Equity, diversity & inclusion should be at the core of SA business
For lasting and meaningful change to take place, organisations must create environments where ED&I goes beyond scorecards
When looking at equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) in SA, there are a number of factors to consider.
The impact of a racially and economically segregated society under apartheid is still significant. Added to this are issues such as crime, xenophobia and significant discrepancies in the standard of living experienced by upper-, middle- and lower-income groups.
SA exists in a strongly legislated ED&I environment, but for lasting and meaningful change to take place, organisations must create environments where ED&I goes beyond scorecards to create tangible impact. ED&I isn’t something that should just be scored, it’s something we must authentically embrace, value and place at the core of our organisations.
It must shift from being transactional to being insightful — data shouldn’t just be collected, it should be used for insight-driven strategies to drive meaningful dialogue and change. By approaching ED&I from an employee-centric perspective, we can ensure a positive shift from reflecting diversity in numbers to an authentic culture of inclusivity.
The pandemic has reshaped not only the way we work but also how colleagues, employers and employees engage. Additional economic impact over and above existing challenges has moved the country to a point at which decisive action is needed to bring about positive change. Added to this are societal and economic challenges that predate the pandemic such as load-shedding, access to reliable internet connectivity, high levels of crime, and political unrest.
Thankfully, we no longer need to spend a lot of our time and effort justifying why ED&I matters. Given the impact it has on organisational and individual performance, employee wellbeing, the health of the talent pipeline, and innovation and business outcomes, the business case is clear, proven and more accepted than ever.
This can be attributed, in part, to the digital age we live in. We’ve reached a point where technology can provide us with a much more detailed view of the workforce and its impact on the business. Data can now show us if unconscious bias is creating unbalanced hiring practices, if a company’s promotion process is inclusive or not, or if there’s higher attrition among certain groups of employees and why that might be. As a result, ED&I is evolving and moving closer to the core of human capital management and the business.
We recently commissioned a survey of more than 100 South African professionals and business leaders that have influence over ED&I in their organisations, across a broad range of industries, to better understand the state of progress across all sectors in SA.
Overall, the report reflected a positive outlook for the future, with results indicating a strong drive for ED&I among respondents and their organisations.
Respondents feel that organisations need to do more to attract diverse talent and to upskill and promote people to ensure their organisations are representative of the country’s diversity. The report highlights that diversity at all levels of the organisation is critical to ensure that employees feel their place of work includes people from every walk of life.
Diversity at all levels of the organisation is critical to ensure employees feel their place of work includes people from every walk of life
The research showed that SA organisations are collecting more ED&I workforce data than their European counterparts. This puts them in a better position for meaningful action. The majority feel they have enough data to engage a clear strategy, but aren’t using their data to make action-based decisions.
Those experiencing diversity positively have the ability to drive change. Those who don’t have a positive experience in their workplace might find it more difficult to demonstrate the impact or value of difference.
While 44% said diversity is recognised, valued and celebrated in the organisation, and 13% said people can readily take each other's perspectives and communicate accordingly, 18% said diversity was trivialised and a further 14% said it was viewed in a conflicting and polarising way.
The report suggests that the positive impact of ED&I initiatives will cascade effectively to the majority of the workforce as they see leadership value in ED&I. Respondents also cited the need for a clear strategy, with ED&I metrics included as a core part of corporate KPIs, better staff engagement and/or more commitment from leadership.
In studying our own organisation at Workday, we understood that fostering inclusion and equity in the workplace is key. We looked at how to create an environment where everyone feels valued for who they are and what they bring to the organisation. It starts with a deep understanding of who your people are.
A fundamental part of our approach is looking at measurable outcomes across the life cycle of the employee — from candidacy and onboarding, to development and advancement.
From there, we can measure disparities across intersection groups and where in the employee life cycle we have the greatest opportunity to improve. We call this approach VIBE™: value inclusion, belonging and equity. We share our best practices and methodologies with our customers and partners as we advance on our own journey.
We’re inspired by the number of our customers and partners who, like us, strive to build diverse and inclusive workplaces. We know that by working together and combining our varied perspectives we can drive lasting change that will benefit us all.
This article was paid for by Workday SA.