Diversity in the workplace
In order for Australian businesses to fully understand and serve their customers, they need to be just as diverse as the customers themselves.
Many successful companies are talking about the importance of workplace diversity, with some just letting it happen naturally.
Others, like AGL, are embracing diversity.
“We’re about creating an inclusive working environment where employees can bring their whole selves to work, where it’s safe to speak up, and where differences of opinion and perspective are encouraged and valued,” says Karen Whittaker, AGL’s Head of Organisational Development and Transformation. “We see it as something we have to choose to do and work hard at.”
While many businesses are going quiet on social issues impacting Australians, AGL's focus on workplace diversity has recently seen the energy provider speak up on topics like fighting for marriage equality and taking a stand against domestic violence.
“These are really important social issues and they’re not just happening ‘outside’ AGL – we are not immune,” Karen says. “If you look at the statistics, you quickly realise that these are issues that are likely to be affecting our people as well. We want them to know that AGL will support them starting from a place of understanding and compassion and a flexible approach to providing support.’”
This thoughtful approach also flows on to AGL’s customers. “With our hardship program, Staying Connected, we’ve put processes in place to provide practical support to customers who might be facing financial stress for a range of issues, including specific actions we are taking to support those impacted by domestic violence,” says Karen.
Having made a stand on topics like same-sex marriage, AGL is making sure that it’s practising what it preaches and that diversity and inclusion is lived within the company.
Along with a publicly-published policy that outlines its commitment to diversity and inclusion, AGL has a Diversity Council chaired by CEO Andy Vesey. It has a strong track record of using a number of ways to engage employees on the topic – from its Diversity & Inclusion Big Day Out conference and lunch-and-learn sessions, through to its active employee networks for women and LGBTI employees.
Workplace policies, including parental leave that aims to support women and men, and flexible work arrangements, have also been adopted. “What we say about AGL externally needs to be real on the inside,” says Karen. “If we’re saying this is a great place for women to work, for example, we want to make sure that’s a lived experience.”
While having an inclusive workplace for employees can help attract more great people, the individual perspectives and experiences that each member brings to the business can also help deliver a greater level of service to AGL customers.
“We want to have a diverse workforce that reflects our customers and the Australian community,” says Karen. “Ultimately, success in this area is when the customer enjoys a superior experience because we have a better understanding of who they are and what they need.”
Read how AGL is power pride and diversity at Melbourne’s Midsumma Festival.