Now in its 10th year, Canada’s Best Diversity Employers recognizes employers across Canada that have exceptional workplace diversity and inclusiveness programs. 2017 winners include corporations, city governments, banks, universities, and non-profit organizations.
The bar is high when it comes to being selected. Winning employers demonstrate a deep, top-to-bottom commitment to diversity and inclusion. This commitment is reflected in their policies and processes, including hiring practices, procurement practices, and day-to-day protocols. While each workplace is unique, there are commonalities among the winning employers – core activities that clearly set the foundation for a workplace culture of respect and inclusion. While some of these elements are most applicable to larger employers, many can be readily implemented within small- to medium-sized companies.
What are 5 things Canada’s Best Diversity Employers have in common?
- Employee Resource Groups are a hallmark of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers. These are voluntary, employee-led groups that allow the voices of diverse employees to be heard.
“They (ERGs) embed diversity and inclusion in an organization,” says Norma Tombari, Senior Director, Global Diversity, at RBC. “They create a sense of community and a feeling that you belong to the organization. A lot of personal and professional development is enabled… whether it’s through peer coaching, networking, or access to professional development opportunities.”
- They gather measureable feedback. The effectiveness of diversity and inclusion initiatives are measured and there is tangible feedback from frontline workers. For example, in 2016, Bell Canada introduced a new, more robust Diversity Questionnaire to get a more complete picture of its workforce and better shape future programs.
“We are always looking ahead to ensure we have an inclusive environment,” says Nancy MacLean, VP, In-House Production, Bell Media.
- They are flexible and provide accommodations. Workplace accommodations are reasonable modifications to a position or a workplace that enable an employee to do their job, despite having a disability. While there is a legal requirement to accommodate, employers who embrace diversity go beyond legal minimums and make the accommodation of individual differences simple and natural. Donna Oberg, Canada Retail Finance Manager, Shell Canada, was born with cerebral palsy and has limited use of the left side of her body. Shell provides specially adapted keyboards for people such as herself, who can only work with one hand. The company’s intranet site also has an accessibility portal that helps employees procure things that they need to make their jobs easier.
- They strive to create a workplace that mirrors their community. Diversity and inclusion is about more than just supporting existing employees. It is about actively recruiting new employees that represent the myriad of diverse groups that form the fabric of our population.
“If you decline to recruit visible minorities, Indigenous Peoples, individuals with disabilities and the LGBTQ community, you are excluding some 40% of the talent pool out there”, says Margaret Blair, Director of Recruitment, City of Edmonton. “Quite simply, you would not be getting the best people possible.”
- They support diversity organizations and community initiatives. The best diversity employers look beyond their own workplace imperatives. They recognize the value diversity and inclusion brings to our country and they actively support organizations and initiatives that help individuals from diverse groups. This support can be financial, but also includes hands-on support like mentorship, networking opportunites, providing volunteers for events, and offering professional resources. For example, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP supports a number of student organizations including the Black Law Students Association of Canada and the Korean Law Students’ Association. The Blakes/Juriansz Inclusivity Fund supports student-led diversity, inclusion and accessibility initiatives, and they provide work experience through Blake’s Indigenous Summer Student program.
Canada’s Best Diversity Employers go above and beyond what is required. They strive to create respectful, inclusive workplace cultures, where individuals are appreciated and can bring their true selves to work each day. They recognize diversity and inclusion are critical elements of innovation.
Carla Staresina, National Diversity and Inclusion Champion, CMHC sums up the value proposition. “To stimulate innovation, you need a diversity of ideas. And to get that diversity of ideas, you need a diverse workforce.”
To learn more about each of the 100 Winners, check out 2017 Canada’s Best Diversity Employers.
This article was written by Kim Scaravelli. She is the owner of Trust Communications Inc., an Instructional Design firm in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her company is nationally certified as a diverse supplier and she serves on the Advisory Committee of Women’s Business Enterprises (WBE) Canada.