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Integrated Approach to Managing Diversity

Completion requirements

Managing diversity is not a separate concept that needs to be handled by the HR department or Employment Equity committee alone. Managing diversity should be integrated into every level, department, manager, and employee of the organisation. This means the whole organisational strategy should be structured to manage diversity. To become an employer of choice, a company should ensure that diversity is integrated in the mainstream of organisational life.

Managing Diversity on Organisational Level

This means that the top management of the organisation should be fully committed to diversity. The organisation’s mission, vision, values, and culture should reflect diversity. Every part of the organisation’s strategy, including sales, marketing, research, operations, human resources, finances, social responsibility, procurement etc. should be directed to integrate diversity.

Think of examples of companies you know and how they have integrated diversity on organisational level include:

  • Sales and marketing: Advertisements targeted at different diversity groups, where they open shops, packaging of products, etc.
  • Operations: Changing/adding to product lines to focus on the diverse market.
  • Human Resources: Appointing a diverse workforce, introducing diversity workshops, accommodating different cultures in the workplace, special provision for differently abled employees.
  • Procurement: Developing a BBBEE procurement strategy in line with legislation and charters.
  • Social responsibility: Targeting diverse groups in the community when planning social responsibility projects.

Managing Diversity on Management Level

Every department in an organisation is an entity, contributing towards the overall success or failure of the company. Therefore, the contribution each department makes towards managing diversity in the workplace will either make or break the drive. The question is “How can each department contribute towards the overall success of managing diversity in the workplace?" It is impossible to create an all-compassing checklist, the strategy should rather be to have a continuous learning culture to which each department, individual manager and organisation adds as learning takes place. This can be done by means of a ‘diversity management logbook’, where experiences and learning points are logged and kept for future reference and learning.

To start this process off, here are some learning points:

  • When you break down your strategy into key result areas, make sure diversity is in there.
  • Are your policies and procedures accommodative of diversity? – this does not only mean you should remove discriminatory clauses, but also that special provision should be made to accommodate diversity requirements.
  • Genuine efforts should be made to accommodate diversity into the way we do things in the department.
  • The movement towards a more democratic workplace should filter to every level in the organisation.
  • Will you allow evidence of a sangoma in a disciplinary hearing, like you would allow the evidence of a western medical practitioner?
  • Have you made provision to accommodate differently-abled people into your work environment, whether as employees or as visitors?

Managing Diversity on Interpersonal Level

The two levels above focus on the formal structures, procedures, strategies. The interpersonal level has more to do with the informal networks within the organisation and departments. The interpersonal level will often be a result of an organisation that has entrenched diversity into its being. The ideal state of diversity on interpersonal level will be when all individual employees in the organisation have an authentic level of respect and understanding of diverse groups and individuals. The culture of continuous learning to understand and learn to respect each other more and more is where diversity should be at interpersonal level. This is only possible when everyone recognises the value that diversity adds to the workplace and making a genuine effort to adopt a culture of continuous learning.

As manager of your department, you need to set the example of managing diversity positively at interpersonal level. It is therefore important that you deal with your prejudice and fears to move forward to a new culture in your department.