Business Opinion

7 Tips on How to Create a More Diverse and Inclusive Work Culture

Diversity and inclusion

Over the past decade we’ve seen an increase in how Canadians view diversity and inclusion in the workforce. More than ever, Canadian employees have come to expect a diverse and inclusive environment, according to the latest research from Universum.

Universum operates Canada’s largest student candidate career preference survey with more than 200,000 candidates polled over the last decade in Canada, and over 1.5 million students polled around the world each year.

Looking at the results of the most recently completed Canadian Student Talent Survey, known as the “Career Test” across Canadian campuses, provides us with detailed insight on the changing demands of the Canadian talent market. The data provides detailed insight on what young candidates want, what they think, how to reach them, and how to compel them to apply.  

Based on a secondary global study recently conducted with over 2,000 Global Employers, (called the EB Now Survey), Universum found that recruiting for diversity is a more important initiative for C-Suite leaders than ever before. More than 85% of leaders at Global companies identified “hiring for diversity” as a top priority.

In an effort to help companies measure their D&I progress, Universum developed the new Canadian National D&I Index. Canadian students nominated 150 employers and provided details on their perceptions of each company based on the following three attributes from Universum’s Framework of Employer Attractiveness:

  • Support for Gender Equality 
  • Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion 
  • Respect for their people. 

Here are some tips employers can use to make their workforces more diverse and inclusive: 

Inclusion before diversity

Leading D&I companies look at diversity as a consequence of an inclusive environment. Within these organizations both leaders and employees shared a very open understanding and definition of what D&I meant. It wasn’t just a target, it was much broader and included diversity of thought, diverse personalities, cognitive diversity and non-visible definitions of diversity beyond just ethnicity. 

Foster the right culture

Leading organizations don’t just put D&I initiatives out as a ‘nice to have’ platitude, but really embrace it in the way that they work. These companies were focused on being and fostering a meritocratic environment that functioned on principles of equity, openness, justice, and fairness. They had programs in place to support flexibility and work-life balance to encourage positive mental health and well-being which, in turn, put people in a strong position to support others. 

Make unconscious bias conscious

National and global D&I leaders help recruiters and leaders to recognize biases and commonly provide training to help make unconscious bias conscious.

Build the business case for diversity ROI

The connection between diversity and innovation is well documented. Leading D&I companies have senior leadership on board that help to drive D&I initiatives forward and recognize that these efforts often lead to a stronger bottom line. 

Foster commitment to D&I in the c-Suite

The top performing companies consistently had strong senior leadership engagement with a genuine commitment to their D&I mandate. The reality is that many of the folks occupying the c-suite didn’t grow up with the level of multiculturalism we now have in Canada. Leading D&I companies consciously develop competencies in this area for leaders so that they can support the needs of their talent.

Measure, track, and hold yourself accountable for D&I

Beyond quotas and gender balance targets, the leaders get the right representation in the door and provide the support and development required to set their people up for success. These organizations hold themselves accountable for balanced hiring and the success of newly on-boarded diverse talent. 

One size does not fit all

The D&I high flyers recognize that different talent want different things from their career. They consistently use candidate research to identify the aspects of the career offer that are most compelling to the different talent groups they are trying to attract.

Jason Kipps is Managing Director of Universum in Canada and a leading authority on employer branding and the evolving state of the Canadian talent market.

Photo: Sharon McCutcheon