Diversity, the key to a sustainable profession?
With industries being challenged to diversify their workforce, evidence suggests that diversity in the workplace can have positive benefits.
Every single human being is different from the next – some differences are almost indiscernible, more obvious and significant. In the past, these differences have created great divides between segments of the human race, but today we are experiencing an increasing movement of a diverse range of groups coming together to form unique mixed communities, particularly in Australia through its open immigration policies.
With the Australian workforce being potentially one of the most diverse in the world, industries are being challenged to effectively manage and capitalise on a wide range of ages, cultures, genders, ethnicity, etc. Yet there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that diversity in the workplace has some positive benefits.
Among these benefits are: improved creativity and innovation; improved business reputation; access to broader markets and greater employees engagement, given an appropriate approach to management.
Impact on the FM industry
Due to its wide range of activities, facilities management is experiencing similar challenges to other industries, but in a much more intense manner. Many operational services, such as cleaning and security, attract workers from many cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds. This results in teams comprising a high level of diversity that present issues such as multiple languages, mandated prayer times, dress codes etc.
Naomi Nielsen, Business Development Manager at Ventia, understands the importance of incorporating diversity. “Ventia has a highly diverse workforce that enables us to deliver services across the wide range of contracts, sectors and geographical areas and as a company we have had to embrace diversity to grow.”
As an example of the challenges presented, facilities management is, by its nature, supported by an abundance of documentation that ranges from standard work practices and safe work method statements, to checklists and specifications. Different languages and levels of literacy mean that such documentation must address those differences without the assumption that English will be universally understood.
In many respects facilities management is unique with respect to age diversity, with the average age being still at the high end. Although this is changing, it presents the challenge of creating a future sustainable industry and profession that is capable of capitalising on the knowledge and experience from the older generations while attracting and retaining younger generations.
Can FM champion diversity in the industry?
Louise Monger, Head of Property at AMP Capital recently joined the Property Council NSW Diversity Committee has this response:
“To truly leverage the benefits of diversity, the industry must embrace a culture of inclusion. Inclusion is the active process of inviting and valuing the unique characteristics and contributions of each employee – so if diversity is about representation, inclusion is about involvement, the two combined lead to business growth and innovative outcomes.”
This still leaves questions around what FM businesses can do to capitalise on the many benefits of nurturing a diverse workforce.
To hear about the answers to these questions, join Louise Monger and Naomi Nielsen, in “Managing Diversity to create a sustainable profession” at Total Facilities 2019, 10:30am 21 March, ICC Sydney. Click here to register for free and to book the session.