Beyond compliance and diversity to inclusion

To create a truly inclusive workforce, we need to step quickly beyond hillock of compliance through the valley of diversity into the land of inclusion.

Like compliance, diversity is easy. It’s all about numbers. As long as you hit your ‘diversity’ targets – three people of colour here, 48% women there, a few people in wheelchairs and a nod to the GLBTIQ community – you’ve got it covered. But inclusion – true inclusion – is not so easy.

I liken it to ‘normalisation’ being a step on the path to ‘social role valorisation’ (SRV). Normalisation is, ‘the social integration of any devalued group or person into the larger community’. Whereas SRV is the shaping of current or potential social roles of a person, group or class to improve society's understanding of their value.

The shift is one of tolerance to acceptance, of plain charity to appreciating inherent value. Inclusion means realising that every worker has something to offer and this offering might just overlap with what you need. An example: it can be difficult to integrate persons on the Autism Spectrum into an everyday workplace, but their frank analysis of your processes and procedures could save you a lot of time and money.

Without generalising to pointlessness, often people with disability’s skills had been hard earned and these unique qualities can be a real addition to any workplace. (For example, a vision impaired person’s acute listening skills.)

Hoping that inspiration and understanding will trickle down through your business or organisation doesn’t work on its own. We need to find ways to empower and educate the whole staff to embrace inclusion.

Right now, though, we can start by highlighting that fifty per cent of the Australian population will, at some point in their life, experience a disabling condition. So, look out – if you haven’t had one yet, odds are it’s coming to either you or the person next to you!

- Martin Wren