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Why should you invest in a diversity & inclusion policy?

Group of women of different ages posing for the camera

Written by Staff Writer

May 14, 2023

By Silke Rathbone, Principal Partner, Labourexcel

“Diversity is having a seat at the table, and Inclusion is having a voice and taking part in the conversation” – Satrix.

 The words Diversity and Inclusion have become commonplace in the work environment – but is there a common understanding and appreciation of these terms? Let’s break it down…

When referring to Diversity, one must differentiate which type you are referring to first. There are generally 4 types:

Internal Diversity with a further breakdown into:

  • Gender
  • Education
  • Nationality
  • Culture
  • Language
  • Age
  • Physical Ability
  • Mental Ability
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Cultural Identity

External Diversity related to those aspects which people are not typically born with but take on or have some control over, such as:

  • Appearance
  • Education
  • Religious Beliefs
  • Relationship Status
  • Personal Interests
  • Socioeconomic Status
  • Life Experiences
  • Family Status
  • Location

Organisational Diversity relates to what makes someone different from another in an organisation such as:

  • Place of work
  • Employment Status
  • Job Function
  • Seniority
  • Management Status
  • Union Affiliation
  • Pay Type and Benefits

Worldview Diversity, which often merges the above three diversities, however, is opinion-based and can change over time. These may include:

  • Outlook on life
  • Moral Compass
  • Political Beliefs
  • Epistemology (generally the knowledge of belief, justification and truth)

 Let’s move on to Inclusion. The sum of Inclusion comes down to a feeling and is not as easy to describe as Diversity; however, just as important to understand. 

A list of what Inclusion means to most is:

  1.   Feeling like one has an equal political power
  2.   Feeling like one is heard
  3.   Feeling like one is part of a team
  4.   Feeling like one is valued and respected

 A highly diverse and inclusive workforce will lead to not only higher Productivity, but higher Employee Engagement. And, the only way that all happens is that your employees are happy.  It may seem simple – make sure your employees are happy – but remember that there are many forces at play when it comes to self-happiness – home life, work-life – relationships – mental state – and many other factors.  As the employer or manager, your role is to tackle and manage what you have control of, and that is your people.  It starts with who you employ – and then the way they treat others, the way they communicate, and how you upskill them, not only in how you want work to be actioned and handled, but what they understand about Diversity and Inclusion.

How to bring the importance of DIVERSITY and INCLUSION into the workplace

In South Africa, it is clear we have a very diverse workforce and embracing it will lead to a more creative and innovative workforce, giving companies a competitive advantage.

When a company learns the importance of embracing Diversity and Inclusion, they will be able to:

  1. Retain their best people and talent pool
  2. Drive innovation within that pool
  3. Better understand their customers
  4. And bring about better financial performance


Let’s break that down further … 

  1.   Retaining your best people

When your staff feel they are heard and valued, you stand a higher chance of staff retention – thereby not only keeping the cream of the crop, but also reaping the benefits of their training and upskilling. Should they leave, your competitors will profit from your investment.

  1.   Driving innovation

When you have people around you who are secure in themselves, in their colleagues, and you, as the business owner, you will find their mind’s opening up to more possibilities. They will feel they can be more creative, more daring with their ideas, thereby producing more effective work and results.

  1.   Better understanding your customers

Through your employees’ eyes, you will see how they welcome your customers better, taking time to understand their needs, their problems that need solving, and how they can be the best for your customers.

  1.   Bringing about better financial performance

This will, in turn, lead to higher productivity and better financial performance all around.  They are all interlinked. And, at the end of the day, you want your business to grow and prosper.

And, what is at the heart of your business’s success? Your people.

Diversity is represented at these levels:

  • Board members and directors
  • Hiring roles
  • Leadership positions

 Get them thinking open-mindedly and with a thought for the greater good, and it will filter down into all the rest of your people, even your customers and suppliers. The place to start is a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.


