In a constantly changing and competitive world, organisations that foster inclusive workspaces will have a long-term future.
An inclusive workspace is one that embraces and values differences - creating an environment where every individual feels welcomed, respected and empowered to contribute their best. It goes beyond superficial diversity metrics, and delves into creating a sense of belonging for all employees - regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or any other unique characteristic.
Pride Month places the spotlight on the LGBTQ+ community with events, parades and activities that promote diversity and inclusivity. A significant aspect is the emphasis on creating spaces where diversity thrives without fear of judgment or discrimination.
When diversity is genuinely embraced, it fosters an atmosphere of collaboration, understanding and empathy. It allows for the exchange of ideas from diverse perspectives, which can lead to breakthrough innovations. Moreover, inclusive workspaces create a safe environment for individuals to express their authentic selves. When employees feel accepted and valued for who they are, they are more likely to unleash their potential. This not only benefits the employees, but also drives organisational growth.
Inclusive workspaces also attract and retain top talent. In today's competitive job market, skilled professionals seek organisations that embrace diversity, foster inclusion, and offer a supportive environment where an employee can “bring their whole being” to the workplace. When organisations demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion, they become magnets for a diverse pool of top talent. Inclusive practices send a powerful message that every individual's voice and contribution are valued, which leads to higher employee satisfaction, engagement and retention.
Furthermore, an inclusive workspace contributes to the personal and professional growth of employees; nothing beats the power of being fully embraced by a diverse team regardless of your background. When individuals are exposed to diverse perspectives, they develop a broader understanding of the world, and gain cultural competence and diversity quotient. This exposure enhances their ability to navigate complex situations, collaborate with colleagues from different backgrounds, and relate to customers and clients from diverse communities. The skills and competencies developed in an inclusive environment are transferable and valuable in an increasingly globalised and interconnected world.
Creating and maintaining an inclusive workspace requires deliberate and sustained effort from leadership as well as active participation from employees. It begins with fostering a culture where employees are treated with respect, dignity, empathy, and open-mindedness to the different backgrounds they come from. Organisations must develop and communicate clear diversity and inclusion policies that promote equal opportunities, fair treatment and zero tolerance for discrimination or harassment.
Leadership should set the tone from the top by championing diversity and inclusion, and by holding themselves accountable for creating an inclusive workplace.
At FNB, we are very deliberate about creating an inclusive workplace and have crafted a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) strategy which serves as a compass to guide us on how we can “build a great place to work” that is diverse.
Training and education play a critical role in building inclusive workspaces. Employees should receive diversity and inclusion training that raises awareness, challenges biases and promotes inclusive behaviours. This training should be ongoing and integrated into the organisation's professional development programmes to ensure that inclusivity becomes ingrained in the organisation's DNA.
Mentorship and sponsorship programmes can also contribute to fostering inclusive workspaces. Pairing employees from different backgrounds and experiences can provide opportunities for learning, growth and cross-cultural understanding.
Mentors and sponsors can offer guidance, support and advocacy to individuals who may face additional challenges due to their identity or background; ultimately helping to level the playing field.
It is important to note that fostering inclusive workspaces goes beyond merely complying with legal requirements or meeting transformation compliances such as EE Plans, BEE scorecard and the like. It requires a genuine commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion at all levels of the organisation.
Organisations should regularly assess and evaluate their diversity and inclusion efforts, using metrics and feedback to track progress and identify areas for improvement. Transparency and accountability are crucial to building trust and ensuring that the organisation's commitment to diversity and inclusion remains unwavering.
As Pride Month draws to a close, it's critical that we all keep in mind that when people are unrestricted by social expectations, they can explore fresh ideas, challenge conventional wisdom, and push the boundaries of innovation for the greater good.
- Donald Khumalo is the Human Capital executive at FNB