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Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace

October is Global Diversity Month, a special time when we celebrate our differences and the things that make us unique. It’s also a great time to talk about Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) in the workplace, a term that has become a buzzword in corporate culture.

According to the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, 80% of South African business leaders cited D&I as “important” or “urgent/very important” to business.

But what does D&I really mean? And what are the benefits to businesses in South Africa? Let’s take a closer look.

What is Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace?

D&I in the workplace is a set of policies, strategies, and missions that businesses adopt to create a workplace that attracts and retains a pool of talent made up of people from various backgrounds.

To better understand the concept, let’s look at the definition of the two words that make up this term and how they relate to the places where we work.

Diversity in the workplace

This refers to a staff compliment composed of people with varying social characteristics, such as gender, age, religion, cultural background, citizenship, physical ability, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and any other identifying trait. Dr Roosevelt Thomas, author and cultural diversity pioneer, describes diversity as: “A collective mixture of differences and similarities, and related complexities and tensions.”

Inclusion in the workplace

Nene Molefi, CEO of Mandate Molefi Human Resource Consultancy, addresses racism, sexism, inequality, prejudice, injustice, and all other forms of discrimination in society – particularly in the workplace – in her groundbreaking book, A Journey of Diversity & Inclusion in South Africa.

She emphasises that diversity and inclusion go hand-in-hand and that a diverse workforce is no good (for business) if you don’t add inclusion to it. She describes inclusion as a process where leaders actively look for those who are excluded and bring them into the fold. Molefi astutely reminds us that while diversity gives you a world of options, inclusion is the key that unlocks this potential.

This sentiment is echoed in a report published by Harvard Business Review, “In the context of the workplace, diversity equals representation. Without inclusion, however, the crucial connections that attract diverse talent, encourage their participation, foster innovation, and lead to business growth won’t happen.”

What are the benefits of diversity and inclusion?

High levels of diversity and inclusion in the workplace enhance employee engagement, prepare you for a global society, and improve workforce well-being by giving employees a sense of safety, purpose, and belonging. For business owners and CEOs, the following benefits of D&I – all backed by research – may be more tangible:

Improves productivity

A report on how enterprises can transform their business through D&I, published by the International Labour Organisation, showed that D&I plays a critical role in the high performance of the workforce, businesses, economies and societies globally. With specific reference to a fractured workforce post-Covid-19, it shows how an equal, diverse, and inclusive workplace is a key driver of resilience and recovery.

Attracts and retains talent

A Glassdoor survey showed that, when considering employment, 67% of job seekers regard workplace diversity as an important factor when making a decision. This is especially true for 75% of millennials who, according to a Deloitte survey, believe an organisation is more innovative when it fosters a culture of diversity and inclusion. And, as a generation that’s increasingly prominent in the workplace, retaining millennials could be a determining factor for the lasting success of many businesses.

Drives innovation

A workforce with a diverse set of experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds is essential for innovation. A study by Harvard Business Review found that companies with an above-average total diversity had 19% higher innovation revenues.

Higher profits

McKinsey’s 2020 Diversity Wins report showed that when there is both gender diversity and ethnic and cultural diversity in corporate leadership, companies are more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability.

Investing in D&I training

The Rainbow Nation is still battling a legacy of exclusion, and despite the government’s B-BBEE Codes of Good Practice – legislation that is largely based on race and gender – many businesses struggle to create diverse and inclusive workforces.

MasterStart, in collaboration with Coventry University, is ready to help companies prioritise workplace diversity and ensure changes aren’t only made on paper.

Our 7-week Diversity and Inclusion course will expand your knowledge of the key concepts and equip you with the tools to navigate and manage diversity in the workplace while building a sustainable culture of inclusiveness.

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