The Law requires that companies have good strategies in place for communicating Employment Equity to all levels of staff in the business – and that’s more than just displaying a copy of the EE Act. Proper consultation and communication of Employment Equity means clarifying to all staff what the Act says, what it means, and how the company applies it, as well as what this means to every person in the business. Information about your Employment Equity Policy, Plan and developments must be easily accessible to all levels of employees. Good communication of Employment Equity means that all staff have the opportunity to ask questions and clarify information to reduce any possible misunderstandings. Your Employment Equity communication brief should include:
1. Details of the people responsible for the implementation of the Plan;
2. Details of where they can get the information about the Plan;
3. The objectives and duration of the Plan;
4. The dispute resolution procedures; and
5. The roles and responsibilities of the role-players tasked with ensuring the success of the Plan.
DEVELOPING A STRATEGY FOR COMMUNICATING EMPLOYMENT EQUITY
First, the EE Committee and EE Manager should plan a communications strategy. This should take place during an EE meeting, and the strategy should be revised or examined at EVERY EE Committee meeting, because communication needs to be ongoing and constant throughout the business.
STEP 1: Planning the Employment Equity Communications Strategy
The Committee should first discuss the following questions:
1. How does our group define “workplace communication”?
2. Who is responsible for identifying and developing plans and strategies for EE Communication?
3. What are the company’s communication priorities?
4. What results do we want to achieve?
5. Do we need external assistance to conduct the project?
6. How do we get the most out of your workplace communication project?
STEP 2: Assigning Responsibility:
Who is or will be responsible for identifying and developing plans and strategies for meeting workplace communication needs? Managers and all employees together have the responsibility for identifying workplace communication needs and developing workplace and industry specific plans and strategies to implement improvements to workplace communication.
STEP 3: A Preliminary Needs Analysis
Each organisation ought to develop its own unique communications strategy based on its own unique set of circumstances. Factors which may have a direct bearing on the communications model developed by each organisation include, amongst others:
The organisation’s culture and value system:
• Is the organisation’s culture by nature authoritative and thereby its workforce accustomed to one-way communication only?
• Does the organisation’s value system promote true consultation with bargaining agents or is a principle of minimal legislative compliance adhered to?
• Will the sudden introduction of open two-way communication and the free-flowing of information be viewed with unnecessary suspicion by employees who have not been exposed to a concerted communications campaign before?
The size , attributes and distribution of the organisation’s workplaces:
• Is the workforce centralised in one location or spread across geographical or operational areas?
• What communication methods possibly need to be deployed to reach various workplaces?
• What are the literacy levels of the workforce?
• What are the dominant language preferences of the workforce?
• Is the workforce or segments thereof unionised?
• What special accommodation measures need to be implemented to communicated with employees with disabilities?
Experience of prior communication strategies:
• Can any lessons be learned from previous communication strategies – both good and bad?
• Was a communications needs analysis conducted prior to these communication strategies being developed / implemented?
• Was (or can) feedback be obtained on these earlier communications strategies to assist in developing the employment equity communications strategy?
• What resources were deployed in these communications strategies and was a budget developed which may assist in costing the employment equity communications programme?
The resources available to the Employment Equity Committee:
• Does the organisation have a communications department(s) or specialist(s) that can help with the communication of the EE strategy?
• What type of communication programme does the structure of the organisation permit in terms of financial resources, manpower allocation, establishment of communication sub-committees or local / regional line responsibility for communications?
Some organizations find that investing lead responsibility in one person (such as the senior executive responsible for employment equity) provides the most consistency and control. In other organisations, especially those which are unionized; or have a mature relationship with their workforce; or have the financial and manpower resources to do so, find that a preferred option is to establish sub-committee of the main employment equity committee or a small working group responsible for communications. This group may include employee representatives along with the person who usually develops organizational communications.
Other organisations may find that integrating either of the above options with the communications staff / specialist(s). Input would still come from the senior executive and/or the employment equity committee, thereby ensuring that the message will be well received by all designated group employees.
STEP 4: Planning the Employment Equity Communications Strategy
Communicating Employment Equity into an organisation represents stragegic planning, and any communication programme associated with this is an ongoing one. There are nevertheless various key stages in the preparation, development, consultation, implementation and review of employment equity initiatives which require special attention. These focal points must be incorporated into the overall communications programme since they represent specific milestones in the employment equity plan. Be sure to allow flexibility in the communications programme and elicit the involvement of the EE Committee and the top executive team at all times.
