Social Change in the Workplace

Author: Harrison HR | Blog

I recently attended a seminar on HR and leadership's role in social change. One statistic really struck me, “Australian employees are losing $1.3 billion annually as a result of violence against women according to estimates.”

This has stimulated my thinking about the areas where good leadership and human resource practices can influence social change as well as effectively engage and motivate employees within a great workplace.

Here is a snapshot of four areas where organisations can positively influence social change:

1. Leadership – Two leaders who are having a profound influence on social change are Alan Joyce, Qantas CEO and Bernard Curran, Partner at BDO:

  • Bernard Curran, Partner of BDO, has established a workplace giving program whereby BDO employees contribute to a Learning Potential Fund Scholarship for QUT students undertaking Bachelor of Business (Accountancy or Law Honours) who are highly motivated but struggling financially. BDO matches the funds donated by employees then QUT matches the funds from BDO which funds two students through the scholarship each year for a period of three years. Part of the reason Bernard Curran established the program was, “Nelson Mandela once said, ‘education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’ and these scholarships have been created in that spirit.” The program is enthusiastically supported by BDO staff which is another by-product of the
  • Alan Joyce, Qantas CEO, displayed how business leaders can greatly influence social change when he directly encouraged other companies to campaign for same-sex marriage, “I think corporate Australia, if it’s to fix the reputation it has out there, needs to be vocal on social issues. That’s what good businesses do. They are part of society, they help promote societal change and help promote what’s good for our people. That’s want Qantas does, that’s what I do personally and I think it’s important for others to speak up.”

2. Policy - HR policies should ensure equity across employees regardless of gender identity, race, age etc. within their processes regarding remuneration and opportunities for advancement. Workplaces also need to be physically and culturally equipped to be equitable places for all employees.

3. Education – Workplace wellbeing programs that support social change also in turn benefit organisations as there is such a close connection between employee health and wellbeing and productivity and also workplace culture and behaviours.

Harrison Human Resources’ online human resource training, HHR Learn provides a Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment course which is a useful education tool that has the potential for societal change. The course educates employees about discrimination and workplace law so employees are:

  • Able to identify unlawful behaviours in the workplace;
  • Aware of their own responsibilities regarding workplace behaviour; and
  • Able to identify what to do if they encounter sexual harassment, discrimination or workplace harassment.

4. Workplace Culture - It’s one thing to have policies that support equity in the workplace, however it is also a leader’s responsibility to ensure the workplace culture supports those policies. Two areas that exemplify this are parental leave and flexible working practices:

  • Equal access to parental leave - The culture of an organisation is often a stumbling block for people to apply and take parental leave. Human Resource management can shape the internal culture of an organisation to promote and support parents taking parental leave making a positive impact to society and employee wellbeing.
  • Flexibility - Flexibility of hours for all employees can lead to the opportunity for a more equal split of parenting and carer responsibilities and the opportunity for greater positive parent/carer engagement. Similarly, if a workplace is staffed on set schedules, efficient communication and management of the schedules allows parents and carers to co-ordinate the care of their children and other dependents with their carer partner/s.

There are many more ways organisations can influence social change. Contact Harrison Human Resources  to learn how our HR consultants can help you develop workplaces influencing social change through human resource management and thereby improve your ability to attract and retain great people.

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