All around the world, it is becoming clear that a diverse work environment is a helpful environment for fostering innovation, global awareness, emotionally healthy workplaces, creativity, resilience and tolerance. Its becoming clear that diversity is an essential ingredient for sustainable competitive advantage.
That means that companies established within countries and communities that have natural diversity have a distinct advantage. Multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, and multi-faith countries have an advantage over those countries where diversity has simply been boiled down to gender and age issues. But regardless of the natural environment, every company has the ability to generate all sorts of diversity – internally and externally.
A report in The Toronto Star, 1 April 06, looks at how Canadian consultants are getting in on the act, and helping companies with this pressing issue. Read it here. The major points are summarised below.
“Diversity training” used to be mainly a “guilt-charged harangue of mostly white employees”. No longer. Now, experts in human resources, change management, social work, immigrant settlement and social justice offer concrete game plans for recruiting and retaining a wide range of workers and for providing services to a diverse population.
Companies often complain that they want to hire from diverse groups but just don’t get the applications — the inference being that there just aren’t enough qualified applicants out there. That is wrong, she says, and the YWCA proved this by easily getting qualified candidates — once they’d put some women of colour in senior management positions.
True diversity has to share in power.
There are three main reasons businesses and public agencies decide to get onto the diversity bandwagon, says Hamlin Grange, president of the consulting firm DiversiPro Inc. First, he says, there’s the law: human rights legislation prohibits discriminating against these groups and if you want to do business with the federal government you have to have diversity plans in place. Second, there is the solid business case. Grange says it makes sense to learn about other cultures if you want to expand your markets. The final reason is that justice and fairness demand it.
Attracting minority groups and keeping them are two different things.
Rose Patten, senior executive vice-president of the Bank of Montreal with responsibility for human resources and strategic management, says the bank’s task force on women found three main barriers: a general assumption at the bank that women weren’t as ambitious as men, a lack of encouragement and accessibility to senior positions and multiple responsibilities in a woman’s life of family, community and work. The bank made it clear it had company-wide expectations of success and support for women candidates and made structural changes, such as flexible work hours to recognize family obligations. Today, Patten says, 37 per cent of the bank’s executives are women while the numbers of workers who have a disability or are members of visible minorities have doubled and the number of aboriginal workers tripled. Patten says the point is not “diversity” per se but improved service to clients and better sales of it financial products. The expense of implementing a diversity program is well worth the cost, she says.
Respectful workplaces remove barriers, allow people to ask for help when they need it and encourage people to reach out to others, with the result that diverse groups are welcomed and allowed to flourish.
While non-profit organizations have been concerned with the issue for a long time because of their ideological and political beliefs, it is now becoming an imperative of doing business in Canada.