Employee perceptions on managing diversity in the workplace
Ralepeli, Selebeli Gideon
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In the past decade diversity has become one of the most topical subjects in South Africa. It is present in various forms, such as employment equity and the skills development. Our country requires an economy that can meet the needs of all our citizens - our people and their enterprises - in a sustainable manner. This will only be possible if the economy builds on the full potential of all persons and communities across the length and breadth of this country. In order to do an evaluation of the perceptions of Senwes Ltd's employees, a survey was conducted by means of a questionnaire across gender, race and culture. Sections B and C of the questionnaire comprised a five point Likert-type questionnaire scale that focused on knowledge of the values, their understanding, acceptance and behaviour. The results from the survey questionnaire were compared to the survey results from Deloitte's "Best Company to Work For"-survey. Senwes has taken part in this survey for the past three years. The focus of this comparison was primarily on the diversity dimensions. Secondary company data such as remuneration and the number of resignations per race per year were analysed as well in order to complete triangulation. The aim was to use the three measures of central tendency as far as possible, but most of the data was only made available in the arithmetic mean. The overriding difference between South Africa and developed countries in terms of the implementation of legislation that furthers diversity is that in Europe and the USA the issue was and still is about how to include a minority into the mainstream. The situation in South Africa is exactly the opposite, in terms of numbers. It is about how to integrate the majority into all sectors of the economy. An important step in addressing diversity in the workplace is the analysis of the company's employment practices and working environment, which will reveal barriers to achieving employment equity. Companies are expected to take proactive steps to improve their diversity. Senwes meets the requirements in terms of the Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998. All the necessary steps and reporting are in place. However, by the company's own admission in the April 2008 annual report, the company faces shortcomings in this aspect and plans have been put in place to address them. A convenience sample was selected on the basis of availability, and the respondents were selected because they are accessible, articulate and literate. Triangulation was used to verify the results for the survey questionnaire. 64% of the respondents believe that there is a positive correlation between diversity and productivity. However, areas of concern include firstly the notion that EE, AA and diversity are the same thing; secondly that 85% of employees perceive disabled persons as a burden to the company, thirdly that respondents call the role of management in the equitable treatment of various races into question; and fourthly, that respondents perceive the dominance of white males as prevalent in the company. Disability and sexual orientation are not highly regarded, with most of the employees contending that there is no place for homosexuality in the work place. On the positive side, 63% of the employees are of the opinion that black people are as capable as white people. The results from Deloitte's on the understanding of diversity mirror that of this study's survey questionnaire results in this aspect. However, in other respects they differ considerably. This could perhaps be attributed to the difference in race and occupational level of the respondents. Furthermore, the contradictions from the survey questionnaire and the Deloitte's Best Company to Work for Survey may be attributed to the sample size, sampling method and familiarity. Black females on average are the lowest paid employees within the company. White males on average are the highest paid. In general women are paid less than men. There are salary differences across gender and race on average. The trend in general over the last five years is the same. Females in general attend less training than men, and white employees have more training opportunities than other racial groups. It is suggested that talent management, remuneration, recruitment and Employee Assistance Programmes be reconsidered to create a pro-diversity atmosphere.