Employment Equity: Strategies for creating a Diverse Workforce

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To contextualize; diversity is present when differences in culture, race, ethnicity, language, nationality and religion are represented within a cluster of people. For an organisation, this denotes that diversity promotes and enhances a variety of staff skills and agency success. Traditionally speaking, different businesses have different norms, views, behavioural tendencies and value systems based on the composition of their management structures, leadership pinnacles, organisational culture and staff compliment. The greater the diversity of agents that conduct your business, the higher the degree of multiformity and the higher success of dealing with complex, interpersonal and operational challenges.

To state a case for being pro-diversity; why should we suspect the concept to be relevant? People from different races, organisational cultures, religions and other differentiating criterions are prone to have different life experiences. This, in turn, flavours their interpretation of events, possible solutions to challenges both normative and unique. These differences in people can bring strength to the group if they are identified, valued and integrated into the group dynamics.

Operationally speaking, the need for diversity stems not only from being in line with contemporary best practices in the HR sphere of labour-related matters, but forms a baseline for compliance with Employment Equity legislation. As the reporting season for submission of the EEA2 and EEA4 has now opened, employers should be asking themselves how to go about operationalising their affirmative action measures that further diversity across occupational levels. By examining the key areas that deal with staff turnover, and obtaining positive results from (supposedly) existing staff-related company practices, value can be obtained incrementally by aligning these practices to pre-defined Employment Equity Strategies.

Whether organisations have dedicated consultants, specialised portfolios or divide the responsibility of maintaining that entity’s BEE Scorecard, the time-told ideology of “whatever gets measured, gets improved” holds true. Invariably, management and improvement of this function is directly linked to the staff members employed on a managerial level in every organisation – deemed the Management Control element on the BEE Scorecard. Contemporary practices require that a minimum of one dedicated person be mandated with the responsibility of drafting a strategy for improving upon this particular scorecard, which gets measured monthly. The Recruitment function of your organisation merely operationalises the aspect of finding, placing and on-boarding the resources specified by the above-mentioned person. Should there be a disconnect between your recruitment function and said BEE Strategic function, your business effectively plays “tug-of-war” with itself, which doesn’t cater for the best interests of either party in the exchange.

Considering a fully detailed Skills Development Strategy should be part of contemporary businesses, little focus gets placed on formalising Succession Plans per department or business unit, despite the logical need of having the key and critical skills in your organisation be defined, and linked to employees who possess them. By breaking down and defining clusters of key competencies (gained through qualifications and industry experience) and interpersonal requirements (soft skills, such as Diversity and Conflict Management) we run a substantially reduced risk of losing these key staff members in the event of unforeseen circumstances, competitors’ talent poaching initiatives and regular staff attrition. Consider actively formalising Succession Plans, which draw on the upskilling of your previously disadvantaged staff, so as to avoid future diversity gaps.

In the sphere of Employment Equity, employers tend to neglect the relationship between HR Strategies and Operational Practices. Whereas Recruitment Procedures are concerned, approach these business units as if they were segmented. Holistically, your business is seen as a “whole” comprised of the sum of its “parts.” By utilising your existing staff as prime targets for development and promotion/ succession planning targets, you effectively cause a gap in your business with every internal placement made. This gap, in turn, provides an opportunity for the business to obtain an external staff member, the need of which would be mandated by your relevant Employment Equity Targets. Targeted advertisements with a specifically small focus area would, by default, yield a higher success rate. Through demarcating your advertising initiatives to, specifically, only be present in communities known for a higher density of previously disadvantaged individuals, as opposed to a nation-wide search, is known to be a quick-win.

Fundamentally; creating a diverse workforce requires a lengthy amount of input and visionary thinking, focussing on the overall future of the business as opposed to meeting specified numerical goals. Unfortunately, the business processes responsible for furthering this agenda don’t speak to another as effectively as required. The first strategic solution is therefore simple; adopt a “back to basics” approach, have your recruitment functions liaise with your BEE drivers, so that your Staff Development structures can be applied to the right people.

For more information on how to create strategies for a diverse workforce, please contact the LabourNet Helpdesk at

0861 LABNET (0861 522638).

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