4 tips from HR leaders on how to achieve diversity

A few nuggets to consider when thinking about your organisation's approach to diversity. 

There is no doubt that diversity is key to organisational success and sustainability. Because, at the end of the day, a truly diverse organisation can often achieve more success by virtue of being able to pool the ideas of people from different backgrounds in order to develop an outside-the-box way of thinking that will collectively advance the businesses.

Here are four tips from the CHRO SA community on how to better approach the issue of diversity in your organisation.

1 You don’t have to look too far

Deloitte director Anneke Andrews says companies don’t have to look very far as South Africa is already an extremely diverse country. 

“We are blessed to live in a country of such rich diversity and I believe very few people are aware of the massive role large organisations have played over the last couple of decades to embrace this diversity and transform South Africa for the better. We have certainly come a long way, but it is a constant challenge to embrace diversity and to engender a culture where diversity is celebrated and appreciated,”  says Anneke.

2 It’s not only about race

While race is a factor in of the diversity conversation, Mondel?z International HR Director for South & Central East Africa Cebile Xulu says many companies make the mistake of focussing on it almost exclusively, especially as a box-ticking exercise for achieving employment activity targets.  

Says Cebile: “We are not having the right conversations regarding the inclusion of the LGBTIQ community and people with disabilities in the workplace and within the economy in general. We need to be deliberate about inclusion in our talent pipeline programmes."

We are not going to miraculously find the kind of diversity we need in the economically active population unless we invest in diversifying the junior talent pool through bursaries, internships, graduate development programmes, apprenticeships and learnerships. We have to partner with government institutions such as schools and SETAs to encourage the entry of all types of people into the workplace. And then we have to develop strategies to retain them in our organisations.”

3 Prioritise diversity as a business imperative

Clarkhouse Human Capital co-founder Roy Clark says part of the reason why companies struggle with diversity is that they often have other aspects of the people strategy - like innovation and transformation - which take priority. He says, however, that business leaders need to understand that having true diversity makes it much easier to achieve other business objectives. 

4 Have the tough conversations

Khosi Matshitse, Group Executive Human Capital at the AECI Group, says corporate South Africa has to put more effort into having the difficult conversations about the things preventing diversity and inclusion.

“Because, It's not a rational thing, it's an emotional thing. We need to understand that, if a child grows up being conditioned to include certain kinds of people but exclude others, it becomes difficult when they are adults to start getting to that place where they have to begin including the people whose profiles that they had before been conditioned to exclude,” she says 

“And, while many organisations do give their employees diversity training, it’s very difficult to change people’s hearts, which is essentially what needs to happen. The question is, how do executive teams talk about changing the hearts of managers when their own hearts are not in the right place? That is why there is often an elephant in the boardrooms that never gets spoken about and years go by.”