In 1994 our nation defied detractors by demonstrating that a country which is committed to principles of open dialogue, reconciliation and non-racialism can indeed peacefully transition from an oppressive regime to a democratic dispensation.
South Africa, unlike many other countries who face historical issues of racial inequity, has entrenched the principles of transformation in legislation such as the Employment Equity Act and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act. Considering our past, it made sense that our legislators would try to enact change within our society through the law. However, despite our legislator’s best efforts to address the elephant in the room, it appears that we still struggle within South Africa and the divisive issue of race continues.
According to a report from the South African Human Rights Commission in 2017, the percentage of race-related complaints increases annually and reached 69% in 2016/17. While the report may be quite dated, it is difficult to open a newspaper or scroll through social media feeds and not find some story marred by racialism. South Africa may need to re-tool its approach within the employment sector and how it tackles issues that differentiate its citizens. An idea that has been adopted by many international organisations is to tackle the issue of race and diversity head-on.
"Frankly, I think [diversity is] our problem to figure out. I think that responsibility rests on us and our companies in the industry to make sure that we get to that. And there's so much research that shows that you need diverse teams to do the best work. So it's important that we do better on diversity, not only because it's the right thing to do for the country and for the people, but because that's the only way we're going to serve our community the best."
Mark Zuckerberg, Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Facebook
Organisations such as Facebook focus on how what makes them different, can benefit them. Instead of approaching diversity as a bar measure that needs to be reached, it adopts a culture that embraces diversity and what differentiates us, in order to benefit the organisation.
The number of studies on the benefits of diverse and inclusive work forces are numerous. The Center for Talent Innovation stated that at firms with diverse leaders, employees reported they were 70% more likely to have captured new markets in the past year and 45% said they were more likely to have improved market share in the past year.
Diversity and inclusion differ from transformation and employment equity in one crucial way; while our legislation can mandate transformation through regulation, achieving inclusivity within the workplace requires a cultural change within an organisation. The question is, how does an organisation achieve diversity and inclusion through a cultural change?
Organisations around the world have adopted the approach of training their employees regularly on diversity and inclusion. These training sessions focus on conscientizing employees of the cultural biases that exist within organisations and how they can be addressed. It also demonstrates the practices that can be implemented to ensure that the organisation adopts an inclusive approach when conducting business. By implementing continuous awareness campaigns that employees buy into and believe in, organisations can see a marked improvement in the output of their employees. Part of this process is to develop a diversity strategy and purposefully activate the road to inclusivity.
We were recently afforded the privilege to facilitate a process of diversity and inclusion for a large multinational. The journey over the two days of facilitation was transformative for the participants. Some of the participants' comments are mentioned below:
“The course was a real eye-opener; we are different people from different cultures and backgrounds but not so different at all."
"The course was well structured. It really felt like a safe space to voice opinions and it was interesting to see how similar we are and seek the same thing."
"You think you know everything regarding inclusion and diversity, but trust me. You don't."
If you would like to find out more about diversity and inclusion training, please contact our offices. One of our consultants would be glad to come to your organisation to give a brief presentation on how the training can be implemented so that you have optimal impact on the operation of the business. Our training approach is designed to ensure that real and measurable change is achieved.