Destination BC Shares Their Journey Towards Diversity and Inclusion

When Destination BC  was renewing their three-year corporate strategy (2017-2020), they sought to engage their collective people power with an HR strategy aligned with their corporate goals. What the strategy has highlighted is how fundamental diversity and inclusion are to their commitment of driving and sustaining the employee experience — from recruitment to engagement to supporting the health and wellness of the individuals and organization alike.

The Business Case for Inclusion

Destination BC’s decision to factor diversity and inclusion went beyond aligned their commitments with the province’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, grounded in principle, new processes and a broader definition of profit, including:

  • Attracting the best talent with effective and inclusive recruitment and retention practices
  • Continuing to foster a culture of organizational effectiveness by embracing diverse ideas, providing flexible work options, and responding to individual learning and development needs
  • Implementing a formal leadership development program targeting core leadership competencies
  • Increasing awareness of mental health in the workplace and resources available to employees and supervisors

To bring their HR strategy into being, Destination BC looked to their four development pillars — employee engagement, talent development, organizational effectiveness, and health and wellness — and sought out the key people required to support their corporate goals. A three-year HR strategy and one-year action plan was developed and presented to first Destination BC’s executive team and then the Board of Directors for review and approval.

In order to gain the executive team’s support, the HR team demonstrated the business case behind hiring people with disabilities and increasing the diversity of the organization’s overall talent pool. The HR team also demonstrated the direct connection between the HR plan and the overall corporate strategy and showed the benefits of their plan in achieving the overall vision.

Moving Disability Awareness Into Action

In rolling their HR strategy out, Destination BC undertook a number of initiatives to start raising employee awareness about diversity and inclusion in the workplace, including:

  • Celebrating disability employment month by sharing an employee’s personal story with mental illness in their family in Destination BC’s internal newsletter (The FreshNews) and inviting Kristin Bower, a diversity and inclusion consultant with Vancity Credit Union, to speak to their employees about the importance of mental health and its role in the workplace;
  • Including a statement regarding Destination BC’s commitment to being an inclusive employer to all job postings and job descriptions;
  • Continuing to include new content in their internal newsletter regarding their commitment to being an inclusive employer and what being inclusive means;
  • Sharing the BC Government’s new Diversity and Inclusion Plan with employees; and
  • Developing several student/youth summer employment opportunities across the organization, with a commitment of making each of these accessible to students/youth with disabilities.

While all of the above has served to advance diversity and inclusion within Destination BC’s people practices, enhancing the employee experience at all points, it has also served the aligned HR/corporate strategy well, allowing them to:

  • Keep a Competitive Advantage: The acquisition of diverse talent allows DestinationBC to become more effective and efficient, by strengthening capacity to innovate and perform in an environment that promotes inclusion. In representing the diversity of the communities Destination BC serves, it has a strong employee value proposition (offerings to current and prospective employees) including flexible work options, comprehensive benefits plans, and a work environment that upholds courage, learning, and innovation.
    Employee Engagement: This is Destination BC’s #1 goal. A diverse workforce supports their culture and values of learning and development, innovation, collaboration and achieving results.
  • Health and Wellness: By continuing to lead a diverse talent base, Destination BC actively supports the overall health and wellness of its workforce—from creating open dialogue around disabilities in the workplace to increasing awareness of available employee health and wellness resources.
  • Improving Efficiency and Driving Innovation: Destination BC strives to be innovative and agile. By ensuring a diverse and inclusive workplace HR supports these corporate goals, fostering a culture where diverse ideas and approaches to work are embraced and lead to innovation.

Moving Forward, Lessons Learned

While still in the early stages of implementing targeted activities and uncovering opportunities, the employee feedback has been positive to date. Even early on, Destination BC has learned some lessons that will help it and other organizations as it continues to explore and execute an HR strategy with inclusion and diversity as a keystone:

  • Create Goals that are Measurable and Achievable: Keeping goals realistic, measurable, achievable and clear was essential in the development, approval and implementation of Destination BC’s HR strategy and action plan. It also ensured that there was a mutual understanding and support amongst the team.
  • Keep Things Flexible: Destination BC found that creating high level goals that allow for flexibility in approach (the how to) is key to staying innovative and being able to explore best practices to achieve positive results. Allowing employee feedback to help determine the how, ensures that employees are bought in to the approach.
  • Have Honest Conversations about Readiness and Commitment: It is important that an organization understands its readiness levels when it comes to diversity and inclusion and any required resources and/or new processes before formalizing a plan.Testing the appetite of the organization can be done by piloting diversity initiatives (e.g. the mental health lunch and learn), and seeing how employees respond. Another way to test an organization’s appetite, is to run ideas past the executive team to understand their response.
  • Decide How to Measure Success: Measuring success in diversity and inclusion is not always easy, but it is important to determine outcomes and intended results. To do this, Destination BC included a new question on their 2017/18 employee engagement survey that was specific to diversity and inclusion. The responses will help them to gauge employee’s thoughts and adjust as needed.

The next leg of Destination BC’s journey includes looking at future employment opportunities and how to target a more diverse audience and how to ensure their hiring process is inclusive, while delivering further opportunities for all staff to increase awareness and understanding on what being an inclusive employer.

 


 

Mahin Rashid is a strategic community development leader, currently working as an accessibility and inclusion consultant for the Presidents Group, a network of senior business leaders working to improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities in BC.

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