The numbers are in, and the value of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace has become increasingly apparent, both to management and employees. From a leadership point of view, many senior leaders see value in D&I as a business strategy. In parallel, personnel are more likely to implement practices of diversity and inclusion in the workplace when they perceive senior leaders are also committed to its practices. And this can go a long way towards building a stronger, happier, more effective team.
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace provides access to a greater range of skills, experiences, and perspectives that can contribute to an organization’s productivity and success, and gives employees a sense of comfort, belonging, and the opportunity to feel valued and respected.
Although there’s been a growing interest in Canada over the last 30 years in breaking the barriers and understanding the benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workplace, there is still some work to be done when it comes to D&I initiatives and strategies, as a recent benchmarking study showed.
Benchmarking Study: Aiding Canadian Organizations in Assessments of D&I Development
The Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI) is a made-in-Canada solution that’s designed to help employers effectively address diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace. They do this by generating awareness, dialogue, and action with the aim of encouraging people to recognize D&I as an asset and not an obstacle.
In 2017, the CCDI and Dalhousie University formed a research partnership to conduct a benchmarking study from national data with the goal of understanding D&I practices in Canadian organizations. This includes information on the attitudes, perceptions, and communication strategies between senior leaders and diversity personnel in relation to D&I.
The CCDI report presents results from two online surveys – one answered by senior leaders and the other by diversity personnel – from Canadian organizations who were invited to participate. The surveys, which took place between June and November 2018, were answered by a total of 56 senior leaders and 168 diversity personnel. The report focused on both senior leaders regarding their beliefs and attitude towards D&I approaches, and how far diversity personnel agreed with, and were satisfied with, D&I practices in their organization.
Something that’s good to note is that participation in this survey was voluntary, which may indicate reporting bias since individuals who answered the survey were likely more attentive or had more of an interest in D&I in the workplace. Similarly, other factors that may have influenced response rates, such as years of experience of the respondent and the sector of their organization, were also taken into account.
Response Rates Suggest the Need to Look Further
Encouragingly, the results of the survey suggest that senior leaders are committed to diversity as a business strategy. Out of the 56 responses from senior leaders, 73% indicate that they emphasize D&I in their business strategies, and 68% indicate that they frequently communicate about D&I to their employees.
When diversity personnel were asked if their organization strategy is aligned with its business strategy, the majority (64%) agreed or strongly agreed. 60% agreed that senior executives are participating in internal diversity committees, and 63% think that diversity goals are included in strategic HR plans.
However, only a third of the respondents (32%) indicated that they were satisfied overall with the resources and time their organization dedicated to D&I education and training, and only 15% agreed or strongly agreed that mentoring programs – with the focus on advancement for underrepresented groups – exist.
In the same vein, when it comes to tracking diversity during hiring, promotion, and retention of employees, only 40% of diversity personnel agreed or strongly agreed that their organization sets diversity goals for specific positions. Similarly, only 28% agreed or strongly agreed that their organization tracks the diversity of candidates who are receiving promotions.
The results suggest that senior leaders see value in D&I as a business strategy and perceive it as a positive contribution to an organization’s performance. However, these findings also indicate that though diversity personnel see participation from senior leaders when it comes to D&I, they also perceive insufficiency in the resources and time allocated to it. These results suggest that there are a few gaps that need to be closed, specifically when it comes to further implementation of effective D&I strategies in the workplace, and communication with employees regarding those strategies.
Investments in D&I Better Perceived in the Private/For Profit Sectors
“The company spends enough money and time on diversity awareness, skills training and learning and development.” This question, given to diversity personnel in the survey, garnered a variety of responses according to union status affiliation and type of sector they work in. Interestingly, the numbers showed that diversity personnel in non-unionized and private/for profit organizations tended to have a higher agreement rate when asked this question.
There was only a slight difference (6%) in agreement rates between union and non-unionized organizations, but there was a larger difference (13%) in agreement rates between private/for profit organizations and public-sector organizations. Notably, diversity personnel from public sector organizations also had a higher disagreement rate to the question (19%) compared to those from private/for profit organizations.
When diversity personnel were asked about whether their organization sets diversity goals for specific positions, and whether they track diversity among new hires, the response patterns were similar. However, agreement rates were lower for strategies that monitor applicants’ diversity (29%), strategies that track the diversity of candidates that are receiving promotions (28%), and strategies that track candidates who are being invited for interviews (21%).
Based on these findings, it indicates that there’s a need for further emphasis on strategies that monitor diversity during recruitment and hiring, as well as during promotion and retention, especially within public-sector organizations.
Why Invest in Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace?
The survey results have identified a need for further investment in D&I in the workplace, and it’s important to remember why this kind of investment is vital. Attracting, retaining, and engaging employees is important for an individual’s sense of inclusion, work productivity, and in turn, an organization’s overall success.
Better perceptions of D&I among employees are linked to better organizational performance measures, including higher engagement among employees and lower rates of absenteeism.
If diverse candidates perceive a workplace as alienating, they are less likely to join that work environment. Employees who don’t feel comfortable in their workplace are more likely to take unnecessary absent days or leave their jobs, which can translate to higher company costs. Lack of inclusion for employees with diverse needs can also lead to ‘presenteeism,’ where employees are physically present but are distracted by unaddressed physical or emotional issues. It is estimated that presenteeism and absenteeism contribute to $6 billion in annual losses in Canada.
The results from the two surveys clearly suggest that D&I is considered a good business strategy by the overwhelming majority of senior leaders. However, the response rates from diversity personnel have identified a need for further discussion regarding the implementation of diversity practices in the hiring process, and the allocation of more time to D&I training and education for employees.
There is a great opportunity for senior leaders to shift the D&I climate within an organization by actively including, communicating, and executing on diversity and inclusion strategies. When managers and leaders create an atmosphere of D&I positivity, and more importantly, execute on their D&I strategies, diversity personnel are much more likely to be engaged in executing those strategies as well.
A growing interest in, and implementation of, diversity and inclusion strategies in the workplace has resulted in many benefits, both in the productivity of employees and the overall success of an organization. The recent study has shown that there’s still some work to be done to further streamline D&I practices. However, it’s also highlighted the way forward for Canadian employers, effectively giving them a roadmap to creating a more diverse, inclusive, and supportive workplace.