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Workplace diversity emerges as area of interest for small businesses

Monday, Nov 14, 2016, by Sheryl Blythen

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is becoming a bigger consideration for small businesses in New Zealand. The latest New Zealand Diversity Survey revealed an increase in the number of small organisations with policies or initiatives in place to address important diversity issues such as wellbeing, aging, disability in the workplace and bias. When asked to consider what diversity issues were most important for their organisations, wellbeing, flexibility and aging were still ranked as top priorities. But gender diversity is on the radar for more small businesses, now ranked as an important issue for 24 per cent of those surveyed, compared with 16 per cent in April 2016. Ethnicity has also increased in significance, with 24 per cent of small organisations ranking it as important in October, compared with 17 per cent six months’ earlier. Employment transition for younger staff is also becoming important for more small businesses, with a two per cent increase in the number of respondents signalling it’s a significant issue. Diversity Works NZ Chief Executive Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie says it’s rewarding to see a growing awareness of the economic benefits of workplace diversity among small businesses. One of the directors of the New Zealand Chambers of Commerce & Industry, Michael Barnett, says our increasingly diverse workforce creates both opportunities and challenges for organisations, particularly smaller companies, who typically have fewer resources to put in place policies and initiatives to address these issues. But small businesses are often more agile and able to change their culture more easily than large organisations, thus harnessing the business benefits of diversity and inclusion faster, he says. The NZ Diversity Survey, which was initiated in 2013 to create a better understanding of the key diversity challenges facing New Zealand organisations, is carried out twice a year by Diversity Works New Zealand in partnership with the New Zealand Chambers of Commerce. Small organisations are considered to be those with fewer than 20 employees. See the full New Zealand Diversity Survey October 2016 report.

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