Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace
After 23 years into our new democratic South Africa, diversity and inclusion still remains a challenge in the workplace. This is not just a mindset or issue of cultural incompetence – but now a strategic priority in organisations.
Diversity and inclusion encompasses acceptance and respect. It means that each individual is unique, that we should recognize individual differences, BUT also our sameness. That despite our exteriors and individuals choices – all human beings have the same needs and wants inside. Acceptance and respect become ‘wants’ we crave when this is not met.
“The greatest insight into human motivation is ‘Satisfied needs do not motivate, only satisfied do'” – Stephen Covey
Sadly, those marginalized and discriminated either highlight their challenges and discontent to a few or in secret/ gossip, or sadly keep it to themselves/ suppressed. Working in such work environments leads to poor communication, productivity and job satisfaction.
The dimensions of cultural diversity include: race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. Humans belong, humans associate with, humans want to be respected for what they hold dear.
Any successful diversity programme should start from the top, with buy-in from top managers. How will you evidence that you’re serious about diversity and inclusion? Do policies, procedures and programmes evidence this? Is it measured and reported? Is it felt in personal experiences and moments? Are you proud to work in such an environment where profit doesn’t necessarily come before people and human dignity?
Diversity and inclusion explores staff differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. Not just staff, but all stakeholders (staff, customers, suppliers, owners, government and society). It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.
Effective programmes deal with diversity issues of:
- who are responsible for creating a harmonious work environment
- cultural awareness, values, value conflicts and ethical dilemmas
- communication, relationships and self awareness
- engaging in a an interactive, fun and engaging way
- equipping staff with cultural competence
This should lead individuals to acquire knowledge and skills to effectively practice diversity and inclusion in the workplace. It should develop genuine curiosity in another. Empathy, concern and compassion should result. Viewing one another as human beings rather a convenient ‘identity politic’ which boxes and separates people.
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