IMPLEMENTING A DIVERSE AND INCLUSIVE CULTURE IN THE WORKPLACE
A Nigerian-born man Ofure, shared a story about how he got employed in a large company in America simply because of the colour of his skin. He said he’d applied for the job because he felt he was qualified for that position and when he was invited for an interview, he was overjoyed and prepared well for it. On the day of the interview however, the first few questions thrown at him greatly destabilised him and he felt a bit overwhelmed. In his mind, he had already lost the opportunity. He said he was surprised when suddenly, one of the interviewers started asking him about his background and criminal records. Unexpectedly, the atmosphere seemed to have changed, become more relaxed. They even asked him to speak English as he would in his country and not try to speak in a way he thought they would understand. Ofure brought out his Nigerian accent and the interviewers were greatly entertained. They offered him the job. It was weird. He said that he did not know when he blurted out that he thought he had failed to answer their questions correctly. They just laughed and said it was alright.
A couple of weeks into the job, he understood why he was hired above others who might have been better qualified. The organisation had simply hired him to satisfy their company policy of diversity and inclusion. They were not just satisfying an internationally accepted norm but capitalising on the fact that having Ofure in their organisation could open them up to other experiences and ideas outside of their immediate scope. It could grant them perspectives that may positively increase their productivity.
More international organisations are realising the need for a well defined and supported culture of diversity and inclusion in the work environment. Well utilised, a diverse and inclusive workplace culture is essential in fostering innovation, creativity, and collaboration. It creates vibrancy in the workplace. By building a work environment that is welcoming and accepting of people from different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives, organizations can harness the power of diverse thinking to drive business success. In this part of the world, inclusion of women at decision making levels, employment of people living with disabilities and special needs, people of unique dressing and preferences, gender equality at the workplace are some of the calls constantly going out to organisations.
Any organisation that intends to grow a global brand should be deliberate about its diversity and inclusion policy. It is of utmost essence in our environment given the differences that exist amongst us. In Nigeria, for instance, at the federal level of governance, the federal character representation became enforced because the government realised that it is only through a firm diversity and inclusion policy that it would give a voice to all areas of the country. Organisations can, through policies and consistent trainings, adapt its workplace to reflect this phenomenal and beneficial culture.
The first step in building a diverse and inclusive workplace culture is to define what diversity and inclusion mean for your organization. Diversity can include differences in race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, ability, and socioeconomic status. Inclusion means creating a culture where everyone feels valued, respected and supported, regardless of these differences. To define diversity and inclusion for your organization, you should involve employees from all levels and units. This can be done through surveys, focus groups, and town hall meetings. By involving employees in the process, an entrepreneur will gain valuable insights into what diversity and inclusion mean to them and how these can be incorporated into your organisational culture.
Once you have determined what diversity and inclusion mean for your organization, you set out steps and strategies to make these a part of your work culture. The strategy should include measurable goals and objectives that align with the organization’s overall business strategy and a detailed manual on how to achieve the set goals. Your goals could include increasing the representation of underrepresented groups in your workforce, developing a diverse and inclusive leadership team or creating a more inclusive welcoming work culture for everyone.
Where necessary, trainings and resource materials may be made available to all levels of staff in the organisation so that the strategy is well communicated to all.
Training is a critical component of building a diverse and inclusive workplace culture because it helps the employees to understand and embrace diversity and inclusion. Training should cover such topics as Unconscious bias, Stereotypes and prejudice, Conflict resolution etc.
Substantive steps taken by the organisation to boost inclusion may comprise: Flexible work arrangements to accommodate employees with care-giving responsibilities or disabilities; Bias-free recruitment and hiring practices, such as blind resume screening and multi-level interview panels; Easy Access for employees with disabilities; Equal pay and promotion opportunities for all employees. It is important to continuously evaluate and improve your company’s diversity and inclusion efforts. This means regularly collecting data on diversity and inclusion metrics, such as employee demographics and retention rates, public perception etc. It also means soliciting feedback from employees and making changes based on that feedback.
Lastly, reap the benefits of this unique culture. For this to be sustainable and agreeable, the organisation must factor and pursue what benefits it can derive from this culture that would translate into brand expansion, increased productivity and a vibrant workforce.
Fatherhood with Ibe
DISCIPLINE: HOW FAR IS TOO FAR?
