VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF AGILE BUSINESSES

Diversity brings in more revenue, makes for happier customers, and, ultimately, builds more sustainable businesses.

There's growing recognition among Africa's most sought-after employers that diversity is a key driver of performance. In fact, the business case for diversity is a compelling one, as an increasing number of global studies are highlighting a clear link between greater diversity and improved financial results.

So says Billy Elliott, country manager: Africa for the Top Employers Institute, adding research conducted on HR policies, strategies and practices of Africa's certified 'Top Employers' reveals the overwhelming majority of these companies follow recommended best practice guidelines for managing diversity. "This is crucial, because managing diversity successfully is more than just ticking the boxes of ethnicity and gender.
"When properly understood, diversity is not just black and white it's gold. It brings in more revenue, makes for happier customers, and, ultimately, builds more sustainable businesses."
Elliott notes companies that want to reap the benefits of true diversity must go beyond scratching the surface. "Diversity is a theme companies need to embrace and integrate," he says. "It can't be candy-coated. It's about much more than what you look like."
Competitive advantage Diversity leadership has become critical in today's environment, says Auguste Coetzer, director of Executive Search at Talent Africa, a Signium company. "Businesses of all sizes and across all industries have one common goal competitive advantage. There are many traditional and established paths to achieving this goal, including lowering costs to secure pricing efficiencies, introducing new technology to boost productivity and, of course, innovation. "It becomes clear that the creation of an inclusive workforce is a compelling starting point for senior managers looking to contain costs, boost morale, 


DIVERSITY BENEFITS
International commentators highlight numerous diversity benefits, including: 

Greater and Faster Innovation
Groups from the same background, same gender, same age range, same race and same cultural and language groups are less likely to challenge boundaries and produce new ideas.
Fresh approaches
New perspectives from different groups generate fresh solutions.
Better market alignment
A broader demographic within a company results in broader appeal by products that resonate with customers.
Higher morale
People enjoy working for companies that respect them, their cultural and language resulting in higher retention and improved ability to attract top talent.
Higher productivity
Inclusive, cohesive teams work well together.
Better cost management
Absenteeism tends to fall, along with recruitment expenses, white better decisionmaking and problem-solving help managers avoid expensive false starts.
Enhanced customer loyalty
There's trust in the brand when a firm is known for diversity and inclusion.
Improved customer service
Familiarity with different cultures through experience in an inclusive workplace helps customer-facing staff deal with consumers from all walks of life.
Business opportunity
Eligibility for government business and contracts with other organisations keen to promote inclusion.improve output and tap into new ways of thinking," she says.

Diversity management is in the spotlight at companies with a positive perspective on the opportunities opened up by greater inclusion, adds Coetzer. Privately, she says, business strategists concede that, initially, the quest for diversity was neither spontaneous nor voluntary. "Employment equity legislation forced a departure from past practice. However, compulsion is sometimes beneficial.
As a child, you might not like being forced to eat your vegetables, but it's good for you and you ultimately emerge stronger." Smart diversity management at companies that ensure high levels of individual and departmental competence, while achieving new levels of racial, cultural, language and gender inclusion, leads to robust, healthy and agile businesses, says Coetzer. Diversity leaders She encourages local businesses to become diversity leaders as the opportunities for sustained corporate growth are substantial. "Simply ticking the boxes for compliance purposes will reduce any company's credibility, internally and externally, and seriously affect sustainability."

Today, it is not uncommon for a proven track record in diversity management to be required when selecting competencies for the recruitment of a new CEO, she notes. "Already, general discussions around desired leadership qualities consistently focus on a candidate's learning agility and readiness for change, rather than endless transformation." The groundwork has been laid for the emergence of the acknowledged diversity leader who is simultaneously the corporate kingpin. "In today's South Africa, if CEOs are not accomplished diversity managers, they will have difficulty managing the business at all." 53 Billy Elliott, country manager of the Top Employers Institute Africa, says there are five key lessons in diversity management that can help set companies apart Measure the results of our diversit •ro ram Eighty-six percent of Africa's Top Employers' have clearly defined and communicated an organisation-wide diversity programme, and 74% of Africa's 'Top Employers ensure details of their diversity programmes are easily accessible via the intranet or handbooks.
Eighty-one percent of Africa's 'Top Employers' have trained specific employee groups regarding relevant diversity practices to enable them to build an engaged workforce through authentic and inclusive employee engagement. Around 70% of Africa's 'Top Employers' evaluate the impact and effectiveness of their diversity programme regularly. A whopping 80% of Africa's 'Top Employers' employ people from disadvantaged backgrounds. This refers to groups that do not have optimal chances in the labour market because of their socioeconomic situation. Just under 40% of Africa's 'Top Employers' ensure they monitor and manage the differences in employees' educational backgrounds.

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