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Diversity delivers a competitive advantage


This week, NZTech Women met in Auckland for breakfast.  BNZ’s Head of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), Lana West spoke about valuing diversity of identity and providing an inclusive workplace where people flourish. Lana recognised there are diverse ways of seeing the world and solving problems together. She explained that a competitive edge lies in our collective strength of experience, perspective, skills and culture. Diversity and inclusion need to be a long term business strategy for all employers.

Due to global demand for employees and an ageing workforce, it is increasingly important to attract and develop the best talent. While much of the focus is directed towards gender equality, we cannot afford to dismiss any segments of the talent pool; mature workers, those with disabilities, recent migrants or graduates. Lana says we need to embrace the concept that innovation requires new thinking and a diverse workforce is a key lever. Consider this:

  • There are over 200 ethnicities in New Zealand.  Learn more about the Superdiversity Stocktake here.
  • With 20% of New Zealanders living with a disability and an ageing population, accessibility is paramount.
  • Different generations and life stages bring unique perspectives which are critical to success.

It’s not enough to employ a diverse team, it is important to create a culture that engages and unleashes potential in the workplace. Given that diversity isn’t about making minorities conform to a dominant norm, the challenge is where to begin?

Introducing the BNZ’s recent Diversity Case Study, Lana shared these pre-requisites for change:

  • Clear leadership
  • Clear link to business strategy
  • Establish a commercial case
  • Consistent repeated communications (Awareness drives change!)
  • Get to know your organisation
  • Refinement of policy and process
  • Courage to challenge the norm
  • Review recruitment practices (Use this gender decoder for advertising roles)
  • Encourage dialogue and debate
  • Set targets and measures
  • Strengthen talent identification processes
  • Understand who is leaving and why

From the start of the diversity journey, Lana says BNZ recognised the need to accelerate the uptake of flexible working. Options include job-sharing, working from home, staggered start and finish times and compressed working weeks. Offering flexible work practices drives an agile workforce but it also offers wider benefits including increased productivity, reduced staff turnover and increased job satisfaction. Lana explained that flexibility is no longer a ‘nice to have’, but a fundamental way of doing business.

Lana facilitated discussion on the inherent challenges and opportunities of D&I initiatives. She also acknowledged that to encourage inclusive behaviours, begin by rediscovering your own story. Find your personal connection, purpose and whakapapa to communicate from the inside out. Listen to ‘Start with Why’ TED talk for more. Connect with Global Women, a collaboration of New Zealand’s influential women leaders promoting inclusion and diversity for the growth of our society and economy.

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