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Inclusion must be a priority for workplaces post COVID-19

New Zealand workplaces will need to strive to maintain a diverse and inclusive culture as our businesses recover from the Covid-19 fallout.

The 2020 New Zealand Workplace Diversity Survey identified wellbeing, gender equity and bias as the three most important diversity issues in Kiwi organisations. The data was collected from more than 900 participants in the public and private sectors during February and March this year, before New Zealand entered the Alert Level Four lockdown, which is having an ongoing impact on our economy and business performance.

Key findings from the 2020 New Zealand Workplace Diversity Survey were:

  • Wellbeing (ranked as important by 75% of survey participants), gender (56%) and bias (55%) were again the three most significant diversity issues for Kiwi workplaces.
  • Gender equity was regarded as a top issue for the second year in a row. In previous years, this issue has ranked as low as seventh.
  • Aging is regarded as less important this year – it was selected as an issue by 34 per cent of participants compared with 47 per cent in 2017. This is despite growth in the number of over 65s in paid employment.
  • Ethnicity was considered an issue by 47 per cent of respondents this year compared with 41 per cent in 2017. But it ranks as the fifth most important diversity issue at a time when ethnic diversity is changing New Zealand society in significant ways.

“These issues that were important at the start of 2020 will become even more so in a post-Covid-19 world,” says Diversity Works New Zealand Chief Executive Maretha Smit.

“Research shows us that an inclusive culture encourages creativity and fosters an innovative organisational spirit, boosts morale and engagement for employees and leads to better problem solving and decision making.”

“These are key to organisations thriving in times of disruption.”

Therefore, when businesses are making tough decisions about the future structure of their workforce, they must ensure they retain those hard-won diversity gains, Smit says.

“We must mitigate against bias when we need to right-size our organisations. We need to support our valued workers across the spectrum of gender, age and disability. We need to address the cultural stigmatization emerging from this crisis.”

Massey University Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley, who leads the team analysing the data, says wellbeing has been the most important diversity issue for New Zealand workplaces for several years and now it will be critical for communities, workers, employers and businesses.

“These are extremely disruptive times and each of these sectors will have their own challenges and anxieties. It would be nice to think some of the kotahitanga and outreach will continue as we work collectively to emerge into the new normality,” he says.