STAGES OF COMPANY COMMUNICATION OF EMPLOYMENT EQUITY:
The issues that need to be communicated will vary according to what stage in the development, implementation and review of employment equity the organisation is at. In addition, communications will vary according to the audience being communicated to.
1. Planning stage: (When a company first embarks on its employment equity programme). Organizational realities must be taken into account in determining what and when to communicate. An organization new to employment equity may be a need an intensive up-front training of managers on employment equity and its implementation. When myths or misconceptions exist about equity among employees generally, these would need to be discussed in communications early in the programme in order to ensure its success. Generally the purpose of communication during this stage should focus on the following:-
• Informing employees about the purposes of employment equity involves raising awareness and understanding among employees
• addressing the myths about employment equity (claims of reverse discrimination, quotas);
• exploring sensitive issues such as the impact of employment equity in a time of downsizing; and
• outlining the business advantages of employment equity.
All employees should:
• be made aware and informed of the content and application of the Act
• be sensitized with regard to employment equity and anti-discrimination issues
• be informed regarding the process to be followed
• understand the importance of their participation in the process
• be made aware of the need for participation of all stakeholders
• be informed of their obligations in terms of the Act
• be offered training in diversity management and related skills
• understand that discrimination can be direct, indirect, or as a result of inaction or victimisation.
Additional issues which need to be communicated during this stage include:-
• The nomination and selection of employee representatives;
• The formation of the employment equity consultative committee
• The appointment of the employment equity manager
• The date, time and agenda of the first meeting of the consultative committee
• Any training which the representatives, employees or managers will undergo in respect of employment equity, e.g. diversity training awareness, language or literacy training;
2. Communication during the Analysis stage:
The primary focus of communications during the analysis stage should focus on the measures which have been undertaken analyse the possible obstacles to achieving employment equity within the organisation. Communications at this stage should focus on:-
• the workforce survey and the need for all employees to participate;
• the employment systems review process and summary of findings of the review
Workforce survey communications could include :
• a letter / e-mail to all employees signed by the CEO explaining why a workforce survey is required and what it means for each employee;
• posters promoting the survey;
• directives to managers and supervisors to inform their staff about information sessions on the survey;
• information sessions explaining the survey and process, and why everyone should complete the form; defining each of the designated groups identifying resources for more information; and providing opportunity for two-way communications;
• union representatives to explain and promote the survey in union meetings and in the union newsletter;
• a brochure with the survey form that briefly explains the process and which encourages participation;
• a telephone hotline for people with questions about the survey;
• a follow-up communication from the CEO thanking people for participating and identifying the next steps in the employment equity process; and
• a summary of survey results published in the staff newsletter.
3. Communication on the implementation of the Employment Equity plan
The Code of Good Practice provides in section 8.9.1 that the plan should be appropriately and comprehensively communicated to employees. This communication mechanism should indicate the parties responsible for the implementation of the plan and the agreed dispute resolution procedures. Information about the plan should be easily accessible to all levels of employees.
Communications should focus on amongst others:-
• measures taken or planned to implement an employment equity programme.
• the organization’s policy on employment equity and what it means for managers and employees generally;
• roles and responsibilities relating to employment equity and where to get more information;
• the employment equity plan, goals and timetables, activities and special measures;
• initiatives or policies, for example, revised recruitment policy, outreach recruitment;
• accommodation policy, flexible work arrangements, improving workplace accessibility, harassment prevention training, etc.
4. Communication on progress made in implementing Employment Equity
Information on the progress in implementing equity may include:
• the percentage representation of designated groups in the organization compared to previous years;
• updates on implementation of the plan and the results achieved (quarterly or annual depending on degree of activity);
• revisions to the plan; and
• information on the results of special initiatives such as the development of a management training programme for specific categories of workers.
Practical initiatives for Communicating Employment Equity:
Employment equity should be integrated with other organizational communications wherever possible. For example, major employment equity activities and achievements could be reported in the organization’s annual report. Employee newsletters or training videos could be used to inform staff of the goals and progress of the employment equity programme.
