Queensland Government

Queensland is an incredibly culturally diverse state with 21.8 per cent of Queenslanders born overseas (2016 ABS Census of Population and Housing). Cultural diversity has many social, cultural and economic benefits including creating jobs, generating profits and importantly promoting a cultural exchange that connects us with the rest of the world.

The business case for cultural diversity

Improved cultural and linguistic diversity and cultural competency presents benefits to organisations in business terms including financial returns and productivity. The Diversity Council Australia sums up the business case for cultural diversity by arguing that a reputation for having a diverse and inclusive workplace enhances your business. Talented employees are attracted and want to stay, and a broader range of customers and suppliers open up new markets and opportunities.

The benefits of diversity can be summed up into four key points:

  • productivity and innovation
  • access to new domestic and international markets
  • attracts the best talent
  • improves the bottom line.

Productivity and innovation

Cultural diversity and inclusion can improve the productivity of a company and foster innovation amongst staff. Having many voices with different opinions and experiences can bring forth new ideas about business practices, problem solving, products and services that may never be discovered in a more uniform workplace or organisation.

There is also greater innovative potential to meet the needs of customers and clients through cultural diversity and inclusion. Through diverse and inclusive workforces and leadership, a company or organisation is better able to understand and respect the cultures of their diverse customer bases. This can also lead to the creation of more innovative products and services and better ways to engage new customer bases.

Productivity is also increased through diversity by preventing issues that cost organisations and businesses money. For example, having a culturally diverse workforce whose voices are heard reduces preventable cases of discrimination in the workplace.

Access to new domestic and international markets

This innovation goes hand-in-hand with an organisation’s capacity to access and participate in new domestic and international markets.

With a diverse and innovative workforce, an organisation or business is better placed to be flexible and dynamic when responding to social and cultural shifts in the market. This is further detailed in the Australia Multicultural Foundation’s 2010 Training Program Resource. By having a culturally diverse workforce, staff have a broader pool of experience to understand and respond to changing markets both internationally and domestically. This also better equips an organisation or business to:

  • Utilise greater cultural competence on an organisational level to access more overseas markets
  • Have a deeper understanding of communication with these overseas markets
  • Increase capacity with training and retention of qualified overseas workers in addition to unlocking their full potential
  • Have greater capacity to engage organisations and businesses in the international market by reducing barriers created through language and cultural differences
  • Ensure a better success rate of any business conducted overseas, either directly with customers and clients or when partnering with overseas organisations and businesses.

Many workforces already contain significant levels of diversity as well as, in many cases, the lived experience of international markets. Tapping into these resources is a sound business approach.

Improves the bottom line

There is a correlation between businesses with greater cultural diversity and above-average returns. By adapting business practices for people from diverse backgrounds, there are opportunities in building customer relations where a one percent rise in gender and cultural diversity equates to three to nine percent rises in sales revenue.

There are opportunities for organisations and businesses to build a more loyal and diverse client base through authentic approaches to incorporating cultural and linguistic needs in their organisational processes and practices. This is supported by the findings of a customer survey conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and Deloitte Australia, which studied the unique experiences of customers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and what this means for business practices. The study shows that:

  • One in two customers from diverse backgrounds (including LGBTIQ and/or those practicing a noticeable faith) surveyed said their buying choices were positively influenced in the last 12 months by an organisation’s reputation for supporting diversity causes such as gender equality, marriage equality, people with a disability, older people or cultural diversity (page 29)
  • Culturally and linguistically diverse customers were almost twice as likely to recommend an organisation to another person based on its reputation as supportive of diverse needs (page 29)
  • Of all respondents, 58 percent were positively influenced by an organisation’s support for diversity (with only 13 percent negatively influenced and 29 percent neutral) (page 27).

This customer survey also found that negative customer stories across a wide range of industries revealed a combination of overt stereotypes and unconscious biases, combined with a lack of awareness and focus, which create subtle acts of exclusion for multicultural and other diverse customers. This causes a higher proportion of lost sales and can lead to customers avoiding a company and/or becoming publicly critical of the organisation or business.

In the customer survey, culturally diverse customers indicated that they are three times more likely to actively avoid engaging with a particular organisation because of their cultural background. They were also significantly more likely to dissuade others from using a product or service because the organisation was not supportive of diversity.

By improving cultural responsiveness and creating a more positive experience for culturally diverse staff, customers and clients, your organisation or business will be better positioned to capitalise on a customer need that is not currently being satisfied. By including cultural diversity in organisational and business practices, you are also able to prevent challenges and issues that can arise with your customer or client base.

The content in this section is intended as a guide only and was prepared with the assistance of Cultural Perspectives Pty Ltd.