Managing diversity in employement

Trent is the umbrella organisation for retail giants Westside, Star Bazaar and Landmark, all catering to the micro-level wishes and demands of the Indian customer. Tata International, on the other hand, runs a global trading and distribution business, dealing in millions of tonnes of metals and minerals, apart from its Africa distribution operations and the Indian leather export business. We have a large pipeline of to-be-launched stores:

Managing diversity in employement

However, the performance of business in the area of employment equity has been disappointing and after twenty-two years we have failed to transform workplaces. On the other hand, several government departments managed to achieve and exceed employment equity targets, so much so that these organisations have started to recruit whites in recent advertising campaigns.

In the private sector, not even the Employment Equity Act, coupled with several versions of broad-based black economic empowerment laws and codes have managed to make a significant difference to employment equity profiles of organisations.

Incidents of tokenism and window-dressing have been the norm for more than two decades. While it was believed that legislated employment equity plans would turn things around, unfortunately these plans managed to only make progress in the area of gender equity, so much so that South Africa is now one of the top 30 countries in the world regarding gender equity in senior management.

Yet, despite the rhetoric of the rainbow nation, our underperformance in workplace racial equity and disability remains an ongoing challenge. This is part of the first set of national HR standards world-wide in an attempt to reduce inconsistencies in HR practice and to improve the quality of HR work in organisations throughout South Africa.

Moreover, it will also standardise approaches to current challenges in areas such as absenteeism management, leadership development and change management.


The standard will focus on addressing the current poor progress in the critical area of employment equity by drafting specific standards in this area. One of these standards is entitled employment equity and diversity inclusion management to address the lack of progress in this important area of transformation.

True employment equity cannot be achieved without good diversity management practices. The need for creating inclusive workplaces is at the core of sound diversity and employment equity practices.

An inclusive approach to employment equity and diversity management means that an organisation must always create an environment inclusive of all diversity groups. The aim is to turn around the current approach of making business and people decisions without involvement of the designated groups.

In other words, it should not be possible to make a decision about disabled people without people with disabilities involved. The same principle applies to race and gender in the workplace. The SABPP standard on employment equity, diversity management and inclusion is defined as the systematic application of HR Management processes towards attaining and retaining a state of employment equity whilst developing a competent workforce to achieve social justice and organisational objectives in an organisation where diverse employees are highly engaged because they feel valued, respected, supported and treated as insiders within the organisation.

The standard goes on to assert that a state of employment equity will only be reached when all previously disadvantaged groups are equitably represented in all occupationally categories and levels in the workforce sustainably over time.

With the current slow progress in employment equity it may take another thirty years before workplace racial equality is eventually achieved — a situation that is simply not acceptable after so many years of a democratic dispensation in South Africa.

In addition to the definition outlined above, the standard specifies fundamental requirements for good employment equity and diversity inclusion practices.

These fundamental requirements are as follows: Top management should lead, direct, visibly support and role model the policies, practices and behaviours required to achieve employment equity and inclusion. Employment equity progress often entails making difficult choices which should be clearly identified and analysed and conscious decisions made, and these decisions should then be clearly communicated to everyone in the organisation.

Responsibility for employment equity should be shared between line management which is accountable to stakeholders for employment equity progress and HR which should support line management with good policies, practices and development.

Employment equity is a key organisational strategy and should therefore be appropriately catered for in performance management and remuneration practices. Achievement of employment equity, particularly at the skilled, professional and management levels, requires careful analysis and planning and the adoption of a long term planning and implementation approach which builds appropriate pipelines.

The Code of Good Practice requirements to conduct analyses of barriers and enablers should be implemented in a manner appropriate to the organisation. Sustainable employment equity will not be achieved without positive perceptions of inclusion amongst all employee groupings. A narrow focus on diversity will not necessarily lead to these positive perceptions.

I am sure that very few business leaders will argue against the principles of employment equity and diversity management. Surely, no business leader wants to be accused of being discriminatory or exclusive in terms of its employment and workplace practices.

Being untransformed is not only evidence of social inequality, it also poses significant reputational risk for business. However, effective implementation of employment equity has been as elusive as the achievement of employment equity targets.What Are Diversity, Equal Employment Opportunity, and Affirmative Action?

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Published: Fri, 29 Sep Managing Diversity in Employment.

Managing diversity in employement

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