Seeing differences as an asset is crucial if companies want to make smarter, better business decisions.
That was the message from Dr Jennifer Whelan, founding director of Psynapse Psychometrics, who was guest speaker at the Diversity & Inclusion at Drinks Council's first event, "Leading in an age of inclusion".
Dr Whelan (above) noted that managers usually hire people they regard as being the right "fit" for the company.
"They make their decision based on someone looking like them, sounding like them, having the same training and socialising the same way," she said.
While it is important that employees share a business' values, Dr Whelan noted that research shows teams achieve better results when they don't share the same characteristics. It means they can offer a fresh perspective when a different process or solutions to a problem is needed.
Dr Whelan said diversity isn't about putting a square peg in a round hole, but about overcoming unconscious bias to recognise that when everyone thinks the same way a business doesn't grow and evolve as effectively.
The Drinks Association's D&I vision
The Drinks Association CEO Georgia Lennon opened the Network Breakfast, noting the association had established initiatives such as the Diversity & Inclusion at Drinks Council, the Women in Drinks Council and various forums to facilitate awareness, challenge perceptions and build practices that establish the drinks industry as destination of choice for great talent.
"This special Network Breakfast is brought to you by both The Drinks Association and our industry run Diversity & Inclusion Council," she said. "The Council is made up of representatives from our member companies who are passionate about the inclusive agenda and creating meaningful change in our industry.
"The Council is already moving the dial on the D&I discussion, as its members discuss ideas, take them back to their leadership teams and bring them to life in their companies."
Diversity & Inclusion at Drinks Council Chair Denis Brown (pictured above with Dr Whelan) told attendees: "The Diversity & Inclusion Council and the Drinks Board want to make sure the drinks industry is genuinely an attractive one that retains the best and brightest talent. And one of the main ways to sustain this is through our leaders and their inclusive leadership."
How unconscious bias works
It was fascinating to learn more about how unconscious bias gets in the way of businesses making inclusive decisions.
Dr Whelan explained that the conscious brain doesn't have time to carefully process everything, so it relies on the unconscious "autopilot" to create patterns when it notices things happen regularly and make lightning fast judgments about how to handle them.
While this is handy for the minutiae of daily life, colleagues, managers and leaders need to circumvent it - especially during times of stress, multi-tasking or when under pressure in the workplace - as it relies on gut reactions and generalisations, with no fact-checking or validation.
Whelan also used the example of a hiring process where executives were given resumes with male names on them and then the same resumes with female names on them.
The male applicants were seen as more competent and hireable, while the women were offered 20% less salary.
Dr Whelan offered six small, simple changes to help businesses become more inclusive:
1. Turn taking & speaking last - hear more from a broader range of voices.
2. Monitor and share informal administration work and who you go to with opportunities
3. Consult dissenters - find people with different views, invite neutral observers
4. Mind your language - avoid stereotypical language, jargon and jokes
5. Introduce tools for challenging biases and assumptions
6. Have a team conversation and agreement around inclusive behaviours
Diversity & Inclusion Council announces "Future fit" session
Brown revealed the Diversity & Inclusion at Drinks Council plans to hold a panel session for all The Drinks Association CEOs, HR leaders and other interested people on September 13.
"The panel will look at how we make the drinks industry 'future fit'," he said. "The session will be held the afternoon before the Australian Drinks Awards and we hope this continues to develop our collective leadership to enhance our diversity and be more inclusive."
Here are some photographs from this morning's event: