Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is more than a tick box exercise. It’s an opportunity to create a work environment where people – and businesses – thrive.

Research by the Diversity Council of Australia reveals that people working in inclusive teams are 4 times more likely to feel work has a positive impact on their mental health. Inclusive teams are also 9.5 times more likely to be innovative.

It’s no wonder graduates and top talent expect more from potential employers for EDI. And many organisations are stepping up to proactively foster a safe work environment for all people. Organisations like UNSW’s industry partners Commonwealth Bank, consultancy firm Mott MacDonald, law firm Ashurst and employment services provider WISE Employment. UNSW works with partners to help get students employment-ready through networking events, courses, programs and work integrated learning.

Our industry partners share our motivation to drive progress for all and make the world a better place. To create solutions that solve big problems. This ambition requires collaboration from people who think differently – embracing EDI makes this possible.

In a world where public trust and shared values are potentially in decline, UNSW seeks to team up with the employer sector to empower all individuals to thrive, by promoting a progressive workforce culture that embraces equity and supports a diverse, inclusive community. With these values in mind, I believe we can work towards creating better opportunities for all our graduates transitioning to employment, regardless of their circumstances.
Nigel Smith
Head of UNSW Employability

Integrating diversity and inclusion

More workplaces are shifting their EDI approach from basic compliance to strategically embedding it into policies, processes and practices. It’s a move that recognises that just hiring diverse employees isn’t enough – people need to feel valued, respected and included.

That’s why Mott MacDonald has adopted a five-year strategy called ‘Everyone’s Business’, encouraging all employees to take ownership and drive EDI. The organisation also partners with external groups such as Diversity Council Australia to advance its EDI efforts.

Beyond diversity, people also want to feel seen and understood. CommBank seeks to especially meet this need for its Indigenous employees. The bank has a dedicated Indigenous Careers Team made up of all First Nations people, to create a culturally safe place for Indigenous employees to reach out.

Cultivating an inclusive workplace culture

EDI doesn’t stop at what we do or how we work. It’s also about how we think and speak. The collective behaviours and attitudes in a workplace shape its culture. And culture starts with leadership. It’s why Ashurst plants its EDI goals in its business strategy, holding leaders accountable on performance. This approach is also shared by CommBank, Mott MacDonald and WISE Employment, with programs that encourage inclusive leadership and cultural competence to cultivate a genuinely inclusive culture.

For example, CommBank’s ‘Respect Lives Here’ program trains employees on respectful ways of working to build a safe and nurturing workplace. Mott MacDonald’s inclusive language guidebook spans across six dimensions of diversity – neurodiversity, LGBTQIA+, disability, Indigenous, cultural and gender – to avoid expressions that could exclude people.

Sometimes, to feel included, people simply need a reminder that they’re not alone. So WISE Employment leans on its alumni network to help graduates connect with others who’ve walked in their shoes, sharing both their challenges and successes.

The impact of remote work on employees

Keeping people connected is high on WISE Employment’s agenda. For both employees and students. Though it’s become the norm across industries and workplaces, remote work can lead to isolation and challenge collaboration. Through virtual meetings and intentional team building, WISE aims to help people feel a sense of social safety and inclusion.

“It’s not necessarily about equality but equity. We tailor working conditions to each individual and use a strength-based approach to help students, grads and employees perform their best,” says Daria Walczak, National GradWISE Program Lead at WISE Employment.

Adopting flexible arrangements that work for each person also supports people working with a disability, enabling career recognition and progression.

As a global firm with remote work already embedded in how they work, Ashurst agrees with this personalised approach. The organisation empowers its people to work in a way that suits them.

“We don’t set and forget flexible work arrangements but continue to check in,” says Madeleine Motion, Global Head of Inclusion, Diversity and Belonging at Ashurst. “We can’t assume it’ll work for everyone in perpetuity.”

Strategies for diversifying hiring practices

Fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace begins with the hiring process. Organisations that prioritise diversity and inclusion look both inside and outside the walls of the workplace.

For Mott MacDonald, this involved a refresh of advertising content to make it more inclusive and attract diverse candidates. Hiring managers go through training to help improve their awareness of unconscious bias and encourage more inclusive hiring decisions.

Through its graduate disability employment program GradWISE, WISE Employment supports other organisations in diversifying and making their recruitment process more accessible. This considers using a strength-based approach and inclusive language in job advertisements.

By building a diverse talent pipeline, these organisations lay a foundation for workplaces that value and embrace diversity and inclusion. So people feel comfortable to be themselves and their different perspectives, experiences and backgrounds are welcomed as they contribute to shared success.

To find out more about our partners’ EDI initiatives, watch ‘Embrace, Empower, Excel: A mini-series on fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace’.

This article was brought to you by UNSW Employability