Workplace Culture-III

D&I Best Practices Get the Best Results

Diversity and inclusion best practices serve as guides for organizations that are at different points along a spectrum of D&I progress.
— By Robin Byrd

Canada has one of the most diverse populations and workforces in the world, and Statistics Canada predicts the ethnocultural diversity of the population will continue to increase by a large per centage by the year 2031. It is possible that 25 to 28 per cent of the population will be foreign-born by then. With these kinds of projections, achieving true diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workforce is critical to Canada's ability to remain globally competitive.

A number of Canadian firms have developed unique practices to promote D&I or have adopted and customized the best practices of other companies. There is no standard of practice around D&I in the Canadian workplace, meaning it is up to each organization to develop goals and customized strategies. Some companies focus on the inclusion of women in leadership positions. Others focus on increasing inclusion of people with disabilities, visible minorities, Aboriginals or all groups.

Learning from the organizations that are successfully developing and implementing D&I strategies is a way to accelerate progress and remain competitive.

Changing for Inclusion

A number of countries are going through significant changes to workforce demographics, making diversity and inclusion top priorities. Change is never easy for people. It is just a fact of life. In the D&I workplace space, the change is about helping people accept each other's different perspectives, understanding how life experiences influence those perspectives, and leveraging diversity of thought and problem-solving for business success

A number of Canadian businesses are initiating and managing D&I initiatives, and best practices are emerging. Though each firm must implement approaches that best fit their needs, every business can learn from the successes of others.

To assist business leaders with the challenge of addressing workplace biases, advancing D&I, and promoting change, The Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion developed a Canadian Certified Inclusion Professional (CCIP) process that assesses the experience and knowledge of diversity professionals, using a CCIP Competency Framework. Organizational professionals who are not sure where to begin with promoting change can begin by completing the CCIP educational programs to develop a solid knowledge base.

Objectivity, Empathy and Clear Vision

Increasingly, organizations are developing an inclusion index, which is one method for measuring D&I performance against multiple factors like culture, recruitment, retention, inclusion, development and promotion of diverse people. An index enables an organization to objectively and transparently measure performance.

In the age of big data and big analytics, objective metrics play a big role. Metrics help identify areas of bias, opportunities for improvement, and success in embedding D&I in company strategies. Many companies are tying D&I performance to compensation of top leaders, adding another dimension to the importance of objective analytics.

Accountability is proving to be a critical factor in initiating and maintaining workforce change. An inclusion index also enables a company to compare itself against other indexed organizations.

The workplace culture is important to developing a truly inclusive organization. Diversity and an inclusive culture have proven to result in greater value creation and higher profitability.

There are a number of best practices focused on developing an inclusive culture. One is developing empathetic leaders who understand the negative consequences of exclusion because they are better able to identify with employees who experience exclusion and to recognize when exclusion is occurring. Though it should be obvious, unconscious biases prevent clear vision of workforce dynamics. Similar to the saying, "what gets measured, gets done" is the idea that "what is not recognized is never changed."

Leaders should be trained on identifying their personal conscious and unconscious biases, and learn a path to change. Too often, organizations focus on top managers, but all leaders from the top executives to frontline supervisors must be on board with promoting D&I.

Top-down support is an imperative, setting the tone for inclusion. However, it is lower-level leaders who drive commitment to change. They are the people in daily contact with staff members and have daily opportunities to identify where change is needed and to develop lasting change.

Not Separate … Included

Achieving change requires embedding D&I in organizational planning. The D&I goals should be included in business plans with the understanding that reaching them is necessary to achieving overall business goals. D&I initiatives are often treated like standalone programs and are not integrated into operations. That perpetuates the idea the diverse people need special treatment to become contributors to business success.

Initiatives need action plans, timelines, measurement and updating, but the process must be viewed within context of the whole organization. Inclusion means people are able to bring their whole, authentic selves to work and contribute their perspectives, experiences, and knowledge to promote innovation and solve business problems.

Other best practices include getting involved in diversity advocacy councils and community networks; developing a new-hire orientation plan that supports D&I; reviewing and changing policies that perpetuate biases; and ensuring diverse people have a voice and fully participate in the organization's operations (i.e. project teams, training and development programs, internal recognition systems, etc.). Companies are adding mentoring programs, holding networking events, and using internal social media feedback systems.

Inclusion means people are able to bring their whole, authentic selves to work and contribute their perspectives, experiences, and knowledge to promote innovation and solve business problems.
Valuing People Creates Business Value

There are leading Canadian firms in the D&I space. Accenture in Toronto created two employee resource groups under the heading of "National Accent on Enablement" – one for mental health and one for people with disabilities. CBIC created a peer support Pathfinder program to assist indigenous new-hires. Unilever Canada launched Success Circles to help female employees in factories build networks across North America. IBM Canada offers a global leadership development program to nurture high-potential female leaders called "Creating Your Leadership Journey."

There are also agencies that are setting the pace for successful D&I. The Export Development Canada agency is one of the earliest and most advanced employers to promote a diverse and inclusion workplace. The agency opens offices designed to promote collaborative work, offer continuous training and development opportunities, create numerous employee-led committees, and become heavily involved in the community.

These are just a few of the Canadian employers leading the way in developing D&I success strategies.

There is no one formula for developing a diverse and inclusive company. There is a common goal: Create a workplace that enables people to fully contribute and has a culture that values each person. Valuing people is the path to creating business value.