+64 3 365 0294

What is Equity in the Workplace? A Guide for HR Professionals

In modern work culture, “equity” isn’t just a buzzword or a nice-to-have, it’s essential for any business striving for success. But what does it really mean in the context of the workplace? And how can HR professionals ensure they’re understanding, championing, and implementing it?

Let’s take a closer look at the concept of workplace equity and how you can create strategies that seamlessly integrate equity best practices into your business culture.

What is Workplace Equity?

Equity, in its essence, is all about ensuring fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all employees. The goal of workplace equity is to create conditions that allow everyone to achieve their full potential.

But isn’t that just equality? Not quite.

Imagine you’re handing out shoes. Equality means giving everyone shoes of the same size. Equity, on the other hand, means giving people shoes that fit them. After all, everyone is different, and if you’re walking in shoes that don’t fit, you won’t get very far!

Navigating the Now: Key Trends in Workplace Equity

The landscape of workplace equity is ever-changing and is often shaped by societal changes, technological advancements, and shifts in the global economy. Today, it’s becoming increasingly important given the recent workplace trends towards remote work and mental health initiatives.

Remote and Flexible Work

The rise of remote work has opened doors for people who previously faced barriers to traditional office jobs, including individuals with disabilities, caregivers, and those living in remote areas. This shift calls for HR professionals to rethink equity in terms of access to technology, opportunities for advancement, and inclusion in team dynamics.

Generational Diversity

For the first time in history, we’re seeing up to five generations in the workplace. Each group brings its own set of values, experiences, and expectations, creating the need for HR policies that address a wider range of needs and aspirations.

Mental Health Awareness

There’s a growing recognition of the importance of mental health in the workplace. Equity in this context means providing support and resources for mental health and recognising it as equally important as physical health.

Facing the Roadblocks: Challenges in Achieving Workplace Equity

While the path to equity is commendable and significant strides have been made, creating change is not without its hurdles. There’ll likely be some challenges you’ll need to face along the way to get it right.

Resistance to Change

Change can be daunting. Shifting long-standing policies and practices requires overcoming resistance from those who have grown familiar with a certain way of doing things and who may not see the immediate benefit of equity initiatives.

Unconscious Bias

We all have biases that can influence our decisions and actions without us even realising it. Tackling these biases requires constant vigilance, education, and a willingness to change. It’s not impossible, we just need to learn to recognise when our unconscious biases are in play.

Measuring Impact

Because the effects of equity initiatives can be difficult to quantify, finding meaningful metrics and demonstrating the ROI of equity efforts remains an ongoing challenge. But just because something can’t be specifically measured doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile – especially when it comes to the happiness and well-being of our people.

Lack of Diverse Leadership

When leadership doesn’t reflect the diversity of the workforce, it creates a ripple effect. Role models are limited, and existing biases might be perpetuated for fear of being disciplined or shunned. Leaders need to pave the way towards equity and inclusivity for their team.

The Pay Gap is Real

The gender pay gap in New Zealand is currently sitting at 8.6%, and it’s even higher for Māori, Pacific, and Asian women and women who are disabled. As of September 2023, median hourly earnings for all women were $30.15, compared to $33.00 for all men. This highlights the need for action to ensure everyone is compensated fairly.

How Can You Ensure Equity in the Workplace?

Simply stating that your company champions equity isn’t enough. In order to be taken seriously by your employees and your peers, you need to walk the talk.

Shine a Light on Diversity: Regularly assess your company’s practices to identify areas where bias might be lurking. Think recruitment processes, performance reviews, and promotion opportunities. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes to see where there might be roadblocks to success in existing practices.

Unbias Your Team: Equip everyone with the tools to fight unconscious bias. Invest in training to help employees and management recognise and reduce unconscious bias; this could include workshops, e-learning modules, and regular discussions on the topic.

Pay Transparency is Key: This one isn’t yet widely embraced, but the more we talk about it, the more we can understand where there might be some gaps to fill. Encourage your team to conduct regular pay audits to identify and address any existing gender or racial pay gaps.

Level Up the Playing Field: To truly champion equity in the workplace, you should ensure that everyone has access to professional development opportunities, training programmes, and leadership initiatives, regardless of their background. Each employee should have the opportunity to grow and thrive in your organisation.

Open Communication is Your Friend: Encourage open dialogue, celebrate diversity, and create channels for feedback. An inclusive culture is one where everyone feels valued and heard. A safe space should also be created where employees can voice their concerns and report any incidents of bias or discrimination.

Leverage Technology: Technology has the potential to contribute towards workplace equity in so many ways, so it’s essential to harness its power properly. This can look like implementing accessible software and tools for people with disabilities or building platforms that facilitate remote work and flexible schedules.

Ryan Recruitment’s Role in Championing Workplace Equity

Our Christchurch recruitment agency has been 100% focused on helping businesses grow for more than 35 years, and that growth includes ensuring no one is left behind when it comes to sourcing and placing candidates.

We encourage every organisation to embrace diversity and work towards a more equitable workplace. That’s why we’re proud members of the Safe Space Alliance, a non-profit organisation that helps people identify, navigate, and create safe spaces for LGBTQI+ communities worldwide. We’re also members of Diversity Works NZ, New Zealand’s national body for workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Embracing equity is not just about doing what’s right; it’s about creating a work environment where everyone, regardless of their background, can thrive and contribute to their fullest potential.

As we move forward, let’s keep the conversation going, share our learnings, and celebrate our progress. After all, we’re in this together, and together, we can make a difference in creating more equitable workplaces around the globe.