Employees’ experience of workplace inclusion strongly linked to class, research shows


Diversity Council Australia chief executive officer Lisa Annese. Source: Facebook.

Addressing barriers to class-inclusion in the workplace could help teams work more effectively and deliver better customer service, according to new research from Diversity Council Australia (DCA).

The research, published on Monday, found that out of all the diversity demographics explored in DCA and Suncorp’s Inclusion@Work Index, class was most strongly linked to workers’ experience of inclusion at work and one of the most strongly linked to exclusion.

Based on a survey of more than 3,000 Australian workers, the study looked at nine diversity demographics, including Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander background, age, caring status, class, cultural background, disability status, gender, religion, and sexual orientation and gender identity.

It found that inclusive teams perform better, according to DCA chief executive Lisa Annese.

“As someone who has been an advocate for workplace equality for over two decades, I know that class is something that we haven’t considered,” she said.

“This research shows that we can no longer ignore class, and need to start addressing it to build truly inclusive workplaces.

“This research shows for the first time in Australia that diverse teams that are inclusive of all staff — whether lower, middle, or higher class — are more effective and innovative, and more likely to provide excellent customer service.”

Lower-class workers who were in inclusive teams were 17 times more likely to be in a team that worked effectively than lower-class workers in a non-inclusive team, the study found.

They were also 15 times more likely to be in a team that was innovative, and 10 times more likely to be in a team that provided excellent customer service.

Along with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander background, disability status, sexual orientation and gender identity, and religion, class was one of the diversity demographics most strongly linked to exclusion, Annese noted.

The research found that 43% of lower-class workers had personally experienced discrimination or harassment in the workplace in the last 12 months, compared to 22% of middle-class workers and 26% of higher-class workers. They were also more likely to report being ignored, missing out on opportunities and privileges, and being left out of social gatherings.

Only 53% of lower-class workers indicated they trusted their organisation to treat them fairly, compared with 73% of middle-class workers, and 82% of higher-class workers.

Lower-class workers were less likely than middle-class and higher-class workers to believe they have the same opportunities as anyone else with their abilities and experience. They were also less likely (46%) than middle-class employees (64%) and higher-class workers (73%) to report that their manager actively sought out diverse perspectives from all staff.

Annese noted the study found a significant difference in men’s and women’s experience of class.

“Lower=class women were more excluded but more supportive of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in their organisation. In contrast, lower-class men were less included, less supportive of D&I and in less D&I active organisations,” she said.

Women from across the lower, middle and higher classes were also more supportive of D&I than men, the study found.

Meanwhile, lower-class men were much less likely than other men — and all women — to report being in inclusive organisations and inclusive teams, and to have an inclusive leader.

This article was first published by The Mandarin.

NOW READ: “Community is a catalysing force”: How leaders and managers can promote diversity and inclusion

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