“If you care about your job, care enough to risk being a champion for change.”
These are the words of Michael Bach, founder and CEO of the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion. We were fortunate enough to attend a talk by Bach to the Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council this morning, and came away with a refreshed view of what it means to value diversity in the workplace. Real diversity comes from a collective effort, says Bach, but it almost always results in just one thing: greatness.
Take this example that Bach gave: You might have a team of engineers from one school in a given country working on a problem, and sure, they’ll solve it – but their solution won’t be nearly as innovative or complete as the one that a team made up of multiple schools from around the world will present. The more diverse team will have the advantage in their collective, different experiences, and will be able to pool their worldviews into a solution that meets the needs of multiple different groups. Of course, this only works if the diverse team recognizes and accepts their differences and works to turn those differences into an advantage. Each team member has to accept the diversity of their experience.
As this example shows, valuing diversity can have a profound difference on the productivity of your workplace. Employees that feel valued and heard will naturally be happier and have more to contribute. And with 80% of the working population in Canada classified as diverse (which for Bach’s purposes means anybody not identifying as a straight, Caucasian, male), diversity should be a no-brainer. Yet only ~16% of CEO positions were held by women in 2015/2016, and visible minorities and those in the LGBTQ2+ and disabled communities continue to feel pressure to assimilate within a one-size-fits-all work culture. Just because the faces of your team reflect diversity, doesn’t mean you automatically have an environment that encourages success. The march of equality has been slow, to this point, but it doesn’t have to be.
Think back to Bach’s opening words: “If you care about your job, care enough to risk being a champion for change.” There are things you can do as an individual employee to help others in your workplace feel more welcome – here are some good places to start:
- Encourage an open environment where everyone is free to share their ideas or concerns. As Bach says, if you’re the manager, the CFO, the whatever – you can literally hang a sign on your door that says “Come in, let’s have a talk, the door’s always open.”
- If your company has recently started hiring and is trying to embrace more diverse hiring practices, be careful to monitor job postings for language that excludes people – things like “must be a team player” or “able to work independently.” Applicants from collectivist societies might misunderstand the nuance of the request, when it hardly needs to be mentioned because nearly everyone is capable of working individually or as part of a team.
- Is your website readable via screen reader for those with vision impairment? Are you posting the job to boards and across organizations that speak directly to the communities you’re trying to reach out to?
- Ask your qualified applicants whether they have any accommodation requirements (things like wheelchair access or clear hallways) before they come in for the interview.
- Finally, once they’re part of the team, be respectful of religious holidays and other commitments that might not be compatible with the work event you had planned. For example, during the month of fasting that characterizes Ramadan, inviting an employee to an after-work cocktail party might put them in an awkward position, so you might consider holding the event in a different venue. And while you aren’t expected to remember the details of every single holiday your coworkers observe, be respectful and ask for their opinion before committing to any plans.
While these might seem like small actions, collectively, their impact on your workplace can be huge. As Bach says, measuring success in today’s knowledge economy is measuring engagement. Fostering an environment of openness and acceptance results in passionate and engaged employees that can work together to do great things. Diversity is the way forward – will you be part of it?
The Canadian Centre for Diversity & Inclusion now has an office in Calgary! To learn more, visit their website at http://ww.ccdi.ca or drop by at:
The Canadian Centre for Diversity & Inclusion
500 4th Avenue SW, Suite 1805
Phone: +1 (403) 879-1183