How important is diversity and inclusion in times of global crisis?
In the rapidly changing environment precipitated by the global pandemic, a successful diversity and inclusion (D&I) programme is an important part of any business’s resilience and recovery strategy.
Diverse and inclusive corporate cultures lead to increased productivity and meaningful employee engagement, which ultimately offer immense value to businesses. D&I fosters innovative participation, which gives rise to a confluence of creative ideas arising from the richness of different backgrounds and experiences, all of which work together in the formulation of solutions to business challenges and idea-generation. Simply put, diverse spaces ultimately lead to better outcomes than homogeneous spaces.
Is the role of D&I taken seriously by businesses?
Yes, conscious and forward-looking businesses consider D&I to be a measure of their success and indispensable to their overall sustainability. D&I is firmly on the agenda of most organisations and businesses around the world.
Are D&I policies the same throughout the world?
In my role as the head of D&I in Johannesburg, I have been meaningfully engaged in the global D&I discourse, and have observed that D&I challenges, while undoubtedly nuanced based on the country, region and historical context in which they arise, are certainly not unique to one country. I think that it’s a challenge, across corporates the world over, to overcome traditional workplace norms that have persisted for time immemorial and ensure that there is a meaningful embedding of inclusive cultures, in diverse environments.
What kind of D&I policy works best to ensure an inclusive culture?
Businesses should invite and embrace employees that bring their best selves to the space. Requiring employees to fit into static workplace cultures undermines the ability to truly "show up" with authenticity, which is an indispensable component of the overall inclusion project. Embracing the authenticity of each employee fosters trust and belonging, while the converse results in sub-optimal team dynamics, disengagement, a lack of drive, an absence of innovation and an inevitable loss of key talent.
How can a business ensure that their D&I programmes are effective?
A meaningful and effective D&I programme requires a qualitative approach as opposed to reducing it to a pure numbers game. To do this, D&I considerations should permeate all business processes that relate to and influence the employee experience - from recruitment to inclusive on-boarding initiatives, team building culture, performance reviews, succession planning, mentoring and sponsorship. The execution of these processes must be underpinned by a clear, genuine and committed tone from the top, which filters into the microcosms of the organisation. This tone should empower all members within the organisation to engage proactively and invoke their own sense of agency to contribute to the overall project, and then pay it forward.
Why is D&I so important post Covid-19?
At this unprecedented time, innovative ideas are required to navigate a new world, characterised by overwhelming uncertainty. It has never been more important to foster and harness the power of diverse teams who are empowered to work together to create new solutions. Those businesses that have successful D&I programmes are likely to weather the time ahead with resilience and ease the process of recovery post Covid-19.
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