Up until now, relatively little has been known about how contemporary New Zealand organisations are responding to a broad range of diversity issues in the workplace. This is why in 2013 the EEO Trust took the step to address this knowledge gap, partnering with the Auckland Chamber of Commerce and the NZ Work Research Institute to deliver the first New Zealand Diversity Survey.
EEO Trust Chief Executive, Bev Cassidy Mackenzie says that the New Zealand Diversity Survey (NZDS) was designed to enable a better understanding of the current picture and to establish a benchmark of diversity practices in New Zealand organisations.
“Since the survey began in November 2013, we have canvassed employers from businesses of all shapes and sizes across the country and have collated almost 5000 responses which show thatwellbeing, the ageing workforce and flexibility are the most common diversity issues important to all organisations.”
Indeed the same three issues, albeit in a different order of priority depending on organisation size, came out top in all five iterations of the survey conducted over the past year. Other workplace diversity issues of concern are bias, ethnicity, gender, bullying and harassment, and employment transition of younger staff.
For many of these issues, organisations have a policy or programme/initiative in place, particularly for bullying and harassment where more than 80 percent of organisations have a formal policy. However, fewer than 40 percent of organisations have any kind of policy or programme relating to the ageing workforce.
EEO Trust Chairman and Auckland Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive, Michael Barnett says that this is a short sighted approach, especially given that we have one of the highest participation rates for over 65’s in the OECD at 20%.
“As well as our ongoing diversity survey, the EEO Trust has recently undertaken a deep dive to survey and examine attitudes and perceptions of older workers. The findings from this have reinforced the results we have seen through our quarterly dips and enabled us to build a broader picture of organisational preparedness for an ageing workforce”, says Mr. Barnett.
“The research suggests that around 70 per cent of organisations are now supporting older workers already present in the workforce, through the provision of age neutral policies and processes, but there is still a lack of development of age specific policies or pro-active recruitment of workers over the age of 50”.
This is aside from the continued misconceptions around the ability of older workers such as unwillingness to adapt to change, technological disadvantage, slower to learn and more prone to health problems. All of which can be successfully challenged as being based on stereotypes and not on fact.
Flexible work arrangements are often cited as being an age neutral benefit but one that is welcomed by older workers who may choose to work shorter days or condensed hours. The NZDS results show that flexibility including teleworking options were the most common workplace diversity practice, with approximately 60 percent of respondents’ organisations having staff members who telework at least one day a week.
The EEO Trust report has highlighted the diversity issues that are perceived as most important for a large and diverse sample of New Zealand organisations, and the initiatives currently in place to address these issues.
This information has not previously been available and will assist the EEO Trust in developing business focused solutions and services that will support organisations to deliver effective diversity and inclusion strategies.
The New Zealand Diversity Survey will continue during 2015, although will move to a more in depth bi-annual survey conducted during April and September with findings subsequently released by the EEO Trust.