How to put a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy together

  1.   Start with the top – your Board, Directors, Stakeholders

When the top management understands and appreciates what Diversity and Inclusion are about and then see the benefits, they will be on board to put this strategy together.  You will need to precisely lay out the benefits for them, the staff, and the company as a whole.

  1.   Understand the Core of the Strategy

If you have never put a values, vision and mission statement together, now is the time.  It may seem old school and very corporate, but there is merit in detailing these elements.

The Vision of the business will help your people understand where you want to go. The Mission is how you will achieve that vision, and generally, this is where the people are brought in.

The Values of the business fall down from top management and speak to the fundamental beliefs.  Here is where you will see if all parties involved have the same values or not.  Sure, not all will be the same, but the essential and core values will have some resonance with each other.

  1.   The External Perspective

If you haven’t bothered to find out what your customer’s wants and needs are and whether you are offering solutions, then you need to take a look back.  Are you satisfying them every step of the way, and are your employees in the know too?

  1.   The Internal Perspective

Here, we go deep into the archives of your business. First, you will need to ensure Diversity and Inclusion is understood and also accepted.  There will be hard times, challenging questions and possibly some unhappy faces, but at the end of the day, you will land up with a policy in place that can stand up for itself, and you will have people that fit with your vision.

  1.   The Learning Game

The process of obtaining Diversity and Inclusion nirvana is not an overnight process.  There will be workshops set up, there will be training on the go constantly, there will be rehashing even months after the training, and there will be a rebirth of your company and your people.  Infrastructure needs to be put in place in order to tackle this issue.


The Diversity and Inclusion Check Sheet 

  1.   Book time with your top management
  2.   Discuss what they understand about Diversity and Inclusion
  3.   Get to a point where you have a workable list
  4.   Recap your company’s vision, mission and values, and agree to a formal policy
  5.   Communicate the policy to staff
  6.   Educate and set up workshops to help them understand and get on board
  7.   Address any glaring gaps such as with regards to disability and gender inequality
  8.   Ensure your new policy feeds into new recruitment processes – training may be required here for unbiased approaches
  9.   Ensure your leadership team are on board and are articulate in discussing, empathising and finding solutions
  10. Set milestones to check in regularly – this is a long-game and not an overnight express – suggestion is to make use of technology for ease and automation – but don’t forget the human interaction
  11. Ensure there are role models for your staff to access when needed – a great idea is to bring in speakers who are adept with the topic and open to helping
  12. Regularly review and reward those stepping up to make a difference
  13. Use your Diversity and Inclusion policy to engage with your customers, suppliers and, of course, Stakeholders

The Diversity and Inclusion Scorecard

Like with all business processes, you should be measuring.  Having a Diversity and Inclusion Score Card will show you:

  Where you are currently

  Where you want to go

  And, how you will get there

The Diversity and Inclusion Scorecard can help your business achieve equality across all spheres.  Your Diversity and Inclusion culture can be significantly adjusted with a more positive outlook.  The Score Card will be a go-to tool to ensure you are keeping everyone on the right path to a cohesive, diverse and inclusive environment.  It will help you see whether everyone is being recognised, heard and valued.

A typical Diversity and Inclusion Score Card will measure areas such as:

  1.   How transparent and dedicated your organisation is towards this way of working and living
  2.   How aware your organisation and people are about Diversity and Inclusion and how much is understood
  3.   How much you involve everyone to get stuck in and shine through their differences and similarities
  4.   How clear your Diversity and Inclusion plan is and whether it takes into account changes environments and situations into the future
  5.   How agile your plan is so that no matter who steps into a leadership role or other role, knows precisely what this plan is about and how to implement/carry on with it

The idea around keeping a scorecard is not to call anyone out. Instead, it is about agreeing to a plan of action, formulating the plan, implementing the plan, and checking in regularly to ensure the plan is still on track.

It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes everyone at an organisation to keep a strong Diversity and Inclusive policy going.

Yes, this will be tough.

Yes, this will be trying and stressful.

But, at the end of the day, you will have moulded your perfect team with one vision in mind – a 100% diverse and inclusive organisation.

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