Benchmarking Diversity and Inclusion Practices in Australia


The University of Sydney Business School first surveyed DCA and Australian HR Institute (AHRI) members in 2015 to assess trends in diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategies from the perspective of D&I professionals. A follow up survey has now been conducted and a second report is available. The insights obtained provide important information on what is working and what isn’t and how D&I initiatives can be better tailored to ensure inclusion and equality in Australian workplaces.

Key findings of 2018 survey:

  • While 63% reported that their organisation had a formal D&I strategy and 84% noted that they have a written policy on equal employment opportunity (EEO) initiatives and/or D&I strategies, only 22% stated that their organisation measured the impact of D&I initiatives and strategies.
  • There was a notable drop in the percentage of practitioners reporting that their organisation measured the outcomes of D&I initiatives – from 41% in 2015 to 22% in 2018.
  • Organisational initiatives appear to be highly focused on gender inclusion and equality “ much more so than other diversity dimensions, particularly inclusion and equality for people with a disability. While 81% of practitioners agreed their organisation encourages the career progression of both men and women, only 39% agreed that their current organisation encourages the career progression of people with disabilities – and in fact, this percentage had dropped from 44% in 2015.
  • There was a unanimous response regarding the need for greater support in terms of broader buy-in, resources, time, budget, data, accountability and recruitment in order to improve their effectiveness as D&I practitioners.
  • There was a broadening in the role of D&I practitioners with only 19% (cf 32% in 2015) indicating that they focused solely on D&I related strategies and initiatives.
  • There was a fragmentation in the reporting mechanisms regarding D&I outcomes with 68% noting that they reported internally to the board and/or the senior executive team, while only 48% reported in the organisations Annual Report.
  • While D&I initiatives are voluntary policies located at the workplace level and monitored by a business case driver, 63% of respondents stated that there should be stronger legislative/regulatory rules around D&I management highlighting strong support for a compliance based/social justice approach.
  • D&I practitioners reported that their organisations D&I initiatives were most likely to be very effective at minimising discrimination claims (14%), increasing quality of recruitment (12%), and increasing employee perceptions of fairness and justice (12%), and least likely to report that initiatives were very effective at increasing customer diversification (7%) and market penetration (8%) – suggesting a missed opportunity for leveraging D&I for business benefits.

Key recommendations following 2018 survey:

  • Ensure access to senior partnership ranks and elicit buy-in for D&I strategies
  • Position D&I as a business tool to increase customer diversification and market penetration – rather than only as a tool to assist with staff attraction and retention
  • Provide greater resourcing to D&I practitioners to measure the real impact of D&I initiatives
  • Go beyond having a written D&I policy to creating a formal D&I strategy
  • Invest in measuring the impact of D&I initiatives
  • Consider inclusion and equality beyond gender – in particular for people with disability
  • Support the D&I practitioners ability to effect change and to promote accountability in the organisation
  • Support stand-alone D&I roles instead of allocating the D&I role as an additional responsibility to the HR portfolio – this will ensure there is time to adequately collaborate with internal senior management and staff and external stakeholders while championing the implementation and management of D&I initiatives
  • Provide a transparent process of reporting while considering the areas of improvement.

Download the full report


Benchmarking Diversity and Inclusion Practice in Australia 2015

Despite the well-known business benefits of D&I, many Australian organisations do not adequately resource their D&I function or put in place measurable goals or accountabilities for their D&I activities.

These are the findings of 2015 research by The University of Sydney Business School Migrants@Work Research Group in collaboration with Macquarie University, the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) and DCA.

The results of the survey, Benchmarking Diversity and Inclusion Practices in Australia, has revealed that many Australian organisations fail to adopt measureable goals or accountabilities related to their diversity and inclusion policies.

In addition to measuring D&I resources, the researchers have also looked at what it takes to deliver effective D&I initiatives and established benchmarks allowing organisations to formulate their own their D&I management strategies. 

Key findings of 2015 survey:

  • 64% of D&I practitioners who report an adequate D&I budget said that their D&I initiatives were somewhat/very effective at improving business performance, compared to 39% of those with no D&I budget.
  • Almost 70% of those organisations that linked their managers performance to D&I outcomes said the policy resulted in improved business performance.
  • Over 90% of D&I practitioners said that they do their job because they believe in the business case for diversity.
  • 62% of practitioners reported that the most senior person with responsibility for the diversity function of their organisation was a member of the senior executive, such as the CEO/MD.
  • 78% of practitioners reported that their board members supported diversity initiatives within their organisation and over 80% reported that senior management also did.

However, it was also found that many D&I programs were under-resourced and many organisations were not adopting approaches to deliver the best outcomes. 

  • Budget: While nearly 62% of D&I practitioners reported they had a D&I budget, 39% reported that this budget was not sufficient to adequately fulfil their role. 38% of practitioners reported they had no D&I budget at all.
  • Managerial capability: Only 13% of D&I practitioners agreed/strongly agreed that managers in their organisation had adequate skills to deal with equality issues.
  • Missing diversity dimensions: Less than a third (31%) of organisations reported that they address the needs of a culturally diverse workforce.
  • Monitoring: Only 41% of D&I practitioners reported that their organisations measured the outcomes of their D&I initiatives.
  • Recognition & reward of D&I practitioners: Only 11% and 17% respectively are extremely satisfied with their opportunity for promotion, and with recognition of their work.

Benchmarking Diversity and Inclusion Practices in Australia was undertaken by the University of Sydney Business Schools Migrants@Work Research Group in collaboration with Macquarie University, the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) and Diversity Council Australia (DCA).