Diversity not just about compliance

For top employers, diversity is part of the culture – not just box to check off during recruitment
By Liz Bernier
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 03/12/2014

For the 55 employers recognized in this year’s Canada’s Best Diversity Employers, diversity is about more than just regulatory compliance.

“Creating an inclusive workplace isn’t just about ‘doing the right thing’ or even regulatory compliance anymore — the leaders who manage the nation’s most successful organizations now realize that you can’t lead your industry without it,” said Richard Yerema, author and editor at Mediacorp Canada, which manages the annual competition.

The 2014 list of top diversity employers spanned different sectors and industries but there’s one thing the award-winners had in common: Making diversity an integral part of the organization’s culture, instead of just a box to check off during the recruitment process.

In selecting the top employers, Mediacorp looked at programs and initiatives around five employee groups, including women, members of visible minorities, persons with disabilities, Aboriginal Peoples and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered/transsexual (LGBT) individuals. More than 3,500 Canadian employers applied for this year’s competition — here’s a look at three of the winners.

Enbridge shatters STEM career stereotypes

Choose any one of the five key diversity employee groups and you’ll find Enbridge has initiatives designed just for them.

The natural gas and energy company has a small team of employees whose roles are entirely dedicated to diversity work, according to Lori Campbell, manager of diversity at Enbridge in Edmonton.

“Enbridge has been a real leader in the area in terms of resourcing (positions) devoted to diversity,” she said. “I have a team of 3.5 that actually do this work, and this is very unusual. A lot of diversity work is done by people in other roles in organizations, so we’ve really been seen as leaders in this area of the dedication of resources.”

Campbell’s own position as manager of diversity was created a few years ago to help the company, which has 5,859 employees, deepen its focus on diversity. Enbridge has an employment equity and diversity strategy that sets out the objectives it wants to accomplish, with a focus on inclusion for diverse employee groups as well as how an inclusive workplace can help achieve business objectives, said Campbell.

The organization has two noteworthy initiatives that support women — both within the organization and externally.

The Women@Enbridge program is the company’s employee resource group, designed to support career development for female employees, said Campbell.

“They have an opportunity to come together, to do some sessional development together… to build relationships, to surface issues and challenges that women face and to bring those forward to leadership,” she said.

Another initiative is called Feminen or Females in Engineering.

“They have regular events that they hold — some of them are networking events, which are great, but some of them are also really unique in that they have gone to different departments within Enbridge and had a female engineer present on their role… it’s been great because it’s shown everybody the incredible value women engineers have at Enbridge and just how varied their roles are within the organization as well,” said Campbell.

Feminen also has an outreach project that mentors and encourages young, female Aboriginal high school students to consider STEM careers — in science, technology, engineering and math, said Campbell.

“They have both that internal networking, professional development, mentoring support… and also reaching out to the community to try to influence young girls’ ideas about engineering and who can do it.”

Enbridge also has an Aboriginal Employment Committee with a mandate to attract and retain Aboriginal candidates, as well as an Oasis Co-ordinator Project, which employs adults with developmental disabilities to help maintain Enbridge’s common areas, such as kitchens and meeting rooms.

“They’re so dedicated to the position that they’re living out loud what we want every employee to feel about working at Enbridge,” said Campbell.

Sodexo employees reflect their customers

At Sodexo Canada, diversity initiatives are grounded in a solid business case, according to Dean Johnson, Burlington, Ont.-based president and CEO.

“It’s vital from a business perspective… really it does two things for us. It ensures that our employees best reflect the consumers that they serve,” he said. “And then, secondly, from a business perspective, having an organization where people from all genders, religion, race and sexual orientation can come and work for us and feel comfortable… allows us to have the best talent that we can possibly get.”

Sodexo, which has about 10,000 employees in Canada, has a diversity and inclusion council, a diversity task force and several employee resource network groups. It also provides practical work experience to people with mental health challenges through the Willow Bean Café.

The organization also has a “disABILITY” strategy that promotes the inclusion of adults with disabilities.

“We’re in the service industry — we tend to have a high turnover of staff. And if you look at, for instance, the turnover of staff with disability versus others, you’ll find turnover is much, much lower with that part of our workforce,” said Johnson.

“We find people with disabilities are absolutely fantastic at the jobs we put them in. They want to be part of the organization, they stay in the organization, they grow within the organization, so it works very well for us and for those employees.”

Recruiting, training and developing Aboriginal candidates is also a priority for Sodexo, as is partnering with Aboriginal business groups, he said.

“We’re very focused on doing business with Aboriginal businesses. And there’s a ton of Aboriginal business across the country that I think is underutilized, undertapped by mainstream Canadian business, and that’s too bad. We have a lot of benefit from that.”

CIBC makes diversity part of talent development

Many diversity initiatives are tied to the recruitment process but at CIBC, the focus on diversity doesn’t end after that employment contract is signed.

CIBC recently introduced a Manager Diversity Toolkit to provide training for leaders on how to promote diversity throughout their employees’ careers, according to Gillian Whitebread, vice-president of diversity, executive resources and workforce analytics at CIBC in Toronto.

“(The toolkit) is focused on helping managers and employees create a diverse and inclusive environment from the stage of onboarding new employees right through to developing them, retaining them — right through the employee lifecycle,” she said.

“We’ve moved away from compliance to now we’ve rebranded to have all of our diversity work be diversity and inclusion. We’ve also repositioned our function to sit within the talent management area, not within recruiting. We’re doing a very good job on recruiting, but we need to get better at moving our pipeline through.”

Throughout every stage of their careers, the organization’s 43,039 full-time employees have a number of networks to support them, including the CIBC Women’s Network, the International Professionals Network and the WorkAbility Network, which played an integral part in supporting CIBC’s sponsorship of the Canadian Paralympic Committee for the Paralympics in Sochi.

CIBC’s Aboriginal Employment Program, Mosaic Mentorship Program and Assistive Technology Showcase are other initiatives that have enjoyed overwhelming success, said Whitebread.

Creating ongoing diversity initiatives that are integrated into talent development is key for moving beyond the recruitment phase, she said.

“A lot of organizations start to do well in the sourcing but they fail to see that you also have to embed it into your development of people once they join your organization,” she said. “It’s continuously evolving.”

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