Diversity, it’s not about our differences, it’s that we are all the same because we are all different.
— Sasha Jovanovic

Commonwealth Bank CEO, Ian Narev with Sasha Jovanovic

Australia is host to more than 240 languages and people emigrating from more than 270 countries. Each year nearly 200 thousand people decide to call Australia their new home and this presents terrific opportunities for economic growth looking towards 2050.

The Commonwealth Bank (CBA) employs more than 52,000 people and as a result it’s workforce is quite representative of Australian multicultural diversity. Moreover the group’s international reach is rapidly increasing with partners and presence across Asia, North America, Europe and the South Pacific. 

As the heat of globalisation continues to melt political borders, it is cultural borders that remain our final frontier.

Our workplaces have become creative and collaborative, the CBA is in fact currently moving more than six thousand of its Sydney staff into what will be the worlds largest Activity Based Working (ABW) environment. One of the first senior executives to experience this move is newly elected CEO Ian Narev who has bought a sense of youth and positive change to the group as it celebrates it’s centenary this year. 

The mechanisms of ABW, such as collaborative technology and creative workspaces, are merely that tools staff will employ to engage with each other in order to leverage their diverse skills and experience. 

Yet how we do this ‘engagement’ will be different to any other time in history. We are suddenly faced with the intimacy of cultural difference like never before. Relationships once maintained by fax and phone are now conducted face to face or at least by video conference. The things that make us different are becoming more obvious and this can become either a stumbling block or a tremendous opportunity. Diversity training is the answer to the question of how to move from the current to a desired state. 

The CBA has set the ambitious goal to become number one customer bank (of the big four banks) in it’s 101st year of operation. This is a goal that can certainly be achieved if it’s teams learn the skill of working in diversity and leveraging each others unique experience. In much the same was as a rising tide raises all ships, if we learn to work and thrive together, we will ultimately also succeed together.