Will Corporate Canada’s Next Step be a Bold One?

It is time to move beyond counting up the differences between people in the workplace and work toward the uniting of differences so that more of Canada’s organizations can truly enjoy the benefits of a diverse, inclusive workforce. So says Deloitte in its “Outcomes Over Optics” report, summarizing their ongoing research into bias in Canada’s workplaces. Yet can Canadian leaders – within the field of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and elsewhere – truly take the bold steps needed to root out bias and overcome its lingering power?

Saying the right things at the right time, or even making timely donations to causes of the moment, is no longer sufficient. Many well-written statements and flashy financial gifts have been used as a way to signal public support for equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts … but they have not been followed with deep changes to organizational operations or daily practices. Increasingly, these “optics” moves are being called out on social media and in the press, as they should be. These shallow gestures effectively rob companies across Canada of the true benefits of a diverse, inclusive workforce comfortable giving 100 per cent at work.

Plus, the rising generations of workers – including the so-called “Inclusion Generation” of millennials who will make up 75 per cent of Canada’s workforce by 2025 – are looking for measurable, visible changes.

According to Deloitte, some 47 per cent of millennial-aged workers consider equity, diversity and inclusion to be an important job-search criterion. They do not want to hear Canada’s corporate recruiters talking about equity, diversity, and inclusion at work without seeing hard evidence supporting claims of change, investment, and transparency.

As a result, Corporate Canada needs to be able to “show the receipts” when it comes to inclusivity at work. That is difficult to do in the abstract, which is why over the next year an excellent place for Canadian DEI leaders to focus is on documentation of best practices being implemented and metrics to measure progress.

In this way, firms actively trying to remove bias from their organizations will begin to separate themselves further from their peers as employers of choice for inclusivity-minded candidates. They will be able to point to real outcomes, not just optics, when competing for scarce talent in Canada’s competitive job market. This will help them win over choosy candidates and reap the benefits of having a more inclusive and visibly diverse workforce.

Working to build up “the receipts” also helps create meaningful conversations that add fresh fire to anti-bias efforts. Having hard data can help overcome pushback on diversity initiatives and help move organizations beyond tokenism and “tick box” diversity programming. After all, when departmental attendance at seminars is not moving the bar on departmental diversity in hiring, promotion, or pay, or when certain groups continue to have a reputation as unwelcoming despite token participation in training, then it is unquestionably clear that deeper level changes are needed. Working from data, with clear metrics, can ease the pain of clearing away generational bias and long-standing habits that hold back true change.

Easy? Not always. That is what makes the commitment to rooting out bias and building up a truly inclusive and equitable organization such a bold move at this time. It is simple enough to offer up lip service to the cause of equity, diversity, and inclusion, but much more difficult to live those values all day, every day.

Still, here we believe Corporate Canada is up to the challenge. The pages ahead provide inspiration, insights, and examples of how it can be possible. Freeing Canada’s businesses from the bottom-line detrimental effects of bias – turnover, lost productivity, a disengaged workforce to name just a few – opens up the possibility of a more prosperous future for everyone.

It is worth the effort. It has always been worth the effort. And there is no better time than right now to take the next bold step forward.