Tag: diversity

As we enter a new year, it is prudent to pause and consider the many challenges and opportunities we are likely to face in the year ahead. Matters of innovation, digital transformation, technological advancement and business success often take center stage, but for me there is one aspect of our business which I believe will be instrumental to our success on the African continent: that of diversity.

A vibrant and dynamic continent
According to UNESCO estimates, Africa is home to as many as 3 000 ethnic groups speaking more than 2 000 different languages across 54 countries. The African population is the second-largest of all continents, as well as the youngest. In some African countries, up to half the citizens are under the age of 25. Any company wishing to do business successfully in Africa must prioritise diversity, or run the risk of alienating the very people with whom they want to do business.
Whilst Africa may sometimes be perceived to be making slow progress with modernization; it is in many respects a world leader. Recent statistics regarding gender diversity in particular have been encouraging: the 2016 McKinsey Women Matter Africa report found that in Africa, 29% of senior managers are women, and 5% of African companies are headed up by female CEOs. While this is still low, it beats the global average (in Europe, female representation at CEO level is only 3%) and points to a concerted and honest effort to bring equal opportunity to women in the workplace.

The business case for diversity
I am of the firm belief that a company that champions diversity will be more innovative, able to respond quicker to changing customer needs and in a better position to adapt to the challenges presented by a rapidly evolving global economy, than its more homogeneous peers. Data supports this: research has found that African companies with at least a quarter share of women on their boards, had on average 20% higher earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) than the industry average.
More tellingly, the global war for talent, which is set to be one of the core issues businesses will face in the next few decades, makes workplace discrimination a recipe for failure. Any business that ignores the contribution, skill, and talent of a potential employee purely based on their gender or culture or background, is effectively undermining its own ability to adapt and survive in a rapidly shifting and evolving global market.
Decades of science backs this: socially diverse groups (those with a diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation) are more innovative than homogeneous groups, as they are better at solving complex, non-routine problems, anticipating alternative viewpoints, and making important decisions.

Understanding our customers
For companies wishing to do business here, having a culturally and gender-diverse workforce in place is essential to success. At SAP, we have a vision of making the world run simpler. Achieving this vision requires us to focus not just on the technology, but on the customer journey. We can’t understand what journey our customers want to go on, if we don’t understand our customers, of which SAP has an immense and diverse base that spans the globe. We must employ, empower, and inspire a diverse workforce if we are to realise our “Run Simple” vision.
As a business, we have made great progress on the road to diversity and inclusion. Globally, SAP set a goal in 2011 of ensuring that 25% of people in leadership positions are women by 2017. At SAP Africa, 33% of leadership positions are now occupied by women. We are also introducing new initiatives to support and inspire women in technology. Our Women in Data Science initiative, a collaboration between SAP’s Next-Gen Lab and Stanford University in the US, is designed to inspire women to pursue careers in tech, create awareness about data science, and showcase and celebrate the achievements of women in tech.

Playing an active role in fostering a culture of diversity
At SAP, it is critical to focus on how we can embrace diversity and instil a culture which enables success in a globalised workforce. By creating a diverse team with a range of experiences and perspectives, you can unlock new approaches to problems that seemed insurmountable at first. This, of course, depends on there being a culture which encourages all team members to look for the strengths that each unique individual brings to the team and incorporate their views into the customer solution.
Driving a successful diversity strategy begins with the senior leaders; but in order for it to be fully sustainable, it needs to be lived by each and every one of us.
That is my call to action to all staff, partners, vendors and even our customers: make diversity a core focus for your business this year. Enable the people who work with you to bring diverse viewpoints and experiences to the boardroom table. Inspire your teams to have the courage to bring new perspectives to existing problems and challenges. Instill a culture of openness and trust that makes it easier for people to contribute to the success of the organisation. Never doubt that your contribution has value to the team, the business and society at large.
Our success as a business, and as individuals, will be inextricably linked to our ability to foster diversity in the workplace. Can any of us truly afford to ignore the challenge?

By Brett Parker, MD of SAP Africa

Workplace culture is a unique sociological construct. While it may work in much the same way as any other type of culture does in a community (say, ethnic or religious culture), it differs in one major respect: it is inherently multi-cultural.

In South Africa this is particularly true, with the average workplace containing employees of all races, genders, religions, political affiliations and many other differentiating factors. This makes the creation and maintenance of a positive and unifying workplace culture all the more difficult – and all the more important.

There are manifold ways a strong company culture contributes towards business success. It makes the workplace more appealing to potential employees and helps to retain the best talent. This makes the hiring process more successful and also reduces staff turnover. When you factor in the costs of hiring, training and disrupting the productivity of your team, it makes perfect sense to create a workplace environment that people will less likely want to leave.

A strong culture also contributes greatly towards a company’s brand by aligning their employees’ perceptions from the inside with their customers’ perceptions from the outside, solidifying a positive public view of the company as a whole. Happy employees make the best brand ambassadors, and in this age of social media, both employees and customers alike broadcast their experiences for all to see.

