As Australia’s cultural landscape grows more and more diverse, so too does its workforce.
Yet in many workplaces, Christian holidays – such as Christmas – mark the most significant social occasions in the work calendar.
According to Worklogic Director Jennifer Porter, it is time for businesses to start embracing a more diverse cultural outlook.
“All of the research shows us that having successful diversity and inclusion in your organisation means you will have higher rates of engagement,” Ms Porter said.
“You’ll have better rates of retention, employees who are more productive, and greater creativity and innovation because people are more willing to speak up.
“They feel their voice will be heard and that their opinion matters.”
AIM WA Creating a Respectful Workplace Culture Course Facilitator Yvonne Kroon AFAIM agreed that the inclusivity of a workplace was reflected in its performance, saying there are many benefits when a business cultivates a culturally appreciative environment.
“Job satisfaction increases, turnover declines and staff are engaged in their job and their organisation,” she said.
“A positive culture creates a sense of fairness.
“If an organisation is dealing with international businesses, having a culturally appreciative outlook is imperative.”
For Ms Porter, creating a culturally tolerant workplace starts with recognising the diversity of your team.
“Your strategy is going to depend on the size of your organisation and also your understanding of the diverse makeup of the employees,” she said.
According to Ms Kroon, it is also important for businesses to recognise the barriers and challenges to achieving cultural inclusivity.
“Some of the barriers that impede an organisation from building a respectful workplace are cultural differences, office politics, not following company procedure, lack of staff buy-in, unconscious biases, stereotyping and inadequate resources,” she said.
“All these barriers need to be considered and acted upon.”
Building a diversity strategy
Ms Porter said workplaces should recognise their diversity and develop a holistic diversity strategy.
“The organisation should have a diversity and inclusion strategy playing out in all the things it does, including the recruitment process, where it would take note of the behavioural attributes and experience it is looking for, as well as the diversity of the people it is recruiting,” she said.
“Make sure there’s a focus on training and development, such as cultural awareness training and workplace behaviours training, that delivers diversity and inclusion outcomes, including training leaders on what diversity and inclusion is and its benefits."
“Make sure leaders have training on unconscious biases, if necessary – and in most organisations today, it is necessary.”
According to Ms Kroon, upper management must lead by example to make a business more inclusive.
“Organisations have their core values and ethical guidelines that they promote throughout the organisation,” she said.
“These values and ethics need to be clear and communicated often, and senior management need to walk the talk through repetition of these values and ethics so that, for employees, it becomes second nature.”
Embracing cultural diversity in the workplace does not necessarily mean abolishing the office Christmas party.
According to Ms Porter and Ms Kroon, it means recognising and respecting people’s cultural needs as part of your company’s holistic diversity strategy.
“I think that if a workplace has the right culture that promotes inclusivity, there should not be an issue with celebrating holidays like Christmas,” Ms Kroon said.
“If you are going to be having a party at Christmas, you want to be doing that in a way that is inclusive, so make sure you celebrate in a way that recognises you will potentially have people who don’t want to eat some of the traditional Christmas food,” Ms Porter said.
“So, offer food that caters for other religions – halal food, vegetarian food, kosher food – and don’t make attendance mandatory.
“However, it still needs to be part of a holistic diversity and inclusion program.
“If, for the rest of the year, you completely ignore diversity and inclusion and you just do that at Christmas, it looks a bit tokenistic.”