“Communication is the cornerstone of connection, and just as the workplace has evolved post-pandemic so has both the form and purpose of communication" - Linda Saunders

How industry leaders can celebrate cultural diversity

Policies and company-wide consideration around diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programmes are fast becoming the norm in businesses across the world.

While it’s an important element to consider in terms of acknowledgement of the gender, sexual, religious and cultural diversities in the workplace, DEI policy and practice in companies has also proved to drive connection and greater gender representation in businesses. 

It’s increasingly recognised that people seek a sense of connection and belonging in the workplace. For industry leaders, this calls for empathetic and value-driven leadership that encourages diversity, prioritises purpose and offers rewarding employee experiences. 

“Communication is the cornerstone of connection, and just as the workplace has evolved post-pandemic so has both the form and purpose of communication. Thanks to technology, the tools are there to meet us wherever we are, while connection, though harder to attain, is what ultimately helps to drive better outcomes, for both individuals and organisations,”

comments  Linda Saunders, Director Solution Engineering, Salesforce South Africa.

Diversity policy implementation

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policy in companies can and should be the starting point for women representation in companies.

In fact, according to a report by McKinsey, female leaders are 1.5 times as likely as men at their level to have left a previous job because they wanted to work for a company that was more committed to DEI. 

As Zoho for Startups’ Global Head, Kuppulakshmi Krishnamoorthy comments, “Is it not a question of the cultural integrity of an organisation if women employees don’t feel included, feel to be deserving of opportunities and growth, and feel to be listened to?”

“Teams realising that women need to be heard is a necessary first step. There should be enough opportunities created for peer-to-peer groups to be formed that can lead to forging of life-long friendships or allies at the workplace,”

adds Krishnamoorthy.

Companies wanting to hire and retain skilled women must consider implementing policies focused on diversity equity and inclusion.

These policies could include policies that support and nurture the growth and development of staff from diverse backgrounds, including LGBTQI+ and people with disabilities.  

Normalising cultural equity through tradition sharing 

One explanation of workplace equity states that equity refers to fair treatment for all people, so that the norms, practices, and policies in place ensure identity is not predictive of opportunities or workplace outcomes.

Speaking on formulas for developing cultural equity in the workplace, Papy Mingashanga, Guest Relations Manager at Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront says,

“As a multinational organisation, our hotels are found in most major cities of the world. Therefore, we celebrate cultural diversity in a range of ways spanning culture, food and tradition sharing.” 

Some of these celebrations of traditions could include team-building activities where a popular national sport is played, learning and practising the greetings of a particular culture and looking to commemorate the religious or cultural holidays of different employees as a team. 

“At Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront, for example, we have days where staff can sample different culture’s foods, learn songs from different cultures and, because we are in South Africa, share the principle of ubuntu as part of our value system,”

he adds

The positive effects of tradition sharing are that diversity not only becomes the norm within the workplace, but entire teams develop a culture where each of their differences are celebrated and enjoyed.

As a result, managers, human resources and well-being practitioners learn to automatically factor these differences into their training and development of each employee, thus creating an equitable workplace where everyone is equal as a result of recognition of each having unique differences. 

Championing employee and customer inclusion

Inclusivity within diversity equity and inclusion should be approached by business leaders with a view that each employee no matter their age, gender, race, sexual orientation or disability is valuable to a business.

It looks at how businesses include and allow all employees to make meaningful contributions in the workplace.  

“My core belief is respect for human dignity,”

notes Anton Gillis, CEO at Kruger Gate Hotel.

“Having an inclusive  workplace is especially important in the hospitality industry where a business will be accommodating guests from all walks of life. If your diverse team feels embraced and respected, then so will your guests.

“Our hotel’s doors are open to any and everyone and we are cognisant of diverse guest and employee needs, whether it be through respecting dietary requirements, overcoming language barriers or making someone from a different culture feel welcome. As a tourist destination South African is home to 12 official languages, and various dialects, ethnicities and religions, so we are no strangers to heterogeneity. Ours is a country that is world-renowned for being multicultural, therefore positioning Mzansi as an inclusive destination for international travellers too,”

says Gillis. 

Developing a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion within workforces helps workplaces to retain employees because they feel included and treated fairly.

Done the right way, it can have positive effects on the personal and professional development of staff and managers and boost company and staff performance.

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