OPINION: More needs to be done to highlight the different backgrounds and ways of life in the workplace. Using September might be a great way to raise awareness of the need for diversity, writes Devan Moonsamy.
September has been marked as a month to commemorate and celebrate the heritage of South Africans. It is also the time of the year when culture gets celebrated and encouraged in the workplace.
From dressing in traditional attire to even having food from different cultures being shared, Heritage Month is a spectrum of diversity.
As much as time is made in this month to celebrate and commemorate cultures, it is perhaps the only time in many businesses when diversity is celebrated.
We might even find the enthusiasm for cultural education and participation might only be active during this month. However, there is a need for engagement and diversity all year round.
Diversity is not just the inclusion or participation of different colours. It is people with disabilities, different ethnicities, sexuality, religion and even education levels. Instead of just a celebration of culture, how about celebrating diversity in the month of September?
The reality is that steps have been taken to embrace and bring about diversity in the workplace. However, there is a pattern of diverse practises or recognition of other cultures only occurring in the month of September.
More needs to be done to highlight the different backgrounds and ways of life in the workplace. Using the entire month of September might be a great way to raise awareness of the need for diversity.
Here are five ways to diversify your working environment:
- The first step to take in the wake of approaching diversity would be to ensure you introduce diversity in your hiring pool. When you are selecting potential candidates to be employed in the business, ensure that the scope for the job is applicable to a wide range of candidates from different backgrounds. This is a stepping stone in terms of opening the platform to bring in a variety of groups to your working environment.
- Try to have a broad spectrum of people in management. Diversity is not only about colour or beliefs. It is also about employing and engaging with people from all walks of life, including different intellectual skills. Engaging with a wider range of people in the office can go a long way in ensuring clients are even comfortable. This means having people from all nationalities, ethnic groups, religious backgrounds, etc.
- September might be heritage month for us South Africans, but our journey to discovering the inclusive and diverse potential doesn’t stop there. Use the whole year to shape and mould the work place to be more diverse and applicable to all communities. Having diversity is the answer to minimising conflict and tension. Once people open up to different groups, the education and conversation takes place. This allows for perceptions and misunderstandings to be ironed out.
- Mentorship programmes are also a great way to diversify your workplace. Offering internships and allowing your team to mentor a new staff member and even existing staff can also help debunk many perceptions people have around things they don’t understand. Mentorship might also feel like a tedious task to staff who just want to meet their goals and objectives at work and go home. In this case, be transparent, and ensure the staff member understands that the purpose of mentoring is to bring about better understanding to diversity in the workplace.
- Training around diversity can be a great way to educate staff around diversity. This also allows management to acknowledge and admit that there is a need for education around diversity. Training around diversity can help the organisations management and staff understand how to be open to diversity and how to manage any misunderstandings they might have around it. Diversity training equips the team with the ability to work with people who are different form them. It is necessary in order to ensure that staff work harmoniously, respecting each other.
* Devan Moonsamy is the CEO of ICHAF Training Institute.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites.