Embracing diversity makes good business sense for FNB

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Windhoek

Andrew Kanime, Chief of Human Resources at FNB Namibia, shares a thought leadership piece on diversity management, in light of the diversity intelligence programme rolled out at the bank recently.

“In this piece I try to shed some light on reasons for embarking upon this programme and the potential benefits it holds for us as individuals and our group, FNB Namibia,” said Kanime.

He elaborated that diversity is one of the ten tenets or principles that underpin the FirstRand Philosophy, which has been the winning formula behind the group’s success for many years.

“For the FirstRand Group, diversity extends beyond race and gender, and includes marital status, ethnic/social origin, personalities, age, disability, HIV status, religion and language, among others.”

“Thus, the group’s commitment to transformation goes well beyond regulation and compliance, as we appreciate the fact that embracing diversity is the right thing to do. This is because it makes good business sense and enables us to harness our rich diversities to the benefit of our customers, our society and our country. This in turn aids us in staying ahead of the game and remaining the most innovative group in our industry,” he says.

Kanime adds that as human beings we all have our own individual biases and prejudices towards certain individuals or groups. “As individuals, we may not even be aware of some of these biases, which stem from our own personal life experiences and our respective cultural group norms, values and traditions. Over a lifetime, these biases build a mental databank of judgments, beliefs and prejudices and get stored in our unconscious minds. They become our points of reference, and we unconsciously draw from this database without us really knowing it. As an example, a recruiting manager may have rejected a job applicant who resembles someone he/she does not like. In numerous literature there seems to be an overall conclusion that human beings are profoundly biased; and what is more to it is the fact that as human beings we are almost always not aware or do not know that we are being biased.”

The good news, however, is that biases can be managed and the benefits of correctly doing so are enormous.
“At a personal level, the very first step that one needs to take is the realization and acknowledgement that everyone has biases and that being aware of one’s own biases will enable one to take one’s own decision-making off its ‘automatic pilot’. At a business level, we are able to tap talent from a wider pool enabling us to have a diverse workforce that reflects consumer diversity which can enrich our new product development and service offering, among others. This ultimately results in significant revenue growth for the business,” he says.

Prejudices are not only individual or group-based, but are also found in organisations and are usually reflected in phrases such as “that’s the way we do things around here”.

“At FNB, we continually watch ourselves for all type of biases, whether at personal, group or organisational levels, in order that we can put mechanisms in place that lead to more rational decision-making.

“It is in taking account of all these realities, that the FNB Group continues to roll out our diversity intelligence programme which will enable us, as FNBers, to become more aware of biases, learn how prejudices affect performance, as well as equip us with specific skills that will enable us to free ourselves from such biases. The FNB programme is based on the premise that if one increases awareness of own prejudices he/she will be in a better position to take corrective steps to overcome such biases.”

He concludes: “FNB Namibia is committed to being the best employer to the best people. It’s the best way to ensure that when we say how can we help you, we really can.”

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