Employment Equity: Why? Why not? How?

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The Employment Equity Amendment Bill will soon go to Parliament, and the deadline for EE Reports is approaching.

We can either comply and complain (a South African pastime) or we can embrace the benefits of diversity.

If we are to benefit from transformation and diversity, employers must accept that better representation from amongst under-represented people makes business sense. It is not just a matter of redressing the past. There is a business case to be made.

There are two major benefits:

  1. Diversity increases creativity. Apart from race and gender, diversity includes diversity of language, culture, personality type and a whole host of others. Each brings a different perspective adding value and enriching all.
  2. Well managed, diversity improves trust. Decisions made with fairness, openness and consistency encourage trust. And increased trust improves commitment and productivity (and creativity).

But there are barriers.

The most difficult barriers to overcome are the internal struggles that get in the way:

  • We are fearful of one another, afraid of the changes that might be required, of the loss of security.
  • We find it difficult to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. Instead of listening, we are constantly saying, ‘Yes, but ….’
  • We are addicted to generalisations: ‘All blacks …’, ‘all whites …’, ‘women can’t do this job’; ‘a disabled person couldn’t cope?’
  • Assumptions drive our decisions.

Diversity does not happen because of a Board decision or a CEO directive. It is our decisions and actions as managers that affect the diversity of the organisation and its compliance or failure to comply.

Diversity happens or fails to happen at ground level, one decision at a time.

Every hiring decision affects our diversity.
Every training decision and every promotion affects our diversity.

But it is not a simple matter.
These decisions are difficult. The key is our mindset. Do we approach these decisions with the idea that diversity is a nice to have, or is diversity our objective?

How can you encourage greater diversity?

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Ian Webster

From Methodist minister to Customer Relations manager in a computer bureau to HR Manager in a newspaper printing and publishing company. Now focussing on training and developing people, people-management consulting and writing and editing.

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