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Ways your company can benefit from encouraging workplace diversity

In the ever-changing world in which we live in, the diverse demographic makeup of South Africa has plumbers – like others – realising the importance of building diversity and inclusion into their workforces. This diversity can encompass not just race and gender but youth, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

The percentage of Black population increased from 68.6% to 81% during 1946-2022. The percentage of White population declined from 20% to 7.5% over the same period while Coloured and Indian populations remained stable. Over 634 000 South Africans are willing to self identify as LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans).

As of 2022, South Africa’s population had increased and counted approximately 60.6 million inhabitants in total, of which the majority (roughly 49.1 million) were Black Africans. Individuals with an Indian or Asian background formed the smallest population group, counting approximately 1.56 million people overall.

More importantly, youth make up 36% of the population. With these major groups seldom adequately represented in the typical workforce, all employers in the plumbing sector must embrace the diversity workers bring to drive innovation and gain competitive advantage.

We have seen diversity and inclusion within every aspect of our world explode over recent decades; diversity has become increasingly important now more than ever before. South Africa has been nicknamed the Rainbow Nation for good reason – and companies are putting diversity at the top of their agenda when it comes to hiring. It is important that plumbing companies reflect the changing face of the nation and don’t fall behind the times. Diversity fosters innovation and brings people together through exciting new opinions, views and ideas. Growing one’s understanding of other cultures will only help companies rise above the competition.

The Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB) believes increasing diversity within its member engagement and leadership pipeline is essential to the future of the association. PIRB is not seeking diversity as a matter of filling a quota. Rather, PIRB supports a diversity and inclusion lens that identifies eligible applicants among those who have the range of experiences and interests that may best fit the plumbing industry’s needs.

There are several ways that you can welcome diversity to your business. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Diversity can do magic

According to an article published in Scientific American, decades of research show that socially diverse groups with a mix of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation are typically more innovative than a homogeneous group. The explanation is that people with different backgrounds can bring new ideas and perspectives to the business, thereby stimulating creativity and helping with problem-solving. Furthermore, it has been found that working within a diverse group fosters better preparation by anticipating alternative viewpoints and that reaching a group consensus represents a broader constituency.

Become an advocate

For much too long, the challenge of improving diversity and inclusion has fallen on the disenfranchised themselves. Given the benefits of diversity, it’s therefore imperative for all employees, especially those in leadership positions, to become advocates for providing opportunities for all. Rather than leaving it up to those who may feel personally affected by the lack of opportunity in the workplace, those in a position of power within a plumbing business should better educate themselves and others about discrimination, privilege, and other social injustices in order to take matters much further. Challenging discrimination on a personal level can more greatly influence those around us. Businesses should provide a safe and compassionate environment for employees from under-represented demographics to express issues and concerns in an atmosphere of support.

Measure it

What get measured gets done. A focus on diversity within a team requires measuring and recognising the consequential differences in company performance in monthly, quarterly and annual reporting. By putting focus on the actions that are required to improve diversity, management can highlight the positive change resulting from those efforts.

Stop thinking in stereotypes

When evaluating present employees or considering job applicants, stop pigeon-holing people into stereotypes. By adopting the mantra that ‘your thoughts become your destiny’, flexibility and open-mindedness become your friends. This concept encourages thinking of ways to create win-win situations for both worker and company. As an example, if a mother of a child looks like the perfect fit for a job but needs time off to care for her children, consider how much of the job could be completed via online tools so common today – or working remotely. Don’t pass up on five-star candidates without thinking it through. Today, people come from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences, and they have varying capacities and abilities to handle certain work environments. Mental health is an issue of diversity as much as it is an issue of wellness, as companies may shy away from supporting employees who are struggling in certain aspects of their daily professional lives. Supporting good mental health may mean offering services ranging from employee assistance programmes to counselling.

Written by Eamonn Ryan

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