Diversity drives performance
In recent years, diversity in businesses has become a key opportunity. Some organizations are addressing diversity in their governance, while others are adopting more inclusive practices, such as recruiting through anonymous resumes or focusing recruitment efforts on historically underrepresented groups. But there is widespread recognition that diversity and inclusion are a competitive advantage, driving innovation and business opportunities for small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs).
To better understand and act, let’s look at what diversity and inclusion mean. Diversity refers to an array of qualities and characteristics, such as gender and ethnicity. Inclusion refers to a culture that respects, values, and accepts differences for the greater good. “Diversity and inclusion must go hand in hand to achieve results,” says Isabelle Major, a trainer on the subject at the École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS). She adds, “In a business where diversity and inclusion prevail, people strive to respect and value each other’s uniqueness.”
An edge over the competition
It’s evident that diversity is good for business. A McKinsey study published in 2015 revealed that when teams are diverse, there’s a direct impact on the organizations’ financial performance.¹ A study by Cloverpop showed that the benefits of diversity can be seen in productivity, revenue, market share, absenteeism rates, employee retention and safety. According to the same study, diversified teams make better business decisions 87% of the time, and make decisions twice as fast with half as many meetings.²
Investing in workplace diversity
There are many opportunities for organizations to engage in building a more diverse and inclusive culture. So, where can they start?
Improving recruitment practices
SMEs are experiencing workforce gaps largely caused by a significant number of retiring baby boomers and impacts of COVID-19 on the workforce. Furthermore, even though women make up more than half of the Canadian population, they are significantly underrepresented in many industries and corporations. The same is true for Aboriginal people, people with disabilities, and members of visible minorities. Since the way an organization recruit reflects its values, a recruitment practice rooted in diversity and inclusion strategy not only helps with attracting these groups, but also with retaining them. Businesses can diversify by posting inclusive job descriptions and encouraging recruiters to hire more diverse candidates.
Adapting the onboarding and integration process
The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) has recommended that the onboarding and integration process be reviewed to ensure that it is inclusive. A well-designed process, it states, “promotes the integration of new employees and sends the message that discrimination is not tolerated.”3 Some of the ways that the BDC suggests doing this include defining what actions are considered discriminatory, as well as helping new hires understand their rights.
Creating a more inclusive workplace
In contrast to diversity, inclusion may require a genuine change in corporate culture. This is where the greatest challenge lies. However, only when the workplace is more inclusive can the benefits of diversity be achieved. These benefits include reduced turnover, improved collaboration, increased loyalty, more engagement, and greater employee satisfaction.
Some ways to achieve this may involve:
- Recognizing difference as an advantage
- Initiating mentoring programs and providing funding for training and apprenticeships
- Implementing greater accessibility using universal design principles to ensure that the workplace meets the needs of all employees
- Implementing progressive policies and procedures such as flexibility, parental leave, and mental health support.
Train the workforce at large
Each and every individual in an organization has a role to play in creating and maintaining an inclusive environment.
“Training is a great way to get your workforce thinking about how they can help make their work environment more inclusive, as well as raise awareness about things like bias and equity,”Isabelle Major
It’s critical that people in positions of leadership lead the way by talking about the importance of inclusion, supporting diversity, and empowering employees.
Enforce human rights legislation
Since 1996, Canada has passed laws prohibiting discrimination in hiring and retention on a wide range of grounds, including gender, age, ethnicity, religion, disability and sexual orientation. Violating these laws can result in legal action.
Are we doing enough?
Inclusion in the workplace is truly achieved when traditionally underrepresented individuals and groups feel a sense of belonging and empowerment. By implementing inclusive workplace practices and processes, a business can move from just talk to real action. Now, it’s your turn!