What Are The Real Benefits of Diversity For Workplaces, Education, and our Economy?


By Optimi | 29 Sep, 2022

International research into the benefits of diversity has been driven primarily by McKinsey & Company, a US-based management and consultant firm that has published three well-known studies on the effects of diversity. However, McKinsey’s first two studies used Westernised and Northern Hemisphere focus groups: The US and UK. This changed when their 2020 study also included former British colony Singapore.

Like South Africa, Singapore is a vastly culturally diverse country, and its workplaces and educational institutions reflect that diversity. It also has a thriving economy with upward growth, making it a good case study for the benefits of diversity. Although not a case study for how to model Singapore, it’s helpful to know that another postcolonial country is also reaping the rewards of their natural cultural diversity in their economy.

What does diversity mean?

To be able to explore the benefits of diversity for South Africa, we also need to understand what diversity means. Workplace diversity and equity refer to more than a certain percentage of people of colour and women on the EXCO board of a company. Studies have shown that successful and diverse companies see the effects of diversity on every level: from the bottom to the top.

Diversity, therefore, includes the ability to join the workforce from every level, including entry-level and as executives. South Africa’s diversity needs to be driven by more than equity laws: we need actionable infrastructure in place to ensure that men and women from all cultures have the skills and accreditations to work in every sector.

How to action diversity

Diversity starts with inclusive education. Optimi is committed to providing inclusive education through our Optimi College division, which provides short courses and qualifications that can be completed part-time and full-time.

Optimi College, through our partnership with College SA and IT Academy, gives access to demographics that are unable to access traditional tertiary education to the resources they need to join the world of commerce, information technology and technical sectors. Optimi College courses are even available to South African citizens who have not completed their matric, and we offer an adult matric program.

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Diversity in the workplace is also heavily reliant on essential skills. Employees cannot move up the ladder without the knowledge and skills to become managers or take on more demanding roles. That’s why the Optimi Workplace division fills the gap in organisations that want to increase the literacy and other skillsets of their employees with adult education and training.

Through our partnership with Media Works, of the Optimi Workplace’s most relevant courses is the Essential Computer Literacy course, which teaches the most basic of skills, such as how to send workplace-appropriate emails, to more advanced skills such as project management through spreadsheets. Optimi Workplace also gives employers access to an adult matric program to upskill their employees.

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The benefits of diversity

The benefits of diversity include access to a greater pool of talent, higher quality of work, better team satisfaction, and better decision-making.

Organisations that embrace diversity have the advantage of accessing a far wider pool of talent, ans see the results in the many perspectives that their employees can offer. This leads to better decision-making and higher customer satisfaction, too.

Studies have shown that organisations that embrace and activity pursue diversity have far higher employee retention rates, saving money on recruitment, training, and retention. More experienced and more satisfied teams also produce a higher quality of work, which is desirable for any organisation looking to grow.

Although the economics benefits of diversity are often used as a motivator for workplace diversity, at Optimi we also believe the case for diversity is as simple as it being the right thing to do in a country that has as much diversity to offer as ours. It makes sense to us to embrace the strengths we have! Optimi is proud to be a diverse company, with 66% of our employees being people of colour, 70% of our workforce being women, and a diverse and dynamic EXCO group.

Optimi Group Exco

From L-R: Eloise Nolte, Jackie Carroll, Rajan Padayachy, Stefan Botha, Louise Schoonwinkel, Aunyana Moloisane, Marli Lombard