• Sunday, June 23, 2024
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What makes us different, makes our organisations stronger – The value of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the workplace

IOSCO moves to increase cooperation, information-sharing among securities regulators

PART TWO – Why you need to make DEI a priority
Last week we looked at the current state of play for DEI in Nigeria. This week focuses on providing clarity as to why you need to make DEI a focal point of your organisation.
To begin with, here are a few of the proven advantages of valuing DEI in the workplace:

1) High level of Productivity: When organisations value the uniqueness of its workers by means of offering them proper compensation, health care and tailored career advancement; it enables those workers to have a sense of belonging to the company irrespective of their differences.

2) Increased innovation, ideas and teamwork: Each team member bringing different ideas and offering a unique perspective (especially during problem solving) can effectively arrive at the best solution at the shortest possible time.

3) Effective Communication: Workplace diversity can immensely strengthen a company’s relationship with some specific group of customers/clients, by making communication more authentic.

4) Diverse Experience: Employees that come from a diverse background bring a unique set of perceptions and experiences to the table, especially during team or group tasks. Pooling the differing skills and knowledge of culturally diverse employees together can immensely benefit the company.
If you choose to ignore this ever-growing need for Diversity in the workplace, it costs time, money, and efficiency; leads to unhealthy tensions; loss of productivity because of increased conflict; inability to attract and retain talented people; and leads to complaints and legal actions, all of which can result in lost investments.

It is time to move forward
Within the private sector in Nigeria, many businesses follow the concept of simply avoiding the potentially contentious issues relating to DEI by adopting an informal approach to diversity management. However, some notable exceptions to this are a few, mainly Western multinational corporations (mainly in the oil and gas sector), who are embracing the nation’s diversity and harnessing its power. For example, Chevron has a clearly articulated DEI Strategy, including engaging full-time diversity professionals to provide strategic direction and co-ordination for their DEI initiatives and goals. Companies like Chevron have generally been influenced by their parent companies to implement diversity initiatives, adopting operational best practices from other countries that are further advanced in the DEI agenda. This presents a serious challenge to the Nigerian divisions, as they must define a locally relevant diversity plan.

Additionally, there is a stronghold of groupthink in Nigeria – that is, the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group, which often results in unchallenged decision-making and things being done the way they always have been done. Those who hold views that are different or to those of the ‘in-group’ are often excluded, marginalised, and even discriminated against. These underrepresented groups have been taught to accept their fate and be grateful for their oppression. Therefore, now is the time to take DEI from paper to practice, and to leverage the power of the vast diversity Nigeria offers to make your business operate at a higher level.

In conclusion
Many categories of workers remain voiceless in Nigerian organisations. Nigeria is characterised by high levels of diversity, low levels of inclusion, and historically weak but evolving institutional arrangements; and therefore, change is inevitable. You must take a pragmatic approach that requires a short- and long-term strategy, taking incremental steps toward transformational and systemic change. Given the increasingly diverse talent market within Nigeria, organisations that have a focus on attracting, retaining, and fully engaging the skills of a diverse workforce will gain a competitive advantage. While this may require commitment of organisational resources, there are no sustainable alternatives if you want to truly be the best organisation within your field.

Adaku is an award-winning expert with over 10 years’ experience in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). The founder of boutique consultancy firm, PhoenixRize, she is a facilitator, educator and sought-after speaker who is on a mission to equip companies and organisations with the skills and know-how to empower diverse teams to perform at their best. Her work helps organisations to become aware of the concepts relating to DEI, develop successful DEI strategies and implement anti-discriminatory and inclusive policies, fulfilling their statutory equality and diversity requirements, while shaping diversity into a strategic advantage. A servant leader, humanitarian, and passionate advocate, Adaku believes in meeting people where they are to address bias, racism, and injustice.