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Diversity and Inclusion

SHARE   |   Wednesday, 17 October 2018   |   By Isang Lekhutile

The WorkPlace

I moved from Orapa to Gaborone sometime in 2016. Coming from a mining town and settling in a busy mind-your-own town was a challenge, let alone restoring and reigniting previous connections and establishing new relationships was a humongous assignment.  Remember we are social beings; therefore this was an indispensable task to execute.  One day while waiting to report for duty on my first day at my current workplace, a well balder Zimbabwean man came, greeted me and informally introduced himself. Closely looking at this balder gentleman, I realised how we resembled each other and guessed may be that is why he approached me.

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Later during the day at lunch time, I conversed with a gentleman in a feather-light category to borrow the boxing lingo. Needless I mention that the conversation was purely in Queen’s language. My Heavens, that day the least I wanted that lunch hour was to engage in a discourse in the Queen’s language. You know us Batswana and how proud we are of our native language.

Through our conversation the feather-light chap, he commenced to talk more of his native country and how its economy continued to decline unabated. Since that momentarily lunch hour we developed a friendship. And I have to confess he impressed beyond measure how he factually articulated issues that we discussed about. Unbelievably his situational analysis is unmatched. Since then he has become one of my trusted advisors on both work related and social issues.  Towards end of the day, together with the balder man I first met, these gentlemen cordially invited me for a cup of coffee and that marked the beginning of great things to come my way. Let me call the skinny chap Mr X from Zambia and the bouncer from Zimbabwe Mr Y.

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From then become a tripartite-team since the three of us hardly became inseparable. They also played a vitally significant role in couching and mentoring me including my childhood friends as well. Although diversity is the hardest aspect for society to embrace and accept, it makes life colourful and enjoyable. Once you experience the immeasurably immense benefits of diversity, you will deeply appreciate the essence a big family it brings about. Perhaps the most perilous thing we can do is forfeit the opportunity to embrace diversity in our societies. The world has become a global village and therefore diversity and inclusion are inevitable. Andres Tapia once said “Diversity is the mix and inclusion is making the mix work”. Considering our backgrounds, we all come from different families, tribes, races, cultures, and environment and most strikingly from diverse nations.

We are different and unique individuals which makes our life experiences interesting and exciting. These gentlemen possess different and special characters. One greatest lesson learnt from them is “life is what you make it” and “the fruit of your own hard work is the sweetest”. All of us as friends, we are working hard so that one good day, our signatures will be called autographs.

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The late President J. F. Kennedy in 1961 recognised and approved employment equality policies aimed at eradicating discrimination in United Sates of America. Furthermore, in 1964 the Civil Right Act added more weight to attempts to totally erase and stop discrimination and promotion of equality in workplace.  Nixon administration in 1971 reviewed the policy and this was the turning point and the beginning of diversity in the workplace. Since 1980, diversity has moved from people of colour, women and now is inclusive of religious practices and sexual orientation. Diversity can pose possible threats to an organisation and also be a solution on the other hand. Globalisation has triggered interaction of societies across different cultures and races. Organisations today are now experiencing a serious change in workforce and diversity and other challenges to be addressed as well.

Writers have commented that diversity has proven to be instrumental in improving organisational performance and it brings tangible and intangible value as well. Diversity has become the most important topic and subject in management and leadership and learning. To work in a multicultural environment is now important more than before. Botswana workforce is relatively small and more specialised; paramount scare skills positions are highly needed to the development and growth of the economic. Botswana education system is not that robust to cater for all scarce skills professions needed in medical, finance and other fields of engineering. The country is still in need of chartered accountants, actuarial scientist, and bio-medical engineers to mention the few. Workforce integration and diversity is critical in order to grow the economy.

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Many writers have defined the term diversity and Kreitz (2007) explained the term from differences within individual arising from cultures, personalities, gender and race. Quinetta (2007) also mentioned diversity as observable and non-observables characteristics of an individual while Grobler (2002) defines diversity as accepting differences of employees irrespective of gender, ethnicity, sexuality orientation, age, class and race. Diversity is key to any management of organisation and more importantly as it enhances competitive advantage. Workplace diversity can also be traced from progressive companies such as Ford – one of the classical examples that can be used to demonstrate diversity.

In 1913, Henry Ford attracted immigrants especially the Africa-American to work in his firm and the strategy for Mr Ford was to double productivity by growing diversity in the firm as well.  Employment of immigrants regardless or irrespective of their race, ethnicity and age contributed to the success of the company and the brand. Scholars and writers have written positive papers about diversity and inclusion, and they all indicate that it increases employee attendance, improves performance and business outcomes. Inclusion is defined as a strategy for managing diversity and it creates an environment in which employees’ diverse backgrounds can be accommodated, and for organisation to make progress on diversity; inclusion approached and strategies must be implemented. According to Merrill-Sands (2004), inclusion is a feature of good management and governance.

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Inclusion is described as the degree to which employees are permitted to participate and contribute in the workplace. Scholars define inclusion as the need for belongingness and valuing of the employee. Inclusion is perceived to be an active process change and condition which drives fairness, value, belonging and respect in a workplace. Being valued and having a sense of belongingness is the uniqueness element of inclusion and the first level of inclusion is equality and participation. In this case, when the uniqueness and belongingness needs are met, the employee experiences inclusion. Decision making, voice and spirit of connectedness, is the second level of inclusion process.

Understanding the dynamics of inclusion by management is the first step towards driving and implementing inclusion in the workplace. Organisations today are faced and challenged to embrace inclusion as part of competitive strategy. Drivers of inclusion have to begin with practices and policies that need to be demonstrated by behaviour of management and leadership. Creation of inclusive environment by organisational leadership is very important and this can improve employee engagement levels and willingness. This inclusive environment is marked by open communication, transparent business practices, e.g. recruitment, and fairness. Another important aspect of inclusion is the work balance aspect; and organisational support of employee to balance their work and life is one of the most critical dimensions of inclusion. Society of Human Resources Management (2009) highlighted that inclusion and diversity in the workplace increase employee commitment positively and improves work relations, job satisfaction and innovation. Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace need to be supported by leadership. Leaders play a very important role in creating inclusive environment and championing of inclusion initiatives needed to be driven by leadership. Leaders must demonstrate inclusion and diversity by their actions, commitment, and dialogue and create opportunities to foster inclusion and diversity.

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In conclusion, diversity and inclusion can provide benefits if properly managed in the workplace. The culture of inclusiveness is all about collectivism which fosters team work and cooperation. An organisation is made of teams which are grouped as departments. Inclusion and diversity encourages employee involvement in the work place, which ultimately enhance positive employee engagement and performance. Leaders must move organisations towards this line and advance their competitiveness through adoption of diversity and inclusion. Emerging diverse global work now forces organisations to recruit talent across the regions and continents. Hence, the need to now appreciate work place diversity and inclusion.



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