In one of the institutions that I lecture in as visiting professor, one of the students asked a random question about parents’ right to humiliate their children or even leave physical wounds on their kids in the name of discipline. The question excited all the other students so, although it was not directly related to our subject of discourse, I decided to guide them through the debate of ‘how far is too far’ when it comes to parental control and discipline.
To throw more light on the question, the student told the story of a girl who jetted out of campus with her friends to attend a high-profile party in another city. Unfortunately, her father came into town for a meeting and decided to visit his daughter who was nowhere to be found. He later discovered that his daughter had been out of the campus for over two days. The story was that the man made a huge fuss on campus and remained in town to await his daughter’s return. Some friends may have alerted the girl because she returned to school early the next day but the harm had been done. Her dad hired two henchmen to humiliate and rough her up. They tore her dress off and held her while her enraged dad flogged her mercilessly. He took a pair of scissors and cut her hair extension into pieces and her real hair to the roots. She was left with deep cuts and bruises all over her body. The question was, did the man have moral and legal rights to exact that type of punishment on his daughter?
Opinions were flying in left and right. I observed that all the ladies were in protest of the severity of the punishment. No one said the man did not have a right to be angry and to show his displeasure over his daughter’s ‘wilfulness,’ but they felt he went too far in punishing her. Most of the young men agreed that the man went too far but felt it was a major lesson that needed to be taught ‘to the female undergraduates who refuse to sit down and face their studies but would rather run from city to city and country to country chasing fun.’
We discussed the legal allowances that parents have. In Nigeria, for instance, flogging is a punishment advised by law for minors who have committed serious offences. Of course, the girl in question had already passed the age of 18 so in the eyes of the law, she is not a child and therefore is not required to have legal guardians. Therefore flogging, wounding and humiliating her is actually an offence. In truth, the human rights acts forbid what is broadly categorised as inhuman treatment of anyone. However, taken in its cultural perspective that sees a financially dependent child as a parent’s responsibility no matter the age, punishment may still go from parent to such an adult. This brings us back to how far is too far?
Parenting styles differ and with them are the temperaments of the parents. How parents choose to discipline their children depends on their own understanding of parenting and their temperament. A parent who is quick tempered is more likely to use the flogging method because it is fast and instant. However, some parents use the cane because they feel that the children are more likely to remember the punishment because of the physical discomfort. The assumption is that the more painful, the more memorable and the less likely the chances of a repeat misbehaviour.
I try to stay away from being coaxed into recommending a parenting style – even mine is a bit different from my wife’s – thankfully, our styles complement each other. What I do recommend is that discipline should be carried out by both parents. All that “just wait till your Daddy comes home” attitude is not advisable. Both parents have the responsibility of training the child and a major part of discipline is making sure that your children abide by rules already laid down by you. There is no way around it, instilling and maintaining discipline in a child is a duty that parents must perform if they love their child.
Discipline should be consistent. It should be deliberate, not an impulsive reaction based on anger or habit. That old tale about “mother’s quick throw of slippers,” is just for entertainment now. We all know that soon enough, as the child grows, he learns to dodge the ‘flying slipper’ and runs away laughing. Discipline should be dynamic and result-based. It should be corrective; it is not a way of letting off your own anger and disappointment as a parent.
I tend to talk to my children to get them to see what they did wrong and why they should have done things differently. It works for us. I also do not believe that a grown person whether your child or ward or even your staff should be robbed of his or her personal dignity. Withdrawal of privileges and favours are common methods that I use; they work for me. Some ground their children or use time out depending on their ages. If it works for you and the child, by all means, stick to it. A parent should be quick to realise when a particular mode of discipline becomes ineffective and should try something else – the objective is to ultimately raise an emotionally stable adult who has integrity and can succeed in the larger society.
Having said these, a grown child – above 18 – should be given his due respect as an adult. If you didn’t instill discipline in your child before age 10, it would be difficult to get him to be a disciplined adult. If you haven’t developed a level of communication and mutual respect before the child becomes an adult, it may be difficult to attain it. If the child doubts that his best interest is your priority even if he doesn’t understand it, then you need to work on your relationship.
Too far, for me, is the discipline that totally kills your child’s self-esteem and wounds his spirit. No matter how justified, I will recommend that the parent should pause and find another method of discipline.
I would like to read other parent’s thoughts on this: How far is too far when disciplining your grown child?