Work­place Di­ver­sity makes Busi­ness Sense

Premier Magazine (South AFrica) - - Contents - Text: Kim­ber­ley Axon, Head of Peo­ple Ser­vices at Sage Africa and Mid­dle East Im­ages © istockphoto.com

Com­pa­nies that embrace work­place di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion as a source of growth and in­no­va­tion for their busi­nesses will per­form bet­ter than those that do not – and this ap­plies as much to small busi­nesses as it does to large en­ter­prises.

A grow­ing body of re­search shows that di­verse, in­clu­sive com­pa­nies are more suc­cess­ful than those that do not nur­ture di­ver­sity. In­ter­na­tional re­search by world­wide man­age­ment con­sult­ing firm, Mckin­sey, for ex­am­ple, shows that gen­der di­verse com­pa­nies are 15% more likely to produce fi­nan­cial re­turns above their na­tional in­dus­try me­di­ans, while eth­ni­cally di­verse com­pa­nies are 35% more likely to out­per­form.

This is be­cause a di­verse work force brings the prob­lem-solv­ing skills, a va­ri­ety of view­points, and cre­ativ­ity busi­nesses need as they move from an in­dus­trial to a dig­i­tal econ­omy.

Ger­rard Fos­ter, Di­rec­tor at Project Fa­ble, an African in­sights and con­tent de­sign com­pany, says that di­ver­sity is crit­i­cal in the con­nected econ­omy be­cause it gives or­gan­i­sa­tions ac­cess to a work­force with a wider spread of cre­ative ideas and en­sures they are in tune with the needs of a di­verse cus­tomer base.

Di­ver­sity should not merely be a com­pli­ance ex­er­cise to meet the needs of em­ploy­ment eq­uity leg­is­la­tion, and it should encompass a range of di­men­sions. Gen­der, race, and eth­nic­ity are im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tions in a coun­try with the his­tory of South Africa, but busi­nesses also need to look at di­men­sions such as sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, re­li­gion, age, and even per­son­al­ity type.

That may mean ques­tion­ing many deeply held as­sump­tions among man­agers and the peo­ple they man­age. For ex­am­ple, many older em­ploy­ees may have risen through the ranks of the of­fice hi­er­ar­chy over the course of a cou­ple of decades. They could be ac­cus­tomed to perks of se­nior­ity, such as a pri­vate of­fice and a prime park­ing space, and feel en­ti­tled to a se­nior po­si­tion.

This could cre­ate con­flict if the or­gan­i­sa­tion ap­points a younger leader as their peer or even as their man­ager. Yet many busi­nesses are look­ing at ap­point­ing younger man­agers in their man­age­ment teams be­cause they have grown up with the tech­nolo­gies of to­day, and are there­fore in sync with the needs of the mod­ern-day cus­tomer and un­der­stand the new, col­lab­o­ra­tive work­place.

The start, if you are a hu­man re­sources man­ager or a busi­ness owner, is to cre­ate a safe fo­rum where peo­ple can dis­cuss is­sues around di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion. It is im­por­tant to lis­ten to peo­ple to un­der­stand their life ex­pe­ri­ences, their chal­lenges, and whether they feel they can be them­selves at work without en­coun­ter­ing prej­u­dice. If you are rais­ing the con­ver­sa­tion as a leader, you must be sin­cere, and that means you need to be open to ques­tion­ing your own bi­ases.

Recog­nis­ing di­ver­sity and seek­ing to en­cour­age a di­verse team can po­si­tion your com­pany as an in­no­va­tor and cre­ate a strong sense of com­mu­nity in the work­force – a di­verse work­force just makes busi­ness sense.

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