In­clu­sion so­lu­tion

Work­place must em­brace di­ver­sity in all forms

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - BAR­BARA BOWES

WE take so much for granted to­day; for in­stance, we sim­ply as­sume that our di­verse work world is as it has al­ways been. Yet, if we look back into a mir­ror that re­flects the his­tor­i­cal pic­ture of the de­vel­op­ing work­place, we would find that women and mi­nor­ity work­ers were few and far be­tween. Not only that, they were typ­i­cally work­ing in ser­vice-re­lated jobs at far less pay than their male coun­ter­parts.

To­day, as the Na­tional Coun­cil of Women cel­e­brates its 118th an­niver­sary, it can sing with pride at all of the pro­gres­sive changes it has helped to fa­cil­i­tate for women in the work­place. Un­for­tu­nately, how­ever, many of the changes that re­sulted in equal em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­nity and equal pay had to be en­forced through leg­is­la­tion. Di­ver­sity was not eas­ily em­braced in ear­lier times.

Thank­fully, the world of busi­ness lead­er­ship has changed. To­day’s lead­ers see that busi­ness suc­cess and longevity is not sim­ply about legal com­pli­ance, but about do­ing the right thing for the busi­ness, for em­ploy­ees and for cus­tomers. Thus, there is a more open attitude to­ward is­sues such as em­ployee safety and well-be­ing, life-work bal­ance, and di­ver­sity in the work­place.

In fact, the con­cept of di­ver­sity it­self has pro­gressed from sim­ply mean­ing an in­te­gra­tion of mi­nor­ity em­ploy­ees in the work­place to the con­cept of in­clu­sion. In­clu­sion refers to de­vel­op­ing a work en­vi­ron­ment that rec­og­nizes and val­ues a va­ri­ety of em­ployee dif­fer­ences such as race, re­li­gion and cul­tural back­grounds, gen­der, age, phys­i­cal and men­tal abil­i­ties, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, and/or ed­u­ca­tion.

Not only have def­i­ni­tions changed, but over the last 20 years, busi­ness at­ti­tudes have changed sig­nif­i­cantly as well. Busi­nesses have fi­nally re­al­ized that di­ver­sity is a smart way to do busi­ness as it brings a sig­nif­i­cant com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage, par­tic­u­larly when it is aligned with cor­po­rate goals and ob­jec­tives. Di­ver­sity is also an at­trac­tion and re­ten­tion tool not only for em­ploy­ees but also as a means to de­velop busi­ness part­ner­ships and long-term cus­tomer re­la­tion­ships.

One of the last groups of in­di­vid­u­als to fi­nally feel a sense of in­clu­sion in the work­place are those in­di­vid­u­als who are mem­bers of the les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der (LGBT) com­mu­nity. Once fear­ing to ven­ture out of their closet of se­crecy, peo­ple to­day are hold­ing their heads up high in recog­ni­tion that they are fi­nally seen as val­ued mem­bers of both so­ci­ety and the work­place. This is what the Pride week cel­e­bra­tions are all about.

While break­ing bar­ri­ers has al­ways been a chal­lenge for in­di­vid­u­als, our com­mu­nity can also brag about at least two for­ward think­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions that have made di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion a pri­or­ity for their busi­ness.

New Di­rec­tions for Chil­dren, Adults and Fam­i­lies, for in­stance, con­fronted the chal­lenge of how to sup­port em­ployee di­ver­sity by de­vel­op­ing a se­ries of cul­ture and di­ver­sity train­ing pro­grams. These pro­grams were deemed to be com­pul­sory for all staff. Ac­cord­ing to Wayne San­dler, from New Di­rec­tions, these staff train­ing pro­grams pro­vide ed­u­ca­tional in­for­ma­tion on a va­ri­ety of di­ver­sity is­sues. Pro­grams in­clude ti­tles such as Cul­ture and Di­ver­sity, A Peek at Col­o­niza­tion, So­cial Role Val­oriza­tion and Break­ing Bar­ri­ers, which deals with gen­der and sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion. New Di­rec­tions is also de­vel­op­ing a deaf cul­ture com­pe­tency train­ing pro­gram.

In ad­di­tion, New Di­rec­tions has de­vel­oped its cor­po­rate val­ues around di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion and has built these val­ues into all el­e­ments of the re­cruit­ment and se­lec­tion process. They have also been in­te­grated into all su­per­vi­sory and staff eval­u­a­tion pro­cesses. This ini­tia­tive has re­sulted in high sat­is­fac­tion rat­ings from all em­ploy­ees who view New Di­rec­tions as mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant ef­fort to cre­ate a work­place of re­spect, safety and con­tin­u­ous learn­ing.

