Diversity has become highly prioritized over the last year thanks to movements such as #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo. Professional leaders and the Canadian government have increased efforts to address the systemic racism that places Black, female, LGBTQ2, indigenous, and other minority communities at a disadvantage in the corporate world.
The 50 – 30Challenge is one way that private and government organizations work together to implement diversity in human resources (HR): this initiative was co-created by the Government of Canada, civil society and the private sector. The program seeks to achieve 50/50 gender parity and 30% significant representation of traditionally under-represented minority groups amongst the boards and senior management of companies who participate.
However, the impact of COVID-19 on immigrants’ employment could reverse the gains made in terms of diversity in the workplace in recent years. In this vital moment in protecting diversity in the workplace, we spoke to two industry experts about their experience creating and supporting more inclusive workplaces. We’ve paired their advice with technological advances such as HR analytics software to create actionable tips on how to implement diversity in HR for SMEs of any budget.
What is diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
According to Gartner, the definition of diversity and inclusion (D&I) is a function of an organization which aims to employ a range of diverse individuals (based on individual characteristics, values, beliefs, and backgrounds) and to foster a work environment in which all employees feel respected, accepted, supported, and valued.
Inclusive workplaces do more than create a safe and comfortable environment for employees. To explore the connections between diversity and business, the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) compiled an in-depth report. It was discovered that diversity in the workplace provides many benefits to businesses who implement them, such as:
- Increased revenue
- Improved ability to handle change
- Reduced workplace conflict
- Wider variety of skills amongst employees
- Higher chance of innovation and new approaches to problem-solving
- Greater likelihood to gain a reputation as socially responsible
Workplace diversity can elevate your business results while creating a company culture that employees compete to be a part of. Leveraging the advantages of workplace diversity will require a strategy, however. Hiring diverse candidates solely to fulfill the requirements of the 50 – 30 Challenge does not guarantee the cooperation and synergy of a team.
Implementing diversity from an HR perspective
Unfortunately, not every SME will have the budget to hire a chief diversity officer or other diversity specialist. However, because HR departments are already handling the recruitment, education, and retainment of employees, they’re perfectly positioned to implement diversity and inclusion measures in a holistic way.
In fact, there are resources available to ensure your HR team is qualified to take D&I measures. Educating HR employees will build the awareness and skills needed to achieve an inclusive work environment.
Teach diversity within your organization
For a workplace to be inclusive, efforts must be made from every department to create an environment free of discrimination. Every employee from frontline staff to senior leaders must be educated with practical tips, tools, and techniques to help them shift their behaviours towards inclusion.
What is workplace discrimination?
In the workplace as well as other federally regulated services in Canada, it is illegal to discriminate (or make a distinction in favour of or against a person) against someone based on their race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital or family status, genetic characteristics, disability, or a conviction for which a pardon has been granted or a record suspended.
In the workplace, discrimination may manifest as unfair treatment, harassment, or victimization as a result of making previous complaints. This discrimination can be either overt or subtle, and can affect decisions around hiring, training, promotions, payment, and even dismissal.
Canadian laws on workplace discrimination are clear: employers have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for all employees. That responsibility includes protecting employees from discrimination by organization heads, hiring managers, and even fellow employees.
SMEs should set up a designated and anonymous procedure for employees to safely report incidents, which can be done with HR software. These incidents should be resolved accordingly with the affected parties, but can also be used to inform the topics of educational sessions the organization may need.
Providing education on recognizing built-in biases is a must to end workplace discrimination and encourage inclusive practices. The Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI) offers elearning courses covering D&I fundamentals, managing bias in hiring, and recognizing unconscious bias. Using learning management software can also provide organizations affordable educational solutions while tracking employee progress.
Prioritize diversity in the hiring process
Diverse perspectives are the driving force behind the success that inclusive organizations enjoy.
However, unconscious bias may lead to discrimination while selecting candidates. Individuals and institutions alike should study available D&I resource guides, utilize recruitment software, and learn from HR professionals how to avoid implicit bias during the hiring process.
Following the best practices in creating an equitable workplace will touch all aspects of the hiring process. From the language used in job board postings and interviews all the way to the selection of the hiring committee, each process should be re-examined to focus on implementing inclusion and diversity in HR.
Identify the needs of your organization to create D&I initiatives
With the HR leads and employees educated on the general concept of workplace diversity and best practices, organizations are better equipped to examine their daily processes for discriminatory habits. To eliminate the biases and barriers of a company, employees, employers, HR professionals, and digital resources must all be used to seek out bad practices.
To get a benchmark of the state of diversity in an organization, collecting data using HR analytics software is a useful technique. Once company data is collected and compiled, administrators can conduct diversity analysis and generate recommendations for improvement. D&I initiatives such as changes in policies, targeted recruiting, and awareness events can be created by using these reports and tracked via performance metrics.
How to create, launch, and track a D&I initiative
- Identify the issue.
- Set a realistic goal (e.g. raise cultural awareness amongst the sales team).
- Define action items (such as 1-on-1 sessions, team-building exercises, or competency training) to remedy the issue.
- Assign stakeholders amongst teams and empower them to continue to educate and engage their teams on the issue.
- Create a timeframe for the action items.
- Check progress by measuring key performance indicators according to the timeframe set.
Keeping an open dialogue with employees is another vital and inclusive method of measuring the success of D&I initiatives. With employee engagement platforms, HR departments can create surveys and request feedback to glean first-hand insight which can provide valuable personal accounts of the D&I initiative’s progress.
Whether an organization is composed of a two-man team or a 200-person operation, inclusive work environments take effort from everyone to achieve. If Canada is to reach total cooperation with the 50 – 30 Challenge, it’s up to every employee to contribute their unique effort —and up to employers to take action.