By Gcina Mahlaba, Transformation Manager at BDO SA
Diversity management is vital to organisation growth in today’s very competitive marketplace. A diverse workforce can bring about productivity and competitive advantage. However it is very vital that the organisation understands diversity and knows how to implement, monitor and report on diversity and, consequently, use it to its advantage.
Managing diversity is proposed to be the management approach that will help organisations create an inclusive environment. The value of diversity is only enhanced if the organisation policies, practices and structures are flexible enough to meet the needs and preferences of its workforce.
Managing diversity refers to a management approach for developing workforce diversity, to managing organisational culture change, to empowering the entire workforce. Diversity management is a paradigm or mind set where diversity is embraced by all. The objective becomes that of creating an environment that is all inclusive and does not discriminate or prejudice and group.
An organisation that allows its employees the freedom to succeed and achieve their full potential, allows for mutual respect and positive common regards and acceptance of difference groups and makes the organisation an employer of choice for a lot of people. Feeling included and appreciated increases loyalty and the feeling of belonging, resulting in reduced staff turnover and absenteeism.
Added to this is the fact that the organisations language skills pool is increased and this propels the organisation forward, either to compete in the international or local world, or to increase its diverse customer base.
One of our Transformation goals at BDO is to cultivate an environment where diversity is valued and prospers by valuing all people within the Firm and the community at large. We understand that in order for Diversity to work properly we need to introduce and facilitate a working relationship between the various stakeholders within BDO by promoting cultural diversity, transparency, accountability and above all respect.
Diversity especially in the South African context is by no means an easy fit and it can be a costly exercise, however if done right it can yield a number of benefits for the organisation some mention above.
It is imperative that management at all levels support the diversity initiatives and diversity management initiatives are communicated clearly to the staff members.
During the last couple of months South Africa has seen a number of racist rants from different people on social media and the general media. It is therefore critical that awareness of all ‘isms’ i.e. racism, sexism is implemented. The diversity awareness initiative must show the impact of the individual’s behaviour to the organisation. Also the workshop facilitators must represent the diversity within the organisation.
Policies, and procedures will need to be adapted and aligned to some degree in order to accommodate the different needs of the employees. This is important especially considering the women who try to balance work and home life, and this is where the issue of flexible working hours and working from home comes in. The standard of hiring and the hiring staff need to be attuned and have the knowledge and skills to deal with people from diverse backgrounds. In order to achieve sustainable diversity a cultural change within the organisation will need to be embraced.