Inclusion a Driver of Culture and Results

By Alona Puehse

Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) has been a deliberate area of focus for several competitive companies over the past several years. By now, it has become clear that to fully leverage the value of a diverse and inclusive workforce, D&I must be viewed as an overall business strategy that can lead to improved performance and competitiveness. A diverse workplace can build customer intimacy and credibility through a workforce that reflect the customers it serves, as well as foster creativity and innovation among a high-performing team.

A 2014 article published by Deloitte University Press, states that while nearly one-quarter of executives (23 per cent) believe their companies have done an “excellent” job creating a culture of inclusiveness, and defining what it means (24 per cent), the overwhelming majority rate their effort as “adequate” or “weak.”

These results partially reflect the trend of placing the accountability for diversity on a single department or leader i.e. human resources.   Creating a culture of inclusion is something that must be driven from the top management throughout the organization and recognized by all as a workplace goal and expectation.

That said, how can inclusion drive the culture of human resources in a company? By creating an internal infrastructure that supports a diverse and inclusive workplace, HR plays an impactful role in achieving the company’s strategic priorities: attracting top talent, developing innovative solutions, and building customer credibility and loyalty.

Recruitment, performance management, training and development, and compensation and benefits, are some examples of where HR can drive the change.

Once leadership is committed to supporting a diverse workforce, how can HR professionals attract candidates from talent pools that may not have traditionally been targeted?

Re-visit your job postings. Will they attract candidates from diverse populations and are they accessible? A posting that includes a link to a plain text version of the document demonstrates an understanding that candidates who may be visually impaired can better access the posting with screen-reading aides. Are applications solely accepted through online forms, or are there options for candidates who may struggle with this method?

Think about where you’re recruiting. There are hundreds of community agencies across the province that work with job seekers who represent diverse backgrounds and abilities. For example, Open Door Group, a BC-based non-profit organization, matches hundreds of job seekers with disabilities to employers each year. Many of these job-matching services are free of charge for both the employer and the job seeker.

Demonstrate your commitment to a diverse and inclusive workplace. If a potential candidate visited your website, who would they see representing the company? Companies that go beyond the standard statement of “We are an equal opportunity employer” by featuring some staff profiles build credibility as a place that appreciates its team.

Onboarding and Staff Training
Re-think your hiring and onboarding process. Does the process create an environment that would encourage people to come forward with what they need to perform at their best? As part of on-boarding, are new employees introduced to the company’s commitment to a diverse and inclusive workplace? For example, providing disability awareness training to all new staff sends a clear message that all customers and employees are valued.

Does your company offer cultural competency training? Cultural competence is a set of attitudes, skills and behaviors that enable organizations and staff to work effectively in cross-cultural situations. A common fear among people is the risk of offending someone who may be different from them. Whether that is appropriate terminology or just a greater understanding of cultural influence, training provides an avenue for staff to ask questions in a comfortable environment. Improving cultural competency promotes inclusive interactions among staff, as well as improved customer service.

Make new employees feel welcomed. Businesses often assign a co-worker to mentor new hires through business practices and procedures. Ideally, this mentor should introduce the new hire to the company culture to help them navigate the day-to-day challenges of the workplace and be a connection between the new hires and current staff.

Performance Management and Recognition
Tie it to performance. In a 2013 report titled, “What Gets Measured, Gets Done” published by the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion, research suggests companies that tie leadership and management accountability to D&I outcomes, make significant strides towards an inclusive culture. A growing trend among employers is to include the promotion of diversity, inclusion, and respect for all as part of each employee’s performance evaluation. Doing so sends a clear message that the company sees diversity as a driver of high-performance.

Find your champions and recognize them. If a staff person goes above and beyond in making people feel included in the workplace, celebrate it. Diversity and inclusion is not about accommodating differences but rather celebrating the positive impact that these differences collective make.

Compensation and Benefits
Do your benefits reflect the needs of a diverse workforce?  For example, consider an EFAP provider that offers counselling and supports in a number of languages and includes access to culturally diverse supports such as access to an Elder for Aboriginal employees.

Recognize culturally significant events such as International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Diwali, Gay Pride celebrations, etc.

Consider providing flexible schedules or offering a float day for employees to use at their discretion to observe such events or days

Again, the accountability of establishing a truly diverse and inclusive workplace does not fall on HR or any particular department – it must be driven from the top to become a key pillar of the organizational culture.  If a company is able to achieve this, in part through the support of HR’s internal infrastructure and practices, there is no question that the business will reap the benefits of a highly engaged workforce, increased creativity and innovation, and credibility among the diverse customer base it serves.

Are you maximizing creativity and performance? Learn from other employers how they have accelerated performance and results through establishing diverse and inclusive workplaces.  On March 9-10, 2015 Open Door Group is hosting the third annual BC Workplace Inclusion conference that will provide an exchange of ideas, innovation, successful practices, information and resources. For more information, or to register, visit

Alona Puehse is the executive director of corporate development at Open Door Group.

(PeopleTalk Winter 2014)


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