Media Release - 4th May 2018


New Research Recruiters, Paying Lip Service to Diversity is A Waste of Time and Money


  • Best intentions failing to embed D&I across organisations

  • “Tick-the-box” efforts making minimal impact

  • Leadership commitment and D&I frameworks needed for real ROI


Senior leaders may think they are doing a good job at diversity and inclusion, but academic research conducted through Sydney University has found that many organisations are falling short.


Theaanna Kiaos, Managing Director of Diversity First - and the PhD candidate who conducted the research - said that while each of the organisations she worked with showed an understanding of the value a diverse and inclusive workplace brings, few had managed to truly embed D&I practices.


Ms Kiaos worked with 42 participants across corporate, government and not-for-profit organisations with D&I programs to explore the relationship between organisational culture, diversity perception and culture inclusiveness.


“While there is no doubting these organisations were acting with the best of intentions, the success of their collective programs was at best, patchy. While measurement was lacking, anecdotal evidence pointed to only minor shifts in the diversity of staff. Many of these businesses are opting for ad-hoc initiatives they’d seen elsewhere, like unconscious bias training or guest speakers. While these efforts have some value, diversity and inclusion needs to be about building lasting changes into operations and people practices.


“Quotas and training are only a fraction of what is required if you want to embed diversity and inclusion into your organisational culture and reap the financial rewards. We found D&I being led by dedicated individuals but lacking a business-wide or ongoing commitment or role modelling from leaders.


“What has been clearly missing is a collective view of the organisational culture and how strong the leadership team is at embedding corporate values. If values are aspirational, then capabilities required to embed values are not yet visible at the senior leadership level. You should expect that your diversity and inclusion efforts won’t lead to change, let alone a measurable ROI,” said Ms Kiaos.


Measurement a massive challenge


Participants admitted they were unsure how to benchmark their programs, relying mostly on previous workplace experience or making general comparisons to other organisations.


“It’s as if they are flying blind – doing the best they can without understanding what best practice looks like or how successful their efforts are. One participant said, ‘I know we are diverse and inclusive, but I don’t know how much improvement is to be made, there is no way to measure what you are actually doing, and we have no way to measure how we are tracking to our competitors.’


This is where Diversity First’s InCulture Workplace Accreditation Program can guide organisations in diversity and inclusion workplace culture integration. InCulture provides a systematic yet adaptable framework to help take the guess-work out of D&I implementation.

Ms Kiaos identified three chronic challenges when it comes to D&I – cultural background, gender and ageism.


Australia has one of the most diverse populations in the world, with almost half the population either born overseas or at least one parent born overseas. At a time when many professions have an identified skills shortage, prescriptive recruitment limits on skills and experience are favouring Anglo Australians. Requiring long periods of relevant experience may also exclude women from progressing to leadership positions. With fewer than half of 55-65 year olds in the workforce, there is both an untapped source of expertise and a need to adjust workplace practices to embrace older workers.


“As a case in point, a cultural story revealed the experience of a lady contracting in the customer services department of a government organisation who had applied for an internal trades role and was offered the role for a short term contract. When the contract became a full time role, despite her successfully achieving all the objectives of the role during her three month contract period (receiving great feedback as well) they hired a man from another organisation with over 20 years’ experience instead. While she had demonstrated her ability in the role, she did not match up to the paper requirements.


“Talent teams would do well to challenge the brief for prescriptive experience and also look at skills like agility, adaptability and resilience. This would immediately open positions to new candidates who could bring fresh thinking, different insights and new perspectives to the organisation. These are key ingredients for innovation.


To embed values, leaders need to remove the professional distance to create space for genuine dialogue. Leaders should create meritocratic environments where thoughtful disagreements are encouraged so that the absolute best decisions can be made at all levels of the corporate hierarchy. Leaders should cultivate conversations that produce valuable exchange. In essence, leaders need to learn how to connect and have real conversations.


The research showed, workplaces that encourage transparency and truthfulness where employees are able to express their ideas, insights and experiences without the fear of negative consequences opens up a massive resource of untapped potential and by default makes workplaces more culturally inclusive.


White Ribbon strongest D&I performer


White Ribbon Australia, a Not-For-Profit, was by far the most culturally inclusive organisation who participated in the research. Not only did White Ribbon display visible artifacts of being inclusive, through their open office plan and glass door meeting rooms, everyone involved in the study shared their ideas openly and had thoughtful disagreements and there was no fear of negative consequences.


Ms Kiaos said “I left White Ribbon feeling inspired by their work. It was such an honor to watch their employees in action.


“What we want is people challenging their ideas and decisions to create as much cognitive diversity as possible so that business outcomes are driven by the best ideas and by the best thinking and decision-making. Leaders should lead and show their employees how to be radically open-minded.”


New framework developed to address findings


Whilst the research showed that organisations are trying to do their best in diversity and inclusion, they have not had a framework to track their progress or implement diversity and inclusion change. The InCulture® framework is now available as a result of this research and takes a very systematic view of the organisational culture from a diversity and inclusion perspective. The InCulture framework reveals a step-by-step journey of gradually moving towards a diverse and inclusive culture. The process can easily be adapted and tailored depending on the organisation’s needs.


The first step is to undergo thorough diagnostic evaluations through formalised qualitative and quantitative inventory, which is based on academic research. These evaluations can be enormously insightful, especially regarding employees’ perspectives on the culture and their involvement in it.


After the evaluations, a tailored diversity and inclusion strategy is developed from the diagnostic evaluation findings that includes change management, talent sourcing and integration, metrics, resources, training and mentoring programs as well as communication and collaboration initiatives. Finally, the benchmark criteria for success is established and measured against return on investment 





Diversity First PTY Limited

Level 32, 101 Miller Street NORTH SYDNEY, NSW 2060 02 8019 7229


For interviews and high-resolution images, please contact: Theaanna Kiaos +61 451 574 900.

Theaanna Kiaos is the Managing Director of Diversity First PTY Limited and is the creator of InCulture® a model of Organisational Culture, Diversity and Inclusion.


Diversity First provides consulting solutions to businesses of all sizes and of all sectors in matters pertaining to organisational culture, diversity and inclusion.


Uniquely qualified, Theaanna has researched crganisational culture through Sydney University, holds a masters in Health Communication and an undergraduate in Psychology. She is also a qualified Change Management Consultant.




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