No two workplace cultures are ever quite alike, because no two organisations are the same. To a certain extent, the industry in which it operates will dictate the company culture. In a law firm, for example, a strongly hierarchical structure, a certain sense of decorum and formal dress-code come standard, but cultural similarities in workplace organisations do reveal cultural patterns common to most companies. This provides a useful framework for managers who want to assess or alter their organisational culture for the better.

Charles Handy, Irish philosopher and a world-leading figure in organisational culture, identified four overarching types of workplace culture.

Power culture
In some organisations, power is held in the hands of very few trusted and authorised decision-makers. These people enjoy special privileges in the workplace and delegate responsibility to the rest of the company. Employees in these types of environments are expected to follow their superiors’ instructions to the letter and do not have the liberty to express alternative viewpoints. Such cultures often suffer in the long run, falling victim to high staff dissatisfaction at the lower hierarchical levels.

Task culture
In a task culture, solving problems and achieving the targets of the company are at the heart of the team’s interactions. In these types of companies, small teams (generally four to five people) with similar interests and specialisations are grouped and expected to contribute equally to the task at hand. These employees tend to remain stimulated and content, and are given the room to innovate and think creatively.

Person culture
In these organisations, the wellbeing of the company takes a backseat to the personal importance of each employee – and eventually suffers for it. When employees place too much emphasis on their own concerns in the absence of a strong sense of teamwork or common goal, productivity, staff satisfaction and loyalty all tend to be low.

Role culture
In a role culture, every employee is given responsibilities based on their delegated role and their professional specialisation, as well as their educational background and even their personal preference. This is all done in the interest of extracting the best performance out of each individual. In these cultures, power and responsibility are the results of hard work and proven performance, and employee motivation as well as work performance tend to be higher than average.

It may seem like a clear-cut group of categories, but in reality, most companies are hybrids of more than one, or even all four of these cultural archetypes. All have their pros and cons, and all are suited to different industries, companies of varying sizes, different sociocultural contexts, and different points in the company’s development.

Managers are encouraged to be open-minded and take a hard look at the values of their organisations before deciding which cultural model fits them best, looking for opportunities to weave them into the fabric of the company’s daily operations.

By Pieter Scholtz – leading business and executive coach and SA’s Co-Master Licensee for global franchise company – ActionCOACH

The recent Penny Sparrow debacle on social media, followed by the Stellenbosch “black facing” incident, highlights the need for businesses to carefully manage diversity within the workplace. In addition to ensuring sensitivity and respect among employees, diversity must also be wielded as a key business strength.

This is according to Francois Wilbers, MD at Work Dynamics, who says that In the South African landscape, where socio-economic inequalities are rife and ethnic and cultural diversity is ever present, companies often face stern challenges with regards to effective human resource management (HRM).

Rather than viewing diversity and cultural variety as a challenge, organisations can embrace diversity as a platform through which to better understand its diverse stakeholder base.

He adds that as a democracy coming into adulthood, the country’s efficiency levels, leadership conviction, skills development and value systems come under close and often harsh scrutiny.

“These challenges we face as a young democracy, inevitably filter through into the businesses operating within the country and as a result, organisations big and small need to deal with several challenges on a daily basis. Nonetheless, valuing diversity throughout an organisation’s leadership and staff opens up a world of possibility with regards to interacting and engaging with a diverse stakeholder base – as is the case in South Africa.”

Wilbers explains that cultural-driven organisations often tend to outperform others, especially during troublesome economic conditions and says that company-culture is the building block on which the acceptance of diversity within an organisation is based.

“By building a company culture that is accepting of diversity and mutual respect, organisations create a space that is conducive to participation from employees with an alternative viewpoint.”

In order to build a company culture of acceptance, effective HRM is required, says Wilbers.

“Culture defines the accepted way of acting, thinking and interacting with colleagues within a business and an effective HR campaign can assist in defining or even reinventing company culture.”

He points out that in order to change the culture of an organisation, effective research in the form of internal meetings or surveys is essential to first define the current perception of employees regarding the company culture.

“It is advisable for organisations to partner with an independent HR partner to conduct this research to ensure that employees can freely discuss their views and opinions without feeling threatened.”

Wilbers says that secondly, strategic relationship building, internal communication and protocol development is required to filter in a new “collective attitude”.

“Managing change in an organisation is often challenging and businesses must remember that consistence, transparency and effective communication are key elements of success here.”

He highlights the fact that new generations are continuously entering the workplace and therefore culture management must not be viewed as a once-off exercise.

“Continuous assessment of the organisational culture is necessary to ensure that different cultural backgrounds and expectations are constantly being addressed.

“Aside from the business benefits of building a diverse workforce that mirrors and understands the country’s diversity, cultivating a culture of acceptance within an organisation will also do wonders for staff retention and overall employee morale,” concludes Wilbers.

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