Managers who have direct responsibility for implementing the employment equity plan will need regular and detailed updates on the progress of the plan while employees generally will need less detailed information. This may mean for example, that each manager receives monthly detailed reports and employees only receive annual summary reports in a newsletter.
Similarly, a new flexible work arrangement policy will need to be communicated broadly to all employees covered by the policy. Those responsible for administering the policy will need more detailed information. A bridging programme aimed at developing designated employees will require special efforts to inform them about the programme and encourage their participation. Other employees need to be aware only of the general nature of the programme, but do not need the details.
Personal communications may be more important in the early stages of the employment equity programme to ensure people understand the reasons for employment equity and the roles and responsibilities associated with implementing the programme.
There are so many communication methods available which may be combined with these traditional methods of communication. Communication may be oral or written, hard copy (e.g. newsletters) or electronic (e.g. email), group communications (meetings, seminars, workshops) or one-on-one. Here is a list of some of the many mechanisms available.
- one-on-one communication sessions
- cascades (through the chain of command
- management briefings
- information sessions
- training sessions
- lunch time sessions or presentations
- pamphlets or brochures
- management briefings
- lunch time sessions or presentations
- training sessions
- telephone hotline or call centres
- EE quarterly reports/newsletter
- company websites and/or intranets
- Online seminars, chatgroups, briefings or workshops
Here are some specific examples of ways of Communicating Employment Equity internally:
- All staff meeting to announce the employment equity policy and programme; to explain what it means for the organization and for employees; to explain the rationale for such a programme; to demonstrate the commitment of senior management; to introduce the senior manager responsible for employment equity; and to inform employees about the establishment of an employment equity committee;
- E-mails and phone calls from senior managers to the manager or supervisor in each work area looking for a representative for the employment equity committee;
- Workshops arranged for all staff, facilitated by an external consultant
- On-going information sessions and briefings from employment equity committee members to staff in the areas they represent;
- Information sessions for staff including the presentation of a practical video or DVD illustrating and explaining Employment Equit
- Management meeting informing managers of the planning process and asking for their input ;
- A summary of the employment systems review and the plan presented at a general staff meeting;
- Quarterly or bi-annual written updates to managers on the progress of the EE implementation plan;
- E-mails and pay-advice inserts from the CEO to all employees reminding them that the organization is committed to fairness and equity, outlining the rationale for the programme, introducing the senior manager responsible for the programme, and summarizing the next steps in the programme;
- General staff meetings at which the CEO and the senior manager responsible for employment equity reiterate the objectives and rationale for the programme;
- Articles in the company newsletter;
- An interactive, dedicated Employment Equity / Transformation page on the company’s intranet, with resources, articles and videos and links to educate staff
- Group discussions, blogs and chats on the company EE chat forum page
Considerations for effective communications:
The term “effective communication” is used in its widest sense to include both oral communication (listening and speaking) as well as written communication (reading and writing). The words `language’ and `literacy’ are often used as a shorthand way of referring to the multiplicity of oral and written communication skills.
To ensure that the communications programme is effective, the following factors should be taken into consideration during the planning and implementation phase of the communications programme:-
- Communications should be appropriate to the audience in terms of what they need to know and be presented in a way that is understandable to the target audience.
- Communications should be user-friendly, written in simple and clear language and presented in an easy-to-read format with appropriate graphics. (Graphics should be easily understood by all population groups and not open to a different interpretation).
- Communication methods may need to vary to reach all groups, including employees (often designated group members) at the lowest levels of the organization, who may not have access to the usual communication networks.
- Communications must be a part of managers’ day-to-day responsibilities. Managers need to promote the employment equity programme and to set a positive example in their dealings with designated group members.
- Employment equity communications should be consistent with other messages, including formal communications and actions e.g. managers should be seen to be hiring visible minorities and promoting women into male-dominated jobs where this is part of the employment equity plan.
- Communications must be timely, (e.g. communications throughout the build-up to a workforce survey, during the survey and following the survey).
- Communications must be up-to-date and remind employees that employment equity is an ongoing commitment.
- Communications must meet the information needs of employees new to the organization. The special needs of newly appointed managers and supervisors need to be addressed.
- Senior management should sign important communications to demonstrate their commitment and the importance of the initiative to the organization.
- Communications must be culturally sensitive and inclusive.