“Before you judge a person, walk a mile in their shoes.” Wise advice that many of us don’t get the opportunity to put into practice as we go about our busy daily lives.
For example, try to imagine for a moment that you’re a jobseeker, who is new to Australia, English may be your second or third language; the customs and cultural norms of this country are strange to you. Who would you reach out to help polish your resume? How do you find out what to expect at an interview?
“I remember myself and my family rehearsing what I would say before I went to my first job interview,” recalls Paige Van Every, Relationship & Operations Manager – Corporate Diversity Partnerships, Jesuit Social Services. “I now understand that when it came to ‘job readiness’, I took my family’s support completely for granted. People who come from marginalised backgrounds or who are new to Australia don’t have a local network of family and friends to talk to about a work experience opportunity, still less about a professional role. We can never underestimate the role of networks: as they say, it is not what you know but who you know! If you didn’t know about the recruitment process here in Australia, too, imagine how you would go about answering a behavioural event interview question using the STAR [situation, task, action, result] approach.”
Van Every adds that her team has accompanied hundreds of talented people of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds on their employment journeys. This has led to their securing professional roles, but hundreds more still look for a foot in the door.
Sometimes all it takes is a “fair go”. But to do that you have to break down cultural stereotypes. This is hard to do by yourself but thankfully there is a growing awareness of the role that employers play in committing to diversity and corporate social responsibility (CSR). Studies show a strong demand for jobs that demonstrate a social purpose. Indeed, 86% of surveyed millennials believe that business success should be measured in terms of more than just financial performance. However, this demand is only partly being met by employers. The same study shows that only 23% of decision makers in Australia believe that social responsibility is a top priority, and over half (53%) say it’s not even a focus.
Alan Joyce, CEO, Qantas, is one employer that has recognised and prioritised CSR, not only in response to the importance of social purpose to job seekers but because it makes good business sense, explaining “…[it] got us through the tough times, diversity generated better strategy, better risk management, better debates, [and] better outcomes.”
Enter Jesuit Social Services.
Connecting candidates with employers
Established more than 40 years ago and today a powerful advocate for equality, and social justice for all Australians, Jesuit Social Services works with communities to ensure Australia is a just society for all. It currently has over 40 programs ranging from settlement and community building, to mental health and wellbeing, justice and crime prevention, as well as education, training and employment.
Corporate Diversity Partnerships design tailored programs with their partners that will achieve their business goals and assure a positive social impact for the community. They connect qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds to employers. Van Every says that her team’s approach to recruitment is to support candidates. They try to provide a structured approach, but also ensure that the interviews are relaxed. Candidates appreciate this because it allows them to “show their best side”. Following on from this, structured preparation training is provided so as to give every intern the best start and ongoing support is provided to Participants and their managers. Employers also have the option to learn more about the refugee experience and how working styles in a professional setting in Australia compare to countries around the world, including how to encourage cultural agility. The ultimate goal is to ensure sustainable success for both employer and employee.
An alumni from the John Holland Pathway Program shared that their “…communication skills improved tremendously and [they] learnt so much about the Australian workplace culture at the Participant Preparation Training. It really helped settle [their] nerves before starting with [their] team.”
Grass root beginnings…
Jesuit Social Services started working in the area of diversity and inclusion ten years ago through the African Australian Inclusion Program (AAIP). This was a joint initiative with NAB.
At the time through a settlement program with people from African communities it saw some of the complex issues and barriers they were experiencing. NAB staff were volunteering in this program and tried to understand the barriers members of the African Australian community experienced when seeking employment. At the time, the Federal Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner, found a large number of ‘under’ and ‘unemployed’ African Australians in his electorate. Many of them had degrees but were driving taxis, working in hospitality, and in petrol stations just to get by. The dots came to be connected and a pilot program began.
After 10 years, the AAIP has grown into a highly successful program, well-known across the country for achieving excellent employment outcomes that promote greater economic and social inclusion. Since 2009, 462 Participants have either completed or are currently completing the program. About 80 per cent at the end of each round have ongoing roles at NAB or in their chosen field, and so launch their careers.
“We connect our partners with an untapped talent pool,” Van Every explains. “When Hiring Managers meet candidates at the interview, they are continually surprised by the calibre of the candidates and by the barriers to their inclusion through traditional recruitment processes. We’ve had many instances where the Hiring Managers have been so impressed that they’ve opened up additional roles, or they’ve confessed that the candidates have more degrees than both interviewers combined!”
Win-Win for all
Not only does the company gain access to a diverse set of talent that helps the organisation better to understand and serve its customers, but the program also improves the Participants’ prospects of meaningful and ongoing employment. There’s also a ripple effect that extends beyond the individual, to their families, their extended family overseas, and for the wider community.
The ripple effects of the program spread widely. When it comes to the social return on investment, NAB has determined that an investment of $1 into the AAIP equals $4.64 in social and economic value.
Van Every has witnessed first-hand the power of these programs to change lives: “Hearing alumni share that they can now dream of owning a home one day, or now being able to be the parent they had always wanted to be and take their kids to the footy on weekends, or being able to pay for schooling and medical bills of family members overseas…these partnerships are transforming lives.”
She adds: “The Participants are the best advocates for our work. I’ve seen them going into our partner organisations and changing perceptions, shaping culture, and really capturing the hearts and minds of their colleagues. Staff that support our Participants share the direct benefits of being involved. They appreciate being part of something bigger than themselves, proud of their employer and their feeling of fulfilment when they see the difference they are making to someone’s life. Their involvement becomes a talking point in their personal lives.”
Corporate Diversity Partnerships has expanded over the past twelve months and is now pleased to be working with the Australian Taxation Office, John Holland, Yarra Valley Water and, most recently, Melbourne Water. “This work is hugely rewarding for all involved and is really contributing to a more socially cohesive, and kinder Australia where everyone feels valued, has a sense of belonging, and is able to contribute. I feel that if all organisations were able to assist and become involved in whatever capacity they could – providing even one job opportunity – this present problem would soon disappear. All anyone needs is that foot in the door, that opportunity to excel. Our Corporate Diversity Partnerships provide that. We hope to expand our partnerships as employers increase their understanding of the many benefits that a real commitment to diversity and inclusion can provide.”
ELMO is proud to share the great work being undertaken by Jesuit Social Services. Read more about the Corporate Diversity Partnerships offered by JSS here.
 2018 Deloitte Human Capital Trends
 “The Diversity and Inclusion Revolution: Eight Powerful Truths,” Deloitte Review, Issue 22, January 2018