UKZN HR Encourages Diversity and Inclusion Amongst Staff
Diversity and Inclusion consultant Verna Myers once said: ‘Diversity is being invited to the party and Inclusion is being asked to dance.’
In an effort to create a diversified and inclusive work environment at UKZN, a Steering Committee has been formed across the University. Working in collaboration with a company called Diversi-T and Human Resources, the committee initiated a series of “sustainable inclusion through diversity” workshops for all staff members at the University.
Themed, Nurturing Inclusion through Embracing Diversity, one of the first workshops was held with staff from the Research Office and Research Financial Services.
These workshops are intended to help staff understand the importance of diversity and inclusion, and to help them reflect on their own individual stereotypes, assumptions and unconscious biases that may lead to less inclusive behaviours. This is all done in a bid to create an environment that fosters inclusion in the workplace.
Diversity was described as a mosaic of people from different backgrounds, values and beliefs coming together to form one final, “beautiful” image, while inclusion is ensuring that people belong and are part of a team.
The day began with an introduction exercise titled ‘Who is My Colleague?’ Each participant had to introduce their partner by finding out the meaning, origin and significance of their colleague’s first name/s. This exercise did not only teach staff members the importance of knowing people’s names but how each name highlighted the person’s background and pride that people have about their names.
Through the exercise, staff also learnt the importance of asking a stranger their name, taking the initiative to pronounce it correctly and not shortening people’s names without their permission.
Staff members were encouraged to ensure the environment is conducive for everyone to work in by not only respecting each other’s culture, sexual orientation, gender identity, beliefs, but also focusing on each other’s capabilities without assumptions or labels.
Staff members also raised the importance of being sensitive to other people’s backgrounds and beliefs among colleagues, and the importance of respecting other people’s cultural practices. During the workshops, REACHT values are emphasised as the glue that holds everything together. Sustainable diversity and inclusion can only be achieved if all employees make a concerted effort to authentically live the values.
Other exercises held throughout the day included the identification of barriers and enablers to inclusion at UKZN, understanding stereotypes in the workplace and understanding how inclusivity begins with each individual. One of the participants, said she enjoyed the “Who is My Colleague?” exercise the most and being from the Democratic Republic of Congo, she learnt that she needed to pay more attention to the meaning and backgrounds of people’s names. Going forward she said she will change how she takes people’s names for granted, pay more attention and ask if she has to.
During the workshops, participants also committed to play their part in creating an inclusive workplace that is free of any discrimination and judgements. Another participant said the workshop has been useful and eye opening for her. She said going forward she has committed to being respectful and mindful of her work colleagues.
Human Resource Division’s Mr Michael Cloete said the response from staff and departments that have attended the workshops so far has been positive.
Further workshops will be held until the first week of December and then again throughout 2019. The project is planned to continue until the year 2020.
Words: Sithembile Shabangu
Photographs: Albert Hirasen