How to establish a diverse and productive workplace
By Cleo Gwena, Project Manager at In2IT Technologies
More than ever, employers are prioritising diversity and inclusion initiatives and importantly, investing in resources to ensure the workplace is geared for success. Focusing on diversity is not only smart, but the right thing to do.
However, in order to understand the impact of a workplace that encourages and embraces diversity, we need to take one step back: what is diversity?
Diversity in the workplace refers to an organisation that employs a workforce comprising individuals of varying gender, religion, race, age, ethnicity, culture, tradition, sexual orientation, education and other attributes.
These unique individuals all contribute to an environment that is rich with different and fresh perspectives, experience and, moreover, increased problem-solving and productivity.
And, while the idea of bringing new perspectives into the company can feel intimidating for some, various studies in recent years have found that diverse teams excel in decision-making. For example, a white paper from online decision-making platform Cloverpop found a direct link between inclusive decision-making and improved business performance.
On a more personal level, a diverse workplace also creates a sense of acceptance; no longer do people have to hide who they are. Employees feel understood, which creates a rich and rewarding working environment.
It takes work and understanding
Implementing diversity in the workplace is a huge commitment, and there’s no cookie-cutter method – each organisation has its own unique challenges and goals. The key is to assess what culture you would like to instil that will hone diversity while also driving business goals.
A good place to start would be to use a diversity consultant that will provide you with expert and objective insight into your organisation and its journey. Together, for example, you can develop an employee survey that will gauge where you need to fill specific gaps and then focus your resources.
Also, don’t forget to get some personal insights from your employees. How do they feel about diversifying the organisation and can you assist with making the transition as smooth and encouraging as possible?
A lot of companies are still dominated by a patriarchal structure that doesn’t encourage diverse gender roles and sexual orientation, for example. These organisations will need strong and encouraging guidance with consistent checks and balances to ensure the business meets its diversity goals.
The local ICT industry is a good example of a business segment that is dealing with significant discrepancies between male and female positions and salaries. Females, for example, find it quite difficult to secure employment in segments such as hardware and cyber security, as the perception is that males are more suited to the positions.
Unfortunately, this has a ripple effect as women are discouraged to pursue a career in ICT, which means that as technology continues to evolve, men will continue to dominate the industry and women will be placed in “softer” positions.
The question is, how can ICT companies overcome their inherent diversity issues, particularly when it comes to male and female position and salary discrepancies? For one, businesses can support NGOs that work with secondary and tertiary institutions to develop female STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematic) skills, ensuring that a new generation of women enter the marketplace.
Secondly, ICT and most companies should keep in mind that most humans are inherently biased and quite set in their ways – resources must be committed towards additional training dedicated specifically to overcoming bias.
Lastly, diversity doesn’t happen in silos; it requires the co-operation of everyone at the organisation in order to be successful.