Diversity refers to differences or variety. When we speak about diversity people usually jump to the conclusion that we are referring to cultural diversity.
There are many forms of diversity such as race, religion, sexual orientation, upbringing, language, thought and background to name but a few. All of these exist in the workplace. Diversity can refer to cultural groups, religious groups, political groups or people with a variety of different human qualities, values and principles all of which, when combined, make up the exclusive culture of a specific company.
All organisations have a prevailing culture. However, the detection of the company culture is not easy. The company culture is indicated by, or reflected in, certain features of the company such as policies, vision and mission, managerial philosophies and so on. This variety will be patterned by each major department having its own prevailing culture.
It is this diversity of culture that brings problems for management in that such diversity often results in organisational disharmony. Diversity should in fact, if understood, lead to greater harmony and togetherness. There should be UNITY IN DIVERSITY.
Companies can adopt a number of strategies to try to harmonise the different cultures and create an environment where employees understand each other and the differences that exist. Companies need to look at and address issues such as
- The nature of diversity and its impact in the company and on individual employees
- The various dimensions of diversity that exist and the impact of each
- The role of discrimination and stereotyping in diversity
- Cultural issues and their role in diversity
- The impact of diversity in terms of how we do things
- Positive consequences of diversity and how to make diversity work
- Communication in diversity
- Diversity and conflict
- The role and responsibility of the individual in creating a harmonious work environment
- Exploring issues in a specific workplace in order to suggest ways of managing diversity
These are issues that need to be brought out into the open and discussed by all. These are issues that cannot be dealt with by management alone.
When considering Employment Equity and the impact EE might have in a company, managers and employees alike need to take diversity into consideration. Employment equity must bring about equality in a harmonious environment where unity is the end result. Understanding and accepting diversity is the only way to bring about this unity.
Des Squire (Managing Member)
Amsi and Associates cc