The NSW Public Service Commission (PSC) Advisory Board commissioned research on what diversity and inclusion means for the NSW public sector and why it’s important. This paper presents the findings of that research by the PSC, supported by Nous Group.
Over the last few decades much has been written about the potential benefits that diverse workforces bring to organisations in being more innovative, productive and better able to understand their customer base. This business case perspective has become the popular narrative for diversity and inclusion practices. However, much of the literature is skewed towards corporate Australia.
To understand what diversity and inclusion means for the NSW public sector, we set about investigating our unique business case based on what our employees told us, the benefits of diversity and inclusion to our workforce, and the NSW community. We applied an evidence-based approach, which involved a literature review, consultation with around 150 NSW public sector employees, case studies of leading practice organisations and an analysis of our data. From this evidence base, a strong story emerged about what diversity and inclusion means in the NSW public sector and why it’s important.
Diversity is the seen and unseen characteristics which make each of us different. When applied to the workforce, this means reflecting the breadth of difference that exists within the NSW community. Inclusion is the act of enabling genuine participation and contribution, regardless of seen and unseen characteristics, which results in employees feeling safe to bring their whole selves to work.
Five key themes about diversity and inclusion emerged from our consultations:
- Diversity and inclusion is personal and can be challenging at times
- Everyone in the workforce can benefit from greater diversity and inclusion
- Progress will require genuine support starting from the top
- We deliver greater benefits for the people of NSW when each of us are able to contribute
- Everyone has a role in building a diverse and inclusive workplace
We are extremely grateful for the passion and honesty with which employees approached the consultation. It is their experiences that tell the story of diversity and inclusion in the NSW public sector. A video (see video to the right) has been developed to communicate this experience across the sector, with a version with audio descriptions available.
There is still much more work to be done to ensure that the diversity of our workforce reflects the communities we serve. Initiatives aimed at increasing the participation of underrepresented groups will continue to be the focus of attention and funding. However, increasing representation alone will not be reflected in better workforce, service and citizen outcomes. To achieve this, it is necessary to create workplaces where everyone has the ability to speak up, feel valued and respected and is able to make an equal contribution, leading to better innovation, decision making and outcomes.