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Bridging the Productivity Gap with Diversity and Inclusion

By Sarah Adam-Gedge, General Manager, Avanade Australia


Sarah Adam-Gedge, General Manager, Avanade Australia

It’s no secret that productivity gains across APAC have lagged behind other leading OECD countries and it is a gap that we need to address fast. To increase productivity and deliver competitive advantage organisations must focus on increasing diversity and female participation in the workforce. Tomorrow’s successful business will create a flexible digital workplace, where processes and work are tailored to the context of each employee’s experience role, location, and tasks.

As we come to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March and with 25 per cent of all organisations already struggling to secure the right digital skills for the future, it is timely to rethink diversity as well as our workplaces. Ensuring that both factors are incorporated is essential in driving future success, especially in the race to attract, retain and drive value from the best talent globally.

Despite some progress in recent decades, a significant gender gap remains in workplaces. Currently, women account for 46 per cent of the total workforce here in Australia, but only have a participation rate of 59 per cent, compared with 71 per cent of men. Addressing this imbalance presents a huge opportunity for all organisations to increase productivity and compete more effectively in a digital and highly competitive global stage. One opportunity to address both is via the adoption of a digital workplace. Accessing work emails on mobile devices, using voice over IP for business calls, or tracking company news on social media has become second nature to many professionals in today’s world and many mistakenly believe this constitutes a digital workplace.

But there is much more. We are moving to a future where our day-to-day will become more automated; imagine smart scheduling that adjusts our workday by matching your availability with others autonomously and arranging the location – either booking a meeting room or restaurant. The email warzone that has become the backbone of many industries will be replaced with collaborative e-meeting places and the old (now new) fashioned ‘talking-live’ will allow for tasks to be completed more effectively, providing organisations with increased productivity in the workplace and an overall competitive advantage. Women bring a different set of skills and perspectives to an organisation, resulting in differentiated and more innovative thinking and better business results.  A recent global survey of C-level executives and IT decision-makers found that 93 per cent of respondents believe employee engagement has a positive impact on a company’s bottom line. Avanade for instance introduced its Diversity & Inclusion program in 2011, and since then we have achieved a 71 per cent increase in female representation in the senior levels globally and a 40 per cent increase in the number of women who have joined as new hires. During the same period, we have consistently recorded double-digit growth, and we firmly believe that our commitment to diversity is a key contributor to our success — and the success of our clients.

One example of Avanade’s commitment to diversity is the Accelerator Program, a six-month course of internal and external modules targeting specific development areas to help participant’s fast-track their careers. In Australia, we have also implemented initiatives such as paid superannuation during maternity leave to promote productivity through increased female participation in the workforce. However, our diversity efforts increasingly depend on our digital workplace, which provides a flexible and collaborative environment. With solutions like remote working and flexible hours available it becomes these small things that helps Avanade attract, develop and retain female talent – making a big impact.

A digital workplace doesn’t just benefit women. As we know, the expectations of all employees about the way they work have evolved. Employees are accustomed to engaging in open and collaborative ways – as employees and customers. This behaviour is influenced by social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. We are now seeing a new generation of workers expecting similar experiences in the workplace. In fact, we are seeing that a digital workplace enables organisations to overcome the digital skills shortage by becoming a preferred work environment for digital natives. Moving forward, according to recent Avanade research, a digital workplace will become even more of an imperative, with many traditional office environments to become obsolete within four years.

As more workplaces digitise themselves, we strongly suggest they continue to focus on using digital technologies to create an intelligent environment for employees and the future affiliate networks of workers — tailoring business processes and work to the context of each employee’s industry, role, location, and tasks. Embracing a true digital workplace will unlock the full value of women in the workforce and improve productivity to remain relevant in our hyper-connected world. Furthermore, as organisations embrace tools and processes to create a digital workplace, women will be given an opportunity to contribute in a flexible way that is productive and profitable.

We use International Women’s Day as an opportunity to celebrate how far we’ve come and the exciting future ahead. However, as organisations become more fluent and experienced in implementing new ways to enhance productivity it sets a precedent for other organisation to also offer these types of facilities and programs. Attracting and retaining talent will forever be a business challenge and ensuring the right talent – male or female is part of an organisation that will make the ultimate difference to the day-to-day operations. Those that don’t embrace an inclusive digital workplace will be left behind.

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