Report shows employers slow to improve diversity.

D&I in Asia Pacific.

The latest Diversity & Inclusion report from Hays has shown that while working professionals in Asia are gaining more knowledge on the positive impact of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace, the slow implementation of D&I practices has resulted in only marginal progression in the region.

The findings of the 2019/2020 version of this annual report are based on survey responses from close to 2000 working professionals based in China, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia. 87 per cent of respondents were born in Asia, 54 per cent were female, and 39 per cent held managerial positions. The survey covered personal experiences of the respondents with D&I in their workplaces, as well as their perceptions of its practice within and impact on their organisations.

When asked their opinion on which areas D&I practices would have the most impact on their organisation, 76 per cent of respondents in Asia chose ‘company culture’, the top choice for the second year in a row. 59 per cent voted ‘innovation’ as the second area most positively impacted, demonstrating a nuanced understanding of workplace dynamics within the region. 53 per cent voted ‘retention of talent’, knocking last year’s choice of ‘organisation leadership’ out of the top three running.

Perceptions of equality remain relatively high as well, with 38 per cent of respondents feeling they had the same career opportunities for career progression as equally capable peers, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender or socio-economic background. 35 per cent felt their chances were ‘somewhat equal’.

Last year, 39 per cent of respondents across Asia said their line mangers were female. This year, the number has marginally moved up to 40 per cent. Overall, 57 per cent of respondents across Asia believed their organisations had diverse leadership teams, a potentially higher regional average that was brought down by Japan’s low score of only 27 per cent who agreed. China scored the highest, with 70 per cent agreeing.

The report found that 63 per cent of Malaysian respondents had, on some occasion, felt excluded from participation at their current place of work due to discriminatory reasons. 28 per cent of respondents believed this was due to their ethnicity, well above the Asia average (17 per cent). The number of respondents with a female line manager is still the second highest level across Asia behind China (43 per cent) but still took a drop from 46 per cent last year to 40 per cent this year.

In terms of leadership, 72 per cent said their leadership team was diverse, and 80 per cent considered a diverse leadership team to have a positive impact on the retention of more diverse talent. But when it comes to developing under-represented groups into leadership roles, 40 per cent disagreed that their companies did so, a rise from 30 per cent in 2018, with a further 27 per cent unsure of their organisation’s position.

Looking to the future and for ways that companies can better support diversity of opinion, Malaysian respondents (47 per cent) were well above the Asia average (40 per cent) in thinking that collaborative roundtable employee forums and discussions are an important strategy. Other suggestions include ‘seeking, rewarding and internally communicating ideas and contributions from diverse employee groups’ (54 per cent), and ‘offering employees an opportunity to comment on organisational culture in career review and appraisal cycles’ (47 per cent).

Tom Osborne, managing director at Hays Malaysia commented, “When it comes to promoting D&I within a company, direction must come from the top. Malaysia’s government is leading by example, with the last general election seeing the highest involvement of women at the decision-making level ever. Business leaders can take direction from this and from their employees, who have voted proactive communication on D&I issues as the right foot forward.”

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