LEADERSHIP AND CHANGE MANAGEMENT
Prof. Erwin Schwella & Dr Belinda Ketel
School of Public Management and Planning – University of Stellenbosch Managing a Multicultural FET College
The Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges have gone through a big merger process where 152 colleges were reduced to only 50 colleges in 2001. This change was brought by the promulgation of the new legislation that further necessitated changes in both roles and functions of colleges. The merger process called for the integration of people from diverse cultural backgrounds. This posed a big challenge towards the leadership and management of these colleges.
The top management of these colleges is now faced with the complex and diverse leadership and change management issues. Originally, some of these colleges had predominantly white staff members and others had predominantly black staff members. The merger process then brought these different cultures together to function under one roof.
For the purpose of this paper, our discussions will reflect the leadership and change management challenges faced by the management of Umfolozi FET College situated in the Northern-East of KZN. Subsequently, the paper will discuss some theoretical aspects relating to the issue of diversity within the college environment. Finally, the paper will then make recommendations as to what leadership implications there are in order to deal with diversity.
Managing a multicultural workforce poses a complex challenges in both leadership and management style of the organisation. The challenges are mainly attributable to the different views on how to deal with a culturally diverse workforce as well as our deep understanding of the meaning of such cultures. Cascio (1995:67) defines culture as “the characteristics behaviour of people in a country or region”. Culture forces people to behave in a certain manner that distinguishes them from other people.
Culture is also defined as “the enduring norms, values, customs, and behavioural patterns common to a particular group of people” (Mayer, 2000: 72). When people move to other parts of the world, region or work environment, they tend to retain their cultures. It then becomes a challenge to bring these people from such diverse cultural backgrounds to work effectively together without any prejudice by one culture against other cultures.
Umfolozi FET College is not immune to these challenges, as it also comprises of people from a multicultural backgrounds. One then needs to begin by looking at what necessitated this multicultural organisation. Cascio (1995: 62) identifies “five reasons why diversity has become a dominant activity in managing an organisation’s human resources: (i) the shift from a manufacturing to a service economy; (ii) globalization of markets; (iii) new business strategies that require more teamwork; (iv) mergers and alliances that require different corporate cultures to work together; and (v) the changing labour market”. It is against this backdrop that the multiculturalism at Umfolozi College came into being as a result of the fourth reason.
In 2001, twenty-four Technical Colleges in KZN merged into only nine Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges. This move came as a result of the new legislation that called for the merger of the 152 Technical Colleges into 50 FET Colleges in the country. The merger process necessitated the birth of Umfolozi FET College that comprises of the Richtek Technical College, Eshowe and Esikhawini Teacher Training Colleges, Mandini Technical College, as well as eight skills training centres. The Richtek Technical Training College comprised of the predominantly white staff whilst the other sites had predominantly black staff members. This obviously posed a big leadership and management challenge to the college, as it had to...
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