Workplace Diversity: Are African Companies Doing Enough?

In today’s business climate, experts have continually touted workplace diversity as a key factor in creating a successful company.
A diverse workforce comprised of people from a wide array of cultures, viewpoints, and backgrounds is not just a nice to have. It’s essential. 
In Kenya, and other parts of Africa, diversity in the workplace is often limited to tribes/ethnicity or religion, a 2017 Nation newspaper article reports. However, experts explain that it is not even about whether your company also considers gender, class, sexual orientation, or disability as part of its employee diversity portfolio. Indeed, the way to look at building inclusive workplaces, according to Christine Alemany, chief growth advisor at Trailblaze Growth Advisors, is to consider a diversity in backgrounds.
“It's about background,” she says. “While it may be more comfortable to be around people who are just like you, you are selling yourself short by doing so.“
Creating inclusive and diverse work environments will be key for Kenyan companies, especially as more foreign entities look to invest in Kenya. The Kenyan government, for example,  announced a multi-billion dollar partnership agreement with the US government and companies last week.
One of the twelves deals signed in this milestone partnership, for instances, is the Ministry of Health’s $20 million agreement with Medtronic, a global leader in medical technology, services, and solutions. The deal will allow Medtronic to set up necessary medical dialysis centres in Kenya.
As more investment like this continues to roll into the continent, data shows that organizations that are more diverse will be better position to take advantage because they make more money, are more innovative, and retain more of their staff.
Diverse Companies Producer Higher Profits.
According to McKinsey's 2017 "Delivering Through Diversity" report, companies whose executive teams rank in the top 25 percent for racial and ethnic diversity are 33 percent more likely to reap financial returns above the national median for their industry. Additionally, a 2015 study by Bersin by Deloitte showed that diverse companies had 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee over a three-year period than non-diverse companies did.
The conclusion?  A workforce that hails from different backgrounds brings with them different experiences that are overall better for your company bottom line.
“Businesses need to remain relevant and to be sustainable. There is a solid business case that stacks up for transformation and diversity,” Dr Liziwe Masoga, a human resource executive at South Africa’s Old Mutual Insure said of the company’s stance on diversity.
The same McKinsey study cited above also found that companies in the bottom 25 percent of the diversity pack were less likely to net above-average financial returns than companies with average diversity.
Inclusive Work Environments Have Better Employee Retention.
A work environment that is too homogeneous chases employees and can be less attractive to job prospects who can't identify their place within the company.
A 2014 survey conducted by Glassdoor found that two-thirds of job applicants surveyed consider diversity to be an important part of deciding where they want to work.  
As a result, businesses that fail to foster inclusive workplaces see higher turnover rates than businesses that value a diverse workforce. The failure to retain qualified employees results in avoidable turnover-related costs at the expense of a company’s profits.
Bob Collymore, the former CEO of Safaricom, which is often cited as one of the best places to work in Africa told She Leads Africa in 2016 that he focused on making  “a significant impact in ensuring that diversity and inclusion was acclimatized for by the organization.” This strategy included promoting more women, and ensuring that a diverse workforce could connect with the diversity of its Kenyan customers.
Safaricom’s investment in diversity and inclusion has paid off as it continues to recruit and retain top talent into its ranks.
Diverse Teams Are More Innovative.
When a company's employees come from varying backgrounds, they have a variety of life experiences to solve problems and create fresh ideas.
Indeed, of 321 large global enterprises—companies with at least $500 million in annual revenue—surveyed in a 20122 Forbes study, 85 percent agreed or strongly agreed that diversity is crucial to fostering innovation in the workplace.
The message couldn't be clearer — more diversity is the right move for your employees and your company's bottom line.