This week we celebrate two special days, i.e. Freedom Day (27 April) and Workers’ Day. In support of these special public holidays, the SABPP #EEDTAwards and #EEDTSummit have been launched to encourage the acceleration of transformation in the workplace. The #EEDT abbreviation denotes employment equity, diversity and transformation. Morever, this special award ceremony and summit focuses on positioning employment equity as a key milestone as part of Workers’ Month. Ultimately, employment equity benefits the country’s workers and in the spirit of Workers’ Month is therefore a key mechanism of employee empowerment in the workplace.
South Africa is known to be a nation of diversity, the question is whether organisations have leveraged on this as a tool for competitiveness and sustainable growth. The benefits would be attained through the enhancement of the organisation’s productivity, performance, complex problem solving and innovation. This would address the challenges that many organisations are facing today with regards to increased competition, lack of innovation, fast-paced technological developments, lack of competencies and skills as well as speed of expansion and growth. The #EEDTAwards put a major emphasis on ensuring that we link employment equity not only to the imperative of social justice, but also business performance.
Maya Angelou, an American poet once stated that“It is time for parents to teach young people early that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength”. With this in mind, it goes without saying that family and school are the two most essential premises for building the skills needed for a more inclusive world, including appreciating diversity and collaborative skills. The question once again, is whether we as parents do make an effort in inculcating the culture of inclusion in our young people.
In organisations the focus should not only be on embracing people’s differences but also be on the engagement of these individuals on their day to day activities. The achievement of this obviously requires commitment from both the government and organisations. In South Africa, that has been an ongoing journey since 1998, with the promulgation of the Employment Equity Act, and the organisations having to comply with this legislation. Interestingly, the 2018 SABPP #EEDTAwards scheduled to take place in May this year does not only coincide with the celebration of former president Nelson Mandela’s centenary but also with the theme for the 2018 Global Talent Competitiveness Index called “Diversity for Competitiveness”. This theme alludes to the fact that globally, diversity plays a pivotal role in linking talent policies to innovation strategies. With this focus The Global Talent Competitiveness 2018 Index tries to tackle how diversity can be generated, enhanced, leveraged by governments, regions, cities, organisations, teams and individuals to design and implement the talent strategies required in the uncertain future that lies ahead of us.
Taking that into account, the SABPP in collaboration with TDCI and EES-Siyaka for the very first time initiated the 2018 SABPP #EEDTAwards with the aim of encouraging organisations to showcase their efforts on diversity and transformation related initiatives that have been conducted over the years, for some organisations even prior to the Employment Equity Act of 1998.The awards would be looking at seven (7) categories that is:
As a professional body SABPP, have played a critical role in equipping organisations with setting diversity and inclusion amongst others, as priorities that will ensure sustainable talent attraction, development and retention. In so doing, The SABPP introduced The HR Management System Standards in 2013, whereby Employment Equity and Diversity Management permeates across all these 13 National HR Standards. The achievement of Employment Equity informs the organisational and HR strategies as well as gives direction to Talent management, workforce planning and HR Risk Management. For this to be attained, diversity management programmes need to be of the highest standard. Out of the 35 companies that have been audited since 2013, the underachievement is noted in some of the most important areas needed for successful diversity and inclusion agenda and these ranges from strategic human resources management, talent management, workforce planning, OD, HR service delivery and measurement.
This in many ways indicate that our journey to excellence on the diversity and inclusion agenda is still a long and challenging one, thus requiring a significant focus in fostering a culture of inclusion, through training and by creating environments in which everyone feels respected, heard and engaged. By so doing South African organisations would be able to focus on building diverse workforces that can address and solve problems across all spectrums of our societies including innovative solutions. Overall, these can truly be achieved through highly skilled, diverse and competent teams whose diverse thinking and decision-making are effectively entrenched within the culture and fibre of their organisations.
Last week the judges met to adjudicate the entries and we were very impressed with most of the submissions received. We want to thank all participants for their commitment to employment equity and for the results achieved by their diversity programmes. We look forward to celebrate with the winners on 14 May and to listen to their full case studies at the #EEDTSummit on 15 May. It is important that the winners share their success stories with us in ensuring that we learn from those companies that are making significant progress in employment equity. We invite the rest of the HR and business community to attend the #EEDTSummit to be inspired by these successes.
The HR community has decided to step up and to take responsibility for our role as HR professionals in making employment equity work effectively. While commentators and the media often report on the poor progress in employment equity, as the HR community we have decided to turn the situation around. We will not accept unequal workplaces. We will continue to drive strong diversity programmes, and accelerate the progressive implementation of employment equity plans. The first results of these efforts will be celebrated, and then we track progress on an annual basis, and share these success stories with the broader market. One day, when full equality has been achieved, the HR community will look back and say: “We were there when it all started, and today we celebrate equality.” Let us all join the journey towards equality.
Thandi Thankge is Vice-chairperson of SABPP and former Executive: Human Capital at ATNS. She is one of the judges for the inaugural Employment Equity, Diversity and Transformation Awards of SABPP. Marius Meyer is CEO of SABPP. The winners will be announced on 14 May 2018. For more information follow SABPP on Twitter @SABPP1 using #EEDTAwards or visit www.sabppawards.co.za The full conference programme is available on www.eedtconf.co.za