Workplace diversity is a reality in South Africa. This cannot be denied and is reflected in the demographic make-up of the population and of the workforce. In terms of employment equity and the requirements of the EE Act issues related to diversity in the workplace must be addressed.
Managing diversity is defined as “planning and implementing organisational systems and practices to manage people so that the potential advantages of diversity are maximised while its potential disadvantages are minimised,” according to Taylor Cox in “Cultural Diversity in Organizations.”
Managing diversity well, provides a distinct advantage in an era when flexibility and creativity are keys to competitiveness. An organisation needs to be flexible and adaptable to meet new customer needs and the needs of employees.
Diversity promotes creativity and mixed or varied groups have been shown to produce better solutions to problems and a higher level of critical analysis. This can be a vital asset at a time when a company is undergoing change and self-examination to find new and more effective ways to operate.
With effective management of diversity, the company develops a reputation as an employer of choice. Not only will you have the ability to attract the best talent from a shrinking labour pool, you can save time and money in recruitment and turnover costs.
So what is diversity?
Diversity refers to differences or variety. When we speak about diversity people usually jump to the conclusion that we mean or refer to cultural diversity. This is not right as diversity encompasses race, gender, ethnic group, age, religion, sexual orientation, personality, upbringing, cognitive style, language, organisational function, education, background and more.
Diversity can also relate to cultural groups, religious groups, political groups or people with a variety of different human qualities.
Workplace diversity refers to the variety of differences between people in an organisation.
Diversity not only involves how people perceive themselves but how they perceive others and how others perceive them. Those perceptions affect their interactions. For a wide assortment of employees to function effectively as an organisation, human resource professionals need to deal effectively with issues such as communication, adaptability and change.
Diversity will increase significantly in the coming years and problems related to diversity, discrimination and racialism are almost certain to increase. Successful organisations recognise the need for immediate action and are ready and willing to spend resources on managing diversity in the workplace now.