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Initiatives Underway To Improve DoC Workplace

The Department of Conservation today released the findings of a staff survey of the workplace environment, and also the strategy developed to address the issues raised.

Director General Hugh Logan said the Department commissioned an independent person to undertake the survey in July 2000 after he became concerned about progress in diversity issues.

“Since I took on this role in 1997 I have wanted to increase the level of women and Maori in the Department.. It is starting to happen, but too slowly. I wanted to find out what my staff think about diversity in our workplace. I therefore took the proactive step of commissioning the survey.

“We were pleased with the 87 per cent survey response rate and the candour and honesty of the feedback. Some serious problems were identified, particularly by women and Maori, and also by people with disabilities. The survey findings are probably more negative than the overall experience of DOC workers given we constructed the survey to hear about the problems, rather than the positive perceptions.

“In writing up the report that we have presented back to staff we adopted a warts and all approach. We have even included quotes from staff to help humanise the report and to illustrate points made.

“It is my strong belief that we should adopt a zero tolerance of discrimination in the workplace. I do not want any member of my staff to experience discrimination and we are now working to achieve this.

“Prior to the survey findings being released the department had put in place positive workplace initiatives. After considering the comments from staff it has developed the People Diversity Strategy to improve the work environment for all staff,” Mr Logan said.

“As Director General of DOC, I have accepted the findings and have informed staff I am personally committed to making sure DOC is a better place for all to work.” Mr Logan said.

ENDS

Attached is a backgrounder summarising the main findings and initiatives underway.

The report containing the survey findings Workforce Diversity Survey, the companion document containing DOC’s workplace initiatives People Diversity Strategy, and a fact sheet summarising the reports is on www.doc.govt.nz.

Background Information

The Workforce Diversity Survey

In July 2000 every person working for the Department of Conservation (DOC) was asked what they thought about working for the organisation. Was it a safe place to work? Did it make people from different cultures or races feel welcome and safe? Did managers treat all people with respect and as equals? The survey was commissioned as part of an ongoing programme to monitor how staff view these aspects of our culture. The survey results have not been released until now because the Director-General wanted to show staff that he has plans in place to address the issues raised.

The huge number of staff that responded (87%) means the findings are a reliable snapshot of staff views. Based on the findings, senior management accepts there are aspects of DOC’s workplace culture that require attention.

What Women said

The survey highlighted a clear difference in the way men and women perceive and experience the department’s workplace culture. This resulted in an experience of exclusion and at times a lack of safety for some women. Just under half of the women said that other staff make offensive comments about women sometimes or more frequently. They also reported a high management tolerance of such behaviours.

How Maori described their Experience

While Maori reflect relatively positively on their opportunities in the department and of management, their overall experience of discriminatory behaviours was negative. Almost half of Maori who responded said they experience offensive comments about being tangata whenua sometimes or more frequently. Maori in conservancies with a higher number of Maori staff report more discriminatory behaviours and like women, a high management tolerance of these behaviours.

What About Managers?

Firstly, one third of managers and 42% of staff said they do not feel they have enough information to do their job. Secondly, just over half of all managers and nearly two thirds of staff do not consider DOC’s managers are open to new ideas, initiatives and ways of working. Finally, many managers do not seem to be fulfilling the expectations of their role and are failing to be explicit enough about what behaviours are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

What else was said?

The survey found that people with disabilities experience DOC’s workplace culture less positively than non-disabled staff. Staff with family responsibilities pointed out that DOC does not take their needs into account and seems not to support a balanced lifestyle.

There was a high incidence of discriminatory behaviour in respect of lesbian and gay staff and older staff and a high management tolerance of these unacceptable behaviours.

What Does All This Mean?

The survey’s findings do not mean that the department is an unhappy place for minority groups all the time and everywhere. For example just under half of women report they sometimes or more frequently hear offensive remarks about women, but that means just over half of women do not. However, the results do mean there is considerable room for improvement. In fact, there must be an improvement if the department is to meet the goals and targets set out in its People Diversity Strategy 2001-2005.

Planning for a Diverse Future

To address these issues and to increase the diversity of its staff, the department has developed a People Diversity Strategy 2001-2005. The strategy outlines the department’s commitment to fostering people diversity and has set four challenging goals:

- There is strong leadership in and management of people diversity throughout the department.

- The numbers and participation of women in the department, especially at management levels is significantly improved.

- The numbers and participation of Maori in the department, especially at management levels is significantly improved.

- Diversity issues are addressed and no bias is present in HR systems or management of staff.

The strategy has a number of key actions that support the achievement of these four goals. These are currently underway and include:

- Workshops for managers on managing a diverse workforce and introducing the People Diversity Strategy and Workforce Diversity Survey results.

- The development and running of a training programme for managers, which takes them from asking “why do we need diversity” to “how do I manage it?”

- Two specific projects identifying barriers to the participation of women and Maori in the department and identifying strategies to minimise the barriers.

- A process (already developed) to check against bias in the department’s Human Resources and people management policies, procedures and practices. The process involves checklists known as diversity lenses.

So Why is People Diversity Important

To relate well to a wide range of people, DOC staff need to reflect the diversity within their communities. The rewards of a diverse workforce should be better relationships and increased support that will in turn, help DOC achieve better conservation outcomes.


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