Is diversity one of the 'hottest' words in the workplace, or is it getting corporate SA hot and bothered? Shehnaaz Bulbulia reports.
Management styles and behaviours that worked in the past are no longer appropriate in companies where diversity exists, says Hafisa Ally, a hospital manager of a top healthcare group and a guest speaker at a recent "Women in Business" conference, hosted by Marcus Evans.
The corporate lament, she says is: "We recruited black managers and paid them well. But as soon as we think we're getting somewhere, we find that our staff turnover within these groups is escalating. Perhaps we should continue business as usual if this sort of thing is going to happen."
Companies that do the numbers game hurt themselves, as well as their politically correct recruits. People have titles and corporate toys, but are excluded from decision-making and adding real value to the company, Ally points out. Diversity, she says, represents the multitude of individual differences that exist among people that also make all of us unique and different from others.
"Managing diversity pertains to everybody. It is not an issue of age, race or gender. Neither is it an issue of being heterosexual, gay or lesbian, or Catholic, Jewish, Protestant or Muslim."
Affirmative Action, she explains, is a short-term strategy to open corporate doors for previously disadvantaged people.
Managing Diversity, Ally says, is a planned, systematic and comprehensive managerial process for developing an organizational environment in which all employees, with their similarities and differences, can contribute to the strategic and competitive advantage of an organization.
"No-one is to be excluded on the basic of factors relating to productivity. It entails enabling people to perform up to their maximum potential", says Ally.
She points out the strategic importance to diversity is that diverse groups:
Bring different expectations in work styles.
Influences group problem solving and productivity.
Increases creativity and innovation.
Some of the reasons why diversity fails in SA companies, she identifies, is because employment equity and diversity management is perceived as a legislative requirement and numbers game.
Managers, she says, must also move away from stereotyping. '"There is also a lack of cultural sensitivity for new black recruits. Employment equity and diversity is entrusted to HR only."
Managing diversity is a critical component of creating organisations that allow employees to reach full potential and creating a competitive advantage in order to increase the bottom line.
Simply stated - organisations in which management believes that a few black or female faces will make the organisation look politically correct, usually result in the 'revolving door syndrome', says Ally.
Shehnaaz Bulbulia, a Communicate Editorial Board member, is a strategic media, marketing and communications consultant specialising in SMME's and BE companies, with more than 16 years media and communications experience behind her, previously holding down high profile positions such as Editor of Indigo and Managing Editor of Tribute magazines.
Her objective is to engage in a constructive manner with the tools at her disposal to assist in the transformation of society.
Her journalism career began at The Star newspaper and she has always tried to make a difference, believing strongly in creating strategic roadmaps for organisations to assist them in marketing and positioning themselves in the marketplace to take advantage of opportunities. She is currently busy with her Masters in Leadership and Innovation. Contact her on: .
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