We just signed into the World’s Biggest Trade Deal but what does this mean for workplace culture?

Australia recently entered into a partnership that has been deemed the ‘World’s Biggest Trade Deal’.

Known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the pact includes 15 other Asia Pacific Nations such as China, South Korea, New Zealand & Japan. The included nations are said to account for almost 1/3 of the world’s GDP and had India not pulled out, encompassed almost half of the world’s population.

This deal opens an unprecedented number of doors in terms of trade for Australia. It is argued as being hugely beneficial for our services industry, increasing the opportunities for skilled migrants in professional services such as legal, architecture, engineering and accounting. And while this offers a huge amount of potential for our economy, it does make you wonder, what exactly does this mean for our workplaces? 

While this Trade Deal offers a huge amount of potential for our economy, we have to be able to understand the impact and changes that will flow into our workplaces as a result.

Australia is a multicultural nation, and it’s a characteristic that we take pride in. In fact, 1 in every 4 Australians were born overseas[1]. While our country boasts a population of over 300 different ancestries[2], 64 per cent of Australians believe that people who come to Australia should change their behaviours to be more like Australians[3].

Is Australia really ready for a more diverse workforce? And are our workplaces ready to cater for this influx of foreign workers?

While there are many workplaces who already have great policies and practices in place to cater for diversity, there are many that are facing barriers to embracing a new type of diverse workforce.

One of the major barriers being that companies are resistant to changing the status quo. In general, humans do not like change. We are creatures of habit and when there’s a lot of change it creates instability within our ‘ecosystem’. It’s true, diversity changes the nature of a workplace environment. People from different cultures do not necessarily share the same values or world views. Even in regard to communication, there can be language barriers or a disconnect between the meaning of different phrases. Rather than companies evolving to adopt broader cultural perspectives when new employees are onboarded, individuals are often forced to assimilate. So, it’s unsurprising that many of the common issues faced by migrants and expats stem from loneliness or cultural shock.

Another huge issue is that migrants can’t get recognition for their overseas education and job experience. Individuals who have worked for years in their home countries move abroad and are no longer deemed to be ‘qualified’ to do the job that they not only love but have spent years studying to do. This creates a huge strain on an individual’s sense of identity and their overall happiness.

However, the value of a diverse workforce should not be underestimated. Aside from offering you an array of diversity in thought and perspective, companies that have employees from a range of backgrounds are seen to be more innovative, have higher employee engagement and the ability to solve problems faster. Your employees get the opportunity to learn from each other’s experiences and your company improves its brand reputation by better reflecting society as a whole. This not only opens you up to a wider variety of talent, but as a company you can relate to people from all walks of life.

If we think about it from a broader perspective, diversity is the way of the future, so why not embrace it? The world is constantly evolving and in order to be leaders in an industry you have to change with it, or ideally before it. Understanding and embracing people’s differences allows you to do this. In business, we’ve seen the shift to consumer centricity, and a huge part of this is understanding that customers are a mix of many cultures & backgrounds. How do we expect to cater for the changes in the consumer market if we only look at it from one perspective? How do we expect to move into new markets if we don’t know anything about that culture?

What can companies do to prepare for this change?

To start with, companies need to recognise that people are different and it’s important to be both accepting and respectful of these differences. A good way to ensure this is by implementing a diversity and inclusion strategy / policy. This not only illustrates that you value your employees, but it makes your company accountable for its actions. Offering a workplace that is directly focused on diversity and inclusion helps create an environment where employees feel like they are supported, respected and valued.

An important value to emphasise is inclusivity. Encouraging collaboration and investing in diversity training can help ensure this. Collaboration creates a more diverse way of thinking, encouraging people to come up with more creative solutions and to bounce ideas off each other. You want to create an environment where people feel like their ideas are heard, respected and understood – because then you can approach issues with a wide range of perspectives and in the end come up with more robust innovative strategies. A diverse workplace is something a company can and should leverage as a point of difference, because it makes you better equipped to deal with the ever-changing consumer environment.

Another important factor that comes with this, is the idea of flexibility. Working with people with different beliefs and cultural backgrounds means that there are some days that are not nationally recognised as public holidays but can be important to a different culture. It also means that people within the community have different schedules and lifestyle factors that need flexible working arrangements. The importance of accommodating for these is critical to the success of a diverse workplace.

However, these strategies are only effective if they are taken up by the whole workplace and this means that leaders need to role model and champion this behaviour. Lead by example and your employees will hopefully follow.

Your D+I Journey

Does your company need help with diversity training? Or implementing a diversity and inclusion strategy into your workplace? We can help you on your diversity and inclusion journey, so get in touch!



[1] Human Rights 

[2] ABS

[3] Scanlan

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