Free online tool set to help SMEs embrace diversity and avoid the “bamboo ceiling”

Free online tool set to help SMEs embrace diversity and avoid the “bamboo ceiling”

Australian businesses now have access to a free online tool to help them embrace cultural diversity.

The resource, launched yesterday by Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane, allows organisations to assess how well they manage cultural diversity against 30 different measures of competence.

The online tool then offers practical steps for improvement or ways a business can continue to commit to a culturally diverse environment.

Soutphommasane told SmartCompany this morning the resource was launched in response to the desire for businesses to receive guidance on how they can get the most out of cultural diversity.

“That’s especially true for small to medium-sized businesses who do not have large, dedicated sections that work on human resources or diversity issues specifically,” he says.

“This tool is a free online tool that anyone can use to get a quick assessment of how well developed their approach to diversity is across areas including leadership, strategy, identification, selection and retention of staff, and the monitoring of diversity issues.”

Research by the Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission and Deloitte in 2012 found businesses performed better when employees felt more included in the workplace.

Soutphommasane says it is important to recognise there are both economic and social benefits to thinking seriously about diversity.

“Almost half of Australia’s population is either born overseas or has a parent who was born overseas,” he says.

“So in terms of the talent pool – in terms of the market in this country – we are talking about a multicultural population. And those businesses that embrace diversity can enjoy the benefits, including higher productivity, better innovation and happier staff.”

The positive, educational approach to the online tool is important in order to create change, according to the commissioner.

“There is enormous goodwill in Australia on cultural diversity,” he says.

“It’s just that people don’t always know how best to go about embracing diversity. What this tool tries to do is highlight examples of good practice. Anyone who uses it will be taken through various case studies of what embracing diversity should look like.”

Diversity Council Australia chief executive Lisa Annese said in a statement the new online tool will help businesses to measure themselves against international best practice and identify areas that need improvement.

“The tool rates organisations on their current cultural diversity and guides them through the process of moving to best practice, tracking their progress over time,” she said.

“As Australia becomes more culturally diverse, it is important that organisations have the right resources to effectively manage the opportunities this presents.”

Diversity has been a key issue facing local businesses. A recent report by the Diversity Council Australia found 80% of leaders from Asian cultural backgrounds believed some form of bias or stereotyping existed in their workplaces.

Additionally, only 4.9% of Australian senior executives are Asia-born. This is despite 9.3% of the Australian labour force being born in Asia. That number dwindles to 1.9% when it comes to ASX200 companies.

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