Cultural diversity in small businesses

Cultural diversity in small businesses

SBS World News Radio: A survey conducted by Sensis for SBS finds 61 per cent of small business owners consider their workforce to be diverse. 

Emmanuel Makrandreou took over Irene's Dry Cleaning company 12 years ago, keeping the business in the family, which was set up by his parents in 1972.

"It wasn't something that I consciously thought was something I wanted to do, I used to work for a mining company beforehand and my skillset was different but at the time my father became ill, my mother was the primary carer, so I had to step up and help them."

His mother - Irene - still works in the business.

She's one of 12 diverse employees.

"We have people from 16 to 65, male, female, and from many corners of the globe, it is a United Nations, essentially."

Despite that mix, Mr Makrandreou says their cultural background wasn't a consideration in their employement.

"It's all about skillset, it's all about the ability to train and to deliver an outcome so we hire on the basis of existing skills or the promise of what people will be able to deliver for us."

Lisa Annese, Chief Executive at the Diversity Council Australia says businesses which genuinely recruit on merit and talent automatically get a diverse workforce.

"For small organisations who don't even think about it, if you genuinely only recruited on merit and talent you would automatically get a diverse workforce. When you see homogenous workplaces then you know something is afoot*, you know that people are being ruled out even subconciously because of something that makes them different."

The Sensis report identifies Victorian small businesses as the most culturally diverse.

Tasmania the least.

By industry nationally - 79 per cent of health and community services operators consider themselves multicultural - but only 43 per cent of retailers.

The Diversity Council's Lisa Annese says having a diverse workforce delivers many advantages.

"Different ways of thinking bring greater ideas, but it also has direct commerical appeal, most organisations have customers or shareholders or employees who are from diverse groups and therefore it makes sense that diversity in the workplace is the right thing to do satisfy those commercial needs but overall it's designed to be consitent with increases in complex problem solving, employee engagement, productivity and profitablity."

But, Ms Annese adds, there may be some challenges associated with a diverse group.

"You do have to be aware that sometime diverse thinking leads to a lack of groupthink which is a good thing but can lead to conflict as well, but managers who are good managers who do diversity well know how to create workplaces that are inclusive of people who are different and so they are able to mitigate those risks."

As for Emmanuel Makrandreou, from Irene's Dry Cleaning, the cultural diversity helps his business.

"Perhaps it is when we have a network of people who can help us with customers who can't speak a certain language, we know it all too well being Greek migrants how the Greek community would come to us and we would communicate and I would translate for my parents at the counter."




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