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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Diversity and inclusion – the paradigm shift needed to propel performance and patriotism

The subject of diversity and inclusion is an evergreen subject to which many scholars have weighed in.  The multinationals across the world have adopted this approach for company innovation and profitability and this can be extended to countries such as The Gambia. If one wishes to see the implementation of this, no need to look further than the Biden-Harris administration in the USA.

As the world becomes a global village, all smart companies (small or large) look up to diversity to innovate and stay ahead of the curve in business. A study I have conducted in the shipping industry this year concluded that diversity and inclusion is an essential element which affects excellent team performance, creativity, innovation, work efficiency, productivity, profitability, and diverse viewpoints in general. We need to also be aware that diversity is not only physical attributes such as gender, tribe, creed, nationality, religious, height and so forth but also cognitive which is arguably the most important in innovation and company improvement. Further on diversity, we need to understand that it is both acquired and inherent. Inherent diversity has to do with all the traits that an individual possesses from birth, such as gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Acquiring diversity on the other hand has to do with the traits an individual obtains from experience.

How will diversity and inclusion help The Gambia as a nation?

1.         Adoption and implementation of workplace diversity and inclusiveness of employees in every organisation ought to be explored. In The Gambia, we need to review our employment strategy and hire people based on both inherent and acquired diversity. How are we hiring today? Your guess is as good as mine but is it too late? No. As I look around, I see lots of professionals in the area of human resource management and if given the responsibility, they will hire the right people for the right roles.

2.         Leadership: Barak (2016) argues that successful management in the recent past is associated with numerous axioms among which the ability to manage the increasing workforce diversity and inclusion are of great importance. It’s an open secret that where there is diversity (inherent and acquired). The leaders need to manage conflict. Conflict is not a bad thing; the issue is how it is managed which could make or break a society. In fact, we can argue that conflict is good for the innovation, profitability and smooth running. An organisational resilience with regard to workforce diversity is desirable to impact organisational performance. One needs a strong leader.

3.         Respect of diversity of opinions: The analogy we can give here is that of a gardener – the best garden is one with various flowers, colour and shapes which are well shaped and follow a pattern to make it special. More on the analogy, did you take time to see how a music band works? Imagine if all the instruments are the same? If all were flutes or all were drums, or all were vocalists? The work done by the musicians in managing and the discipline involved in the band is like the kind of leadership we need to run a company and by extension a state.

4.         Diversity of abilities and focus on the core competences of our people: When I look at The Gambia, I see a blessed nation but one which is busy on the wrong things in life. Can you imagine a combination of the strengths of the various tribes in The Gambia, the physical attributes of men, the multi-tasking skills of the women, the local knowledge of those living in The Gambia and the international skills sets of those living abroad, the business ideas of those who went to business schools to the those running businesses without formal education? Imagine all those being led by a charismatic, understanding and appreciative leader with diversity and inclusion mindset with foresight  and vision. The vision needs to be well documented and referred to daily as our guide.

I submit to the government of The Gambia or any company leader who wishes to improve innovation, profitability and create a cohesive and adhesive team for better results to consider the following:

1-         Establishment of diversity and inclusion department working in tandem with the human resources department.

2-         Search honestly for the right talents without focus on gender, tribe, creed and so forth. In fact, when the shortlistings are being done, unconscious biased data such as tribe, name, date of birth and focus should be removed and simply capability, experience, experience and what the person would bring to the table should be considered.

3-         Process map all the employees in an organisation to ensure the group is as diverse as possible and linked to a performance KPI.

4-         Seek leaders (not managers) to lead such teams. The team is as strong as its weakest link. Be not afraid to fail but ready to ‘fail fast’, learn from it and improve.

5-         Imbed diversity and inclusion in the organisations values and make it a performance indicator and reviewed quarterly.

6-         Create a mutual trust and acceptance of one another, there is a need to form a more cohesive and adhesive team with the right leadership – sense of belonging.

7-         Create a thinking organisation or nation to encourage staff to participate in work teams in decision-making processes with ideas being rewarded.

8-         Considerable improvement in the equity of accepting and including all personnel with the capacity to deliver into managerial roles regardless of their social standards (that is, ethnicity, nationality, gender, and so forth) as well as cognitive diversity.

9-         Exposure to employ from a large pool of people to occupy different roles, but extra vital to involve them in all major operations and decision-making processes by tapping their skills and capabilities.

10-       Make individuals feel a sense of purpose and includes them in designs such as giving opportunities to those abled differently to be part of the decision making body in various strata of society from designing of roads to building of offices to staffing.

The power of diversity and inclusion when embedded into the missions and core values of an organisation or nation should target at improving its performance. This should reflect innovation and creativity leading to increased profits and in the case of a nation – increase our happiness index and creates a sense of belonging, nationalism, patriotism and sense of purpose. We need to embrace diversity and inclusion to make the right development needs for us to make headways.

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