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Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

While a large portion of South African workplaces are legally required to practice Employment Equity strategies to promote affirmative action measures in order to promote transformation, diversity and inclusion, there is a very sound business reason for all employers to engage with practices pertaining to diversity and inclusion despite legal requirements deeming them to be not designated (Meaning employers who employ less than 50 employees and who’s total annual turnover is less that the amount reflected on Schedule 4 of the Employment Equity Act.)

The fundamental pillar of any diversity and inclusion program is to create a working environment which accurately resembles the community around you. Employers who wish to create an environment which is reflective of their community can implement a Diversity and Inclusion program to help them focus their intention on becoming a workplace which values diversity and promotes inclusion.

Diversity brings innovation to the workplace, offering different insights into the needs of you clients, helping you to engage with your customers fully and genuinely, which gives your company a competitive advantage. An inclusive work environment means that you seek to include everybody by actively seeking out diverse people, harnessing the differences in people to make them successful. It all begins with the recruitment process however when an employer begins implementing a D&I program, it is imperative to first audit your workplace and then compare your workplace to that of the community around you. Stats SA can provide valuable information which can be used to help businesses identify where they stand in terms of demographics. Alternatively, employers could use the Employment Equity information provided in the annual Commission for Employment Equity, which provides statistical insights relating to designated employers and the economically active population (those who are employed) however it does not include unemployed people in some of their analyses so this would need to be considered. The statistics provided by the CEE analyse the previous year’s workforce of designated employers only, by Industry, Province and Sector. When starting a diversity and inclusion initiative, employers may choose to either analyse their workforce by levels (grades) or engage on a high-level assessment which identifies the overall company representation and is a less prescriptive strategy.

Representation is the key aspect of diversity and education and awareness are the tools which are used to help promote a new outlook within an organisation. Providing education and awareness programs for all current staff will allow them to engage and provide their input and perspectives which in turn will help to establish what the base-line opinion and attitude is towards a structured recruitment drive based on promoting diversity. At the same time, employers can identify any possible hurdles or challenges which may be a future barrier, enabling the organisation to be proactive in their approach.