ office water cooler. Progress over the last 12 months is clearly evident in that the dialogue is more prevalent than it’s ever been, initiatives are being tabled and we are certainly seeing more representation at the pointy end of the pyramid (in the boardroom). I wonder however; are we truly seeing a meaningful change in our attitude, understanding and ultimately in the numbers when it comes to a more diverse and inclusive workforce or are we just checking boxes?

Let’s begin by defining what we mean by diversity and inclusion. Diversity put quite simply is the term which represents the many different aspects of us as people i.e. gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, age, abilities, experience etc. Inclusion is the vehicle for diversity. A diverse working environment is one where all of us can develop, grow and succeed. Inclusion is the process of making this mix work. Quite simply, Diversity is what you have. Inclusion is what you do.

Sounds good right? It seems most of us recognise, at least from an intellectual standpoint that diversity is good business practice and that a rich and diverse workforce with broad views and cultures equates to a high performing organisation and industry as a whole with its associated benefits such as increased innovation, creativity, productivity, decision-making and retention – the list goes on ad infinitum. When you bring together people of differing backgrounds, cultures, and belief systems, they will naturally bring with them a range of work styles, thought processes, and perspectives.

Take advantage of all of these, and you can provide a fertile ground which encourages creativity, improved efficiency, teamwork, tolerance and cultural engagement from your workforce not to mention the opportunity to get closer to your customers. A diverse culture is one that history shows will draw the best of the best and just as importantly retain them. It will increase your talent pool, draw in star candidates, and create a happier, more productive workplace.

More and more the statistics really highlight that a diverse workforce is seen as an attractive one. A recent survey showed that over 70 per cent of females want to work in a diverse organisation and over 85 per cent of ethnic groups state the diversity of a workplace as the key driver in their selection criteria for taking a job.

To drill down even further and try to go beyond the simple differences between us let’s look at a by-product of having a workforce with a broad mix of different human beings. In doing so we discover a little gem which was highlighted in a recent Deloitte University Press Article. They called it “diversity of thought”. Diversity of thought brings innovation, lateral thinking, creativity, connection, tolerance, fresh ideas and a dynamic, progressive, productive and agile workforce. Diversity fosters innovation. If we have a generic workforce with similar background, education, upbringing they will more than likely keep coming up with similar ideas, similar perceptions.

So where does all of this information leave us? It all makes sense when we read it right there in black and white right?  As a whole we want a more dynamic and innovative industry, as individuals we want similarly dynamic and innovative businesses and people with the bottom line seeing Australia as the most attractive drawcard for customers and employees. Unfortunately, the statistics tell us a different story, with over 75 per cent of boardroom executives stating their strong support for diversity initiatives but little over 30 per cent believing that their organisations are truly diverse and inclusive.

So, where’s the gap? In my two decades in the Australian mining industry I have seen diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity emerge from the shadows as nothing more than buzzwords to cornerstones of company policy and never has this progress been more evident than in the last 12 months but it’s time to turn the goodwill into meaningful action. With few exceptions a great many of the organisations I work with have the best of intentions but their push for diversity is limited to “are we recruiting more indigenous Australians and are we recruiting more females”.

Two hugely important groups in our efforts to create a more diverse workplace with equal opportunity for all but possibly one that lacks depth. Let’s go for a rich and diverse tapestry of all human beings that will change the way we do business; the way we treat our people, and the way we relate to each other. The end result – better business, better culture and better human beings.

So, what’s the gold standard? A recent Oracle survey suggested we look beyond compliance in the aim of understanding that a truly inclusive organisation and industry is about coming to terms with the fact that that diversity is about more than filling quotas and complying with equal opportunity initiatives. Today, it’s about building a workforce that’s as diverse as your customer base and then using those differences to drive your business.

So how do we do it? How do we, the Australian mining industry, create a more diverse workforce? Well, we need to address diversity at every level of organisation and in every aspect of our talent management strategy. Just as importantly diversity and inclusion shouldn’t begin and end with hiring.

As the aforementioned Oracle article suggests “ no matter how diverse your workforce is today, you’ll have a hard time retaining—and benefiting from—that diversity tomorrow if you don’t continue to address both individual and collective differences throughout the entire employee lifecycle”. A great point to consider is how likely is it that you’ll hold onto one of your rising stars if he or she doesn’t see someone like themselves represented in a role they are striving for. And how successful will your management team really be in training, mentoring and managing a workforce with cultural depth and diversity if they don’t have the background, understanding and skill to deliver the information effectively to that type of workforce.

Diversity and inclusion needs to be driven not only by the organisation but by industry itself and it is essential that it is considered across each and every level of the talent identification, management and retention process – from recruitment and onboarding to training, management, performance appraisal, workforce planning and forecasting and so on.

I really do believe we are on the right track and the next 12 months will see the most meaningful change for our industry in both attitude and in action towards diversity and inclusion. I look forward to us all, as an industry, as businesses and ultimately as individuals making diversity a big part of our brand.

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