Embrace diversity or be left behind (Editorial)

By John Hobel
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 03/10/2003

Convincing senior management to pay more than lip service to diversity is a daunting task in some organizations.

To encourage diversity, its proponents have argued the issue from a number of vantage points. There’s the legal stick: hiring and promotion must be discrimination-free or else litigation costs will ensue. There’s the moral argument that it’s the right thing to do. For organizations with federal contracts there is the need to comply with diversity standards just to do business. For others there’s the bottom-line appeal which argues that to sell products and services to a multicultural society you need a diverse staff capable of understanding a diverse market. The bottom-line argument also states having a culturally diverse staff signals to the diverse masses that your organization is worthy of their patronage.

Another plank in the push for effective diversity programs is the need to tap into a broad labour pool to meet staffing needs. It is this last point which just received a big boost from Statistics Canada.

As our cover story reports (see “Related Articles” link below), by 2011 new immigrants are expected to account for most of the growth in the labour force. Recognizing the need to attract skilled immigrants, Ottawa is already putting policies in place to expedite the immigration of professionals and tradespeople whose expertise are in demand. And the recognition of foreign credentials has also been receiving government attention.

With an aging society and forecast labour shortages in nearly every sector across the country, recruiting (and retaining) workers from all cultural groups is imperative. Not only must organizations draw workers from every cultural group within Canada, StatsCan’s figures show companies need to be ready to attract immigrants the minute they set foot on Canadian soil or risk losing them to the competition.

Diversity managers have complained about the difficulty in getting CEOs to support diversity programs, but with labour force growth dependent upon immigrants the tables are turning. CEOs may soon be the ones knocking on diversity managers doors looking for the expertise to build programs that not only attract diverse staff but also give them a reason to stay with an organization.

Where legal, moral and marketing arguments for diversity have failed, severe staffing shortages will succeed in driving home the point that diversity is good for business.

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