The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) is also a leader in di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion and views this as a source of in­no­va­tion and sus­tain­able eco­nomic pros­per­ity. The RBC “di­ver­sity blue­print” calls for the es­tab­lish­ment of em­ployee re­source groups (ERGs) that are self-co-or­di­nat­ing and ac­tive em­ployee groups that pro­vide peer men­tor­ing, coach­ing and net­work­ing. Some of these em­ployee groups in­clude the Mo­saic Group, which fo­cuses on vis­i­ble mi­nori­ties and new­com­ers, and the Reach group that sup­ports em­ploy­ees with dis­abil­i­ties.

The Prairie RBC Pride group, ac­tive across Canada, acts as a re­source and ad­vi­sory group to cor­po­rate lead­ers on is­sues re­lated to gay, les­bian and trans­gen­dered com­mu­ni­ties. This has in­cluded train­ing ses­sions, con­fer­ence pre­sen­ta­tions, and in­di­vid­ual coach­ing and men­tor­ing. These groups have be­come an in­te­gral part of RBC. For in­stance, the Prairie Pride group led by Robb Ritchie, ad­viser for RBC West­ern Canada Cus­tomer Con­tact Cen­tre, has grown over 400 per cent in a very short time.

A so­cial ser­vice agency can boast a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on em­ployee morale and feel­ings of in­clu­sion, while the RBC, on the other hand, can point to con­crete fi­nan­cial gains. Its re­search on gay and les­bian pur­chas­ing power in­di­cated high lev­els of av­er­age salaries and a spend­ing power of over $100 bil­lion. The travel mar­ket alone was seen to have a value of $5.4 bil­lion an­nu­ally. This was in­deed a mar­ket the bank wanted to do busi­ness with and it is work­ing dili­gently to be­come the em­ployer of choice for the LGBT com­mu­nity.

In my view, di­ver­sity in the work­place needs to be viewed as a uni­ver­sal value; af­ter all, di­ver­sity is the one thing that we all have in com­mon. Both Wayne San­dler from New Di­rec­tions and Robb Ritchie from the Royal Bank state that the first step in em­brac­ing di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion is to ed­u­cate your­self and your em­ploy­ees. Next, es­tab­lish a work­place di­ver­sity pro­gram that is in­te­grated with your cor­po­rate goals. They sug­gest the fol­low­ing brief guide­lines to as­sist you to achieve your goals.

Plan­ning — De­ter­mine what goals you wish to achieve, how the pro­gram will be de­vel­oped, who should be in­volved and how and what re­sources are re­quired. Con­duct a sur­vey in­clud­ing a de­mo­graphic pro­file of your em­ploy­ees, an as­sess­ment of your pre­vail­ing en­vi­ron­ment and a re­view of your HR poli­cies and prac­tices. Fi­nally, con­firm your goals and ob­jec­tives and de­velop a clear pic­ture of your in­tended out­comes.

De­velop and im­ple­ment your strate­gies — Work­ing groups, ad­vi­sory groups, cus­tomer con­sul­ta­tion groups, con­fer­ences, work­shops and pol­icy ad­vi­sory groups are all proven strate­gies. De­ter­mine what works best for you; how­ever, be sure to in­clude train­ing as a key el­e­ment of your strate­gies. Also ap­point a cham­pion to lead your ini­tia­tive.

Mon­i­tor and eval­u­ate — Noth­ing is per­fect and so you will have to make some on­go­ing course cor­rec­tions. Con­firm your per­for­mance in­di­ca­tors and then con­duct staff sur­veys, fo­cus groups, self-as­sess­ment tools and gen­er­ally mon­i­tor through var­i­ous progress re­ports. An­a­lyze the eval­u­a­tions of the dif­fer­ent key suc­cess fac­tors and then com­mu­ni­cate and cel­e­brate your suc­cess.

As New Di­rec­tions for Chil­dren, Adults and Fam­i­lies and the Royal Bank of Canada have al­ready ex­pe­ri­enced, in­cor­po­rat­ing di­ver­sity as a busi­ness strat­egy is your route to even greater suc­cess.

Source: In­ter­views with Wayne San­dler, New Di­rec­tions for Chil­dren, Adults and Fam­i­lies and Robb Ritchie, Royal Bank of Canada.

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