Why SME’s and Start-ups should celebrate Harmony Day

If you have school-aged children or ever worked in the public service, you’ll probably know what Harmony Day is. But in case you don’t, where have you been?

Harmony Day celebrates Australian multiculturalism and is based on the successful integration and acceptance of migrants into our community. It’s often celebrated by schools and communities and, over the past few years, business have started to jump on board as the workplace starts to recognise the importance of cultural diversity.

How multicultural are we, and does being so ‘do’ anything?

According to the 2016 Census, Australia is the most multicultural country on the planet with:

  • 49%* of Australians either being born overseas or having one or both parents born overseas
  • 100%* of Australians identify with over 300 ancestries
  • 7.5 million people* have migrated to Australian shores since 1945
  • 85% of Australians believe multiculturalism has been good for Australia

*Source: (ABS 2016 Census Data. Australian Bureau of Statistics website)

We celebrate our diversity every year in the fourth week of march, because this date coincides with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It was on that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid “pass laws”.

The celebrations come in a lot of different forms, but the most basic show of support is wearing orange. It’s traditionally thought that orange signifies social communication and meaningful conversations. It also relates to the freedom of ideas and encouragement of mutual respect.

Do multicultural business perform better? And how much?

The short answer is a resounding yes.

A 2015 McKinsey report on 366 public companies found that companies in the top quarter for diversity at the management level were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry average. It also found that those in the top quarter for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have returns above the industry average.

Create a diverse workplace and your bottom line wins.

The critical take-away for your workplace

Harmony Day is about inclusiveness, respect and belonging for all Australians (regardless of background) joined by a set of Australian values.

At Performance Based Group (our parent company) this means championing culturally diverse behaviours and actions in our business as we unite corporate and Australian values.

The key to happy employees is engagement and making everyone feel welcome, considering the huge variety of cultural backgrounds that our employees come from. We want to celebrate the differences that enable us to be stronger as a team. Harmony Day is one unmissable opportunity to foster a sense of unity amongst the wider team.

So, you want to get multicultural at work. How to do it?

The Harmony Day website suggests that;

“Celebrating Harmony Day can take any form you wish – big or small, simple or challenging. Events can be a simple multicultural morning tea or a guest speaker at an all staff meeting. It creates an opportunity to think, talk about and recognise how our differences and our similarities make our workplace stronger.”

Over the years, many workplaces have held events and one of my favourites is “A Taste of Harmony” run by the Scanlon Foundation. You can check out their website here which shows us how organisations can open dialogue simply by having employees bring in a dish from their background. It’s social, fun and relatively stress-free.

Similarly, lots of people – myself included – will be wearing orange on March 21 to show their support for cultural diversity and an inclusive workplace and indeed Australia.

But I HATE the colour orange

No problem. You don’t need to come to work looking like a pumpkin. Donning any shade or hue that’s a nod to orange (be it clothing or accessories) is be enough to maintain your ‘thread cred’.

Likewise, a communication piece from your leadership to your people, supporting Harmony Day is a great first and critical step. If your business has any form of internal and external Seasons Greetings communications in December, why not start a new trend and have your own – “We are ardently for Harmony” message in March?

Such activity can prove equally powerful and infinitely more wide-reaching in representing your support for diversity in your workplace.

How does your employer promote inclusiveness?

Are you doing anything to celebrate Harmony Day? Or is there any particular initiatives you think it is really important that employers get behind?

Nathalie Lynton is a superhero business woman and HR rockstar with over 15 years experience who has one goal: To make passion and meaning a more important part of Australian workplaces. She gives small and medium businesses access to affordable and full integrated support in functional business areas such as HR, planning, IT, accounting and marketing.

Leave a Reply