Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is becoming a bigger consideration for small businesses in New Zealand.
The latest New Zealand Diversity Survey revealed an increase in the number of small organisations with policies or initiatives in place to address important diversity issues such as wellbeing, aging, disability in the workplace and bias.
When asked to consider what diversity issues were most important for their organisations, wellbeing, flexibility and aging were still ranked as top priorities. But gender diversity is on the radar for more small businesses, now ranked as an important issue for 24 percent of those surveyed, compared with 16 percent in April 2016.
Ethnicity has also increased in significance, with 24 percent of small organisations ranking it as important in October, compared with 17 percent six months’ earlier. Employment transition for younger staff is also becoming important for more small businesses, with a two percent increase in the number of respondents signalling it’s a significant issue.
A director of the New Zealand Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Michael Barnett, is encouraged that businesses are embracing the idea that diversity in the workplace is about more than just gender. “Diversity is also about ethnicity, age, sexuality, the different skills people have and the different ideas they bring to your organisation.”
Businesses who are able to harness all these facets of a diverse workforce will be better positioned for economic success, he says.
Diversity Works NZ Chief Executive Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie says it’s rewarding to see a growing awareness of the benefits of workplace diversity among small businesses.
“Our increasingly diverse workforce creates both opportunities and challenges for organisations, particularly smaller companies, who typically have fewer resources to put in place policies and initiatives to address these issues.”
But small businesses are often more agile and more easily able to change their culture, thus reaping the business benefits of diversity and inclusion faster, she says.
The NZ Diversity Survey, which was initiated in 2013 to create a better understanding of the key diversity challenges facing New Zealand organisations, is carried out twice a year by Diversity Works New Zealand in partnership with the New Zealand Chambers of Commerce.
Small organisations are considered to be those with fewer than 20 employees.