Author: Philip J. Fogarty, KPMG
The war for talent can find employers competing on the grounds of wages, benefits, and company perks. And while these are certainly table stakes in talent negotiations, companies cannot underestimate the value of a genuinely diverse and inclusive workplace.
Surely, to be an employer of choice in today’s talent market, companies should foster a workplace culture where individuals are not only encouraged, but also empowered to bring their whole selves to work.
It’s a win-win strategy. Numerous studies have shown that a truly inclusive work environment benefits from stronger workforce engagement, greater diversity of thought, and competitive advantages on the global stage. The challenge is building a diversity and inclusion (D&I) culture that is genuine, sustainable, and apparent to both existing and potential team members.
It begins with recruitment; however, getting talent through the door is only the first step. Sustaining a workplace in which employees feel supported is the next step. This takes genuine and consistent buy-in from the boardroom to the shop floor and an open dialog with your employees to gauge their evolving needs, barriers, and ambitions.
No journey is without challenges
Many Canadian employers are taking meaningful steps to embed and strengthen their D&I strategies. They’re putting power to words through inclusive hiring practices, career supports, and day-to-day engagements. Nevertheless, no journey is without a few diversions.
Here are some common missteps to watch out for:
- Blind spots: It’s one thing to say your company is committed to D&I, but if your senior leadership is primarily of the same gender, race, or background, they can underestimate the challenges faced by diverse employees.
- Ticking the box syndrome: If you’re merely “going through the motions” to show you have a D&I strategy (e.g. occasional training days, heartwarming emails, etc.), it won’t have a lasting impact. Dedication to diversity and inclusion needs to be embedded in your organization’s DNA.
- The eggshell syndrome: The goal of creating an inclusive environment is not to create a stifling environment wherein employees and leaders are fearful of saying the wrong thing. Instead, it’s to create an open environment where minor missteps are seen as learning opportunities.
- One-size-fits-all solutions: The Canadian talent pool is brimming with individuals from diverse backgrounds – each of whom comes with their own unique views and experiences. Therefore, introducing well-intentioned policies aimed at reducing the barriers for one group may not work for others. And in some cases, they may even conflict. Here again, it pays to keep lines of communication open and genuinely work to understand your team.
The bar has been raised for employers when it comes to providing real, diverse, and inclusive work environments. The process can be challenging, and every employer will have a different starting point and approach. What’s important to remember is that everyone wins when employees feel safe to bring their whole selves to work and that while mistakes may be made along the path to a more inclusive workplace, the goal is to keep moving the dial in the right direction.