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Australian businesses prioritise wellbeing over recruitment in DEI initiatives
Fri, 22nd Mar 2024

Wellbeing has overtaken recruitment as the primary driver of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in Australian businesses, according to a recent global study carried out by Workday, a leader in enterprise cloud applications for finance and human resources. The comprehensive study titled 'Global Blueprint for Belonging and Diversity' unveiled that 46% of Australian companies are prioritising staff wellbeing, while 43% continue to focus on attracting and recruiting a diverse workforce. The research engaged 2,600 business leaders around the globe, including Australia, spanning roles in HR, finance, IT and sales.

The last few years have seen a significant increase in Australian businesses prioritising DEI, with 74% of businesses reporting that DEI has become more important in the past year. Clarity has been brought by the research that 83% of organisations now assign a designated budget to DEI, which marks an enriched focus from 69% in 2022. Additionally, an overwhelming 97% of Australian respondents now have at least one DEI implementation, showing that industry-wide engagement and commitment to DEI is stronger than ever.

The survey also highlighted the significant impact of increased investment in DEI, with 72% of businesses witnessing an increase in belonging and inclusion and a 71% increment in representation since investing in diverse areas. Significantly, 51% even reported a surge in profitability as a direct consequence of their commitment to DEI.

Jo-Anne Ruhl, managing director and vice president of Workday ANZ, explained the evolution of DEI from a complimentary aspect of business to an integral element of corporate strategy. She said: "In recent years, DEI has gone from a nice to have to a priority invested in by Australian businesses. Australian organisations are moving to a point of maturity in their DEI approach now that they have a strong foundation."

The study also pointed out areas where improvement is still required. Although 58% of survey respondents consider their organisations as progressing in terms of DEI, only 9% would rate their performance as good. To further advancements, organisations emphasised the need of not just a budget but also a clear strategy, a shared vision or understanding of DEI's business case, and definitive leadership commitment.

Emerging technologies, including Artificial Intelligence (AI), are also playing a crucial role in driving DEI strategies. The survey found that 96% of Australian businesses are utilising technology to bolster their DEI initiatives, with AI being commonly used to support DEI tracking and data collection. These tech solutions have significantly contributed to bias reduction - a vital component to advancing DEI - with 82%, 80%, and 75% expressing how AI mitigated bias in promotion discussions, performance development, and hiring, respectively.

While two-thirds of respondents acknowledged that recording DEI was a challenge due to the necessity of new systems and software, having systems in place significantly bolstered trust in DEI data, with 68% expressing confidence in their organisations' DEI data when such systems were installed.

The 'Global Blueprint for Belonging and Diversity' study offers valuable insights into the evolution and current state of DEI within Australian businesses, highlighting not just the progress made so far but also the areas of focus needed to take DEI to the next level. The future of DEI in Australia, it seems, is dynamic and promising.