In a South African context, the term ‘diversity’ is not a foreign concept, and plays an important role in all the spaces we operate in. Diversity in the workplace refers to the differences between the individuals in a business, and includes how these individuals identify themselves as well as how others may perceive them. It ranges from age, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, and the list goes on!
Leaders should recognise that a diverse workplace that promotes inclusivity opens a chasm of talent, skills, innovation and fresh thinking. An effective leader will ensure that this diversity is tapped into, and not wasted!
Diversity within the workplace allows for many benefits, including innovation, increased productivity and adaptability, and easier recruitment and retention. However, in order for these benefits to come to life, diversity needs to be effectively managed within the workplace.
Here’s 5 key steps in managing workplace diversity:
- Start by Hiring
Your business should reflect the community it operates in, and therefore your recruitment guidelines should embrace diversity. This means that a diverse interview panel should be developed, to avoid any biases or prejudices. To build a diverse workforce, it is essential to hire quality people from a variety of backgrounds. The most qualified person should always be hired.
- Prioritise Effective Communication
In order to manage a diverse workforce, it is critical that the business facilitates clear and effective communication. We often accept workers are aware of policies, procedures, and safety, while in reality this is not the case. When communicating, consider language and cultural barriers, and using translating materials where applicable.
- Encourage interaction
Employees will only truly understand one another and respect each other’s differences through interaction. How is this encouraged to bridge different views, backgrounds and experiences? Through effective interaction, cultural misunderstandings and preconceived notions can be minimized, or even avoided.
- View employees as individuals
All stereotypes and assumptions should be avoided, and successes and failures should be judged individually, on the individual’s merit and not their background. Any Manager or employee that expresses prejudices or stereotypes should be dealt with accordingly.
- Be open-minded
Managers should set an example for their employees by establishing relationships with colleagues whose backgrounds differ from theirs. This will encourage employees to recognise that one’s own experiences, background and culture are not the only ones with value to the business.
Ultimately, a combination of diverse talents is more likely to achieve the business goals, and to bring success to the business.