Managers need to change their thinking about equity and diversity if they are to harness the capacity of a changing workforce, new research suggests.
Professor Glenda Strachan from the Griffith Business School is an expert in managing equity and diversity.
She co-authored Managing diversity in Australia, which was the first book to examine the local experience of managing diversity, including national legislation.
“There are two broad frameworks for looking at equity and diversity in Australia,” she says.
“The equity framework generally has an underpinning of looking at group disadvantage, while the managing diversity framework is more likely to focus on an individual framework.”
Strachan says it is important to maintain a “group framework” for achieving equity, rather than introducing a managing diversity program that focuses on individuals and cost-benefit analysis.
She says a great deal of research has been conducted in Australia and overseas to determine the monetary value of a diverse workforce, from which organisations can build a business case. “The findings are really strong,” she says.
“Particularly in areas that possibly the public sector doesn’t think about anymore, but a lot of private organisations do, such as having people return from maternity leave and move from part-time to fulltime employment.
“That presents a dollar value to an organisation because they have lower recruitment costs and they don’t lose organisational knowledge and experience.”
Strachan says a dollar value can also be placed on the benefits gained through a diverse workforce reflecting a diverse client base or community.
“This is very important in terms of service delivery,” she says.
Strachan says the Australian Public Service (APS) has been a leader in equity and diversity since the 1980s.
The APS has promoted diversity management and successfully linked diversity to equal opportunity.
This is because government organisations, particularly in education and health, traditionally have a “social justice ethic and community service ethic”.