Embrace diversity and belonging, says Donald Khumalo

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International Pride Month is an opportunity to deliberately create environments where diversity thrives.

Donald Khumalo, human capital executive at FNB, says Pride Month, when the spotlight is on the LGBTQ+ community, is an opportunity for corporations to create an inclusive culture where diversity thrives without fear of judgement.

When addressing diversity, equity, and inclusiveness (DEI) particularly for the LGBTQ+ community, Donald says FNB has over the years evolved from a compliance-driven approach to creating an organisational culture that truly values and recognises diversity in all its forms.

“Our focus on diversity is equity, rather than equality. The difference between the two is quite distinct, and in a world where we haven’t all had equal access to opportunities, one needs to take an equitable approach to enable equal participation. This approach of creating an inclusive work culture has enabled our talent attraction, growth, and retention strategies to thrive. This remains ongoing work and an imperative we are deeply committed to, ultimately creating a workplace where all our employees feel like they belong.”

Donald adds that as an organisation, they have furthermore intentionally expanded DEI to include a ‘B’, which stands for belonging. “You can have a diverse workforce, be equitable in your application of policy and procedures, and be inclusive in your approach and practices, and people may still not feel a sense of ‘belonging’,” he notes. “For us, DEI is not complete without the B, hence DEIB.”

Beyond the initiative

A systemic approach to DEIB is crucial, as it’s neither a standalone strategy nor solved by initiatives alone, says Donald.

“It is still important to take a step back and assess: is this room, meeting, forum, or exco truly representative of the diversity we espouse? Then, does the diversity enrich our discourse and allow for the exchange of ideas from diverse perspectives, which helps us understand our diverse customer base and, in the process, deliver products and services that are truly contextual to a diverse customer base?”

He notes that the success of a DEIB strategy relies on it forming the golden thread through everything that leaders do across the human capital value chain, from entry to exit, and every single employee plays a role in making this a success.

As part of the practicality of the organisation’s strategy, Donald says a few measures have been put in place: “We implemented a gender-neutral adoption and surrogacy leave benefit, which allows all our employees access to this leave benefit, and that amendment made it easy for colleagues in the LGBTQIA+ community to embark on a journey to parentage with no hassle of explaining themselves.

“We also have special circumstances leave which allows for employees going through gender-affirming surgery to qualify for additional leave should their sick leave benefit not be sufficient.

“We also host awareness sessions, via in-person events and webinars, where we invite employees as well as guests to share knowledge, experiences, and expertise to equip us to keep growing. A DEIB learning path has been created, and there is a specific module on LGBTQIA+ awareness for our employees to access.”

Furthermore, the organisation has created an employee resource group specifically for LGBTQIA+ employees and allies to engage, share experiences, and build a community that can contribute to its inclusion strategy, practices, and programmes.

Measuring the success and impact of FNB’s LGBTQIA+ inclusion efforts is not as simple as a simple metric, he says. “The best measure is probably seeing colleagues freely express their gender choices. Anecdotally, we have seen growth in our LGBTQIA+ community and allies, with employees engaging more freely in conversations with the purpose of sharing and growing their understanding of the topic.

“We believe this is positive, as when individuals are unrestricted, they can explore fresh ideas, challenge conventional wisdom, and push the boundaries of innovation.”

He concludes by encouraging corporates to continue to create working spaces where employees feel like they belong, “The work to build an inclusive culture, working environment, and truly inclusive society is ongoing, and corporates must be a force for good and positive change in society. We are playing our part.”

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