The new frontiers of business advocates for transformative measures, which serve a symbol of alliance to customers, suppliers and the community. Evidently, a growing number of companies are refusing to do business with companies who are not transforming. Hardly any business transaction will be concluded without assessing transformation or related sustainability barometers. Similarly, today’s talent place a lot of emphasis on an organisation’s stance on transformation when considering joining them.

An organisation’s transformation starts with a shift in mindset and behaviour. This is particularly true as organisational transformation is traceable to people transforming first. It is said that ‘organisations do not necessarily transform, rather people do’. Similarly, the shift from the traditional way of doing business must be fully inclusive. This starts with enlightened leadership, and places the corporate and personal behaviour of those who lead the organisation as drivers of transformation, in the spotlight.

Borrowing from psychology, as human beings, we filter transformation imperatives based on our core beliefs. We are different by design and as such have different perspectives partly based on our early socialisation, making us unique. The inclusion paradigm is based on the premise that our uniqueness can be of great benefit to the organisations within which we work, if it is harnessed properly. The purpose of assembling a team in an organisation is not to have like for like, but rather complimentary personalities with different sets of competencies which will ultimately give the best results.

By incorporating inclusion into the organisation, you will create a platform to acknowledge, respect and value the contributions from each employee, taking the company to a maturity state where differences are celebrated and harnessed, and we move away from stereotyping and allowing preconceived ideas to cloud our thinking.

How does this relate to transformation?

If organisations focus more on the intangible and invisible, and embrace a mindset focused on inclusion, the other things relating to compliance and transformation targets will happen naturally. The problem is that organisations are so focused on achieving the targets without preparing the environment, thus requiring them to work much harder to achieve the results.

Inclusion is not about legislation, although in our context it has taken legislation to drive the point. That said, the legislation should only be providing the minimum requirements of what should be done, and we, as corporate South Africa, should all naturally be doing the right thing. Transformation underpins the values that we have as organisations.

We also need to enable people to be more natural in the working environment, as this will eliminate impatience, foster greater inclusion and stimulate talent attraction.

Looking at the bigger picture

Our goal as corporate South Africa should be to get to a state of maturity as businesses and as human beings. Here I am referring to maturity in the sense that things happen without them necessarily being enforced. Imagine a corporate environment where our conscience is transformed so that we no longer look at each other based on race or culture, but rather based on the unique value that everyone can add to the workplace.

If organisations are transforming purely because of legislation and that legislation is removed, will it mean that transformation is no longer relevant? The reality is that we serve a diverse market and, as organisations, need to be relevant to that market. We, therefore, need to be more innovative in our transformation efforts to drive real results.

If everyone in business was the same and continued doing the same things, our organisations would become redundant. It is, therefore, crucial that we embrace our differences and apply them to continuously evolve our organisations to remain relevant.

A global phenomenon

Transformation efforts manifest in different forms and contexts, all advocating for empowerment, equality, non-discrimination and fairness, towards common good for all. In South Africa and most developing countries, the focus is on addressing the historic imbalances of the past, targeting the majority of the citizens. Developed countries, on the other hand, focus their attention on the inclusion of minorities who happen to be disadvantaged. Driven from the humanitarian angle, we see more of civil organisations, non-profit organisations and global movements like the United Nations participating actively in making the better world in a transformative manner.

As corporate South Africa, we need to start looking at the working environment from a different perspective. As people, we all have preconceived ideas and we wear specific lenses, but it’s only when we look at the world from a different perspective that we will be able to truly embrace transformation.

Sydwell Shikweni
Transformation Director, Merchants


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