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[HR] A Diversity Investment to Grow Your Business

According to data released by Statistics Canada, based on the 2016 census, there are 7,540,830 foreign-born individuals who came to Canada through the immigration process, representing over one-fifth or 21.9% of Canada’s total population. In Ontario, 3,852,145 foreign-born residents represented 29.1% of total population, the highest proportion among provinces. British Columbia was second at 28.3%.

Statistics Canada also reports that there were 72,880 same-sex couple families in Canada, in 2016, up almost 61% from 2006. Ontario continued to have the most same‑sex couples of all the provinces, followed by British Columbia and Quebec, and half of Canada’s same‑sex couples lived in four of the country’s five largest metropolitan census areas (CMAs): Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, and Ottawa–Gatineau.

This data suggests that in less than three decades, the country will be a truly pluralistic society with no single “minority” group holding a majority. If you expect your company to compete and succeed in this new world order, it is important to consider this key aspect and take a closer look at the advantages and some disadvantages of diversity in the workplace.

Everyone agrees that diversity in the workplace is a good thing. In fact, promoting workplace diversity is actually good for business. When employees have not only diverse skillsets but diverse backgrounds as well, the team is more engaged, and everyone performs at a higher level. But workplace diversity is about thriving, not presence. It’s about much more than hiring people from underrepresented groups. So, what does workplace diversity mean nowadays? Understanding this aspect allows for a better understanding of how diversity improves performance. Let’s look at key aspects that should be considered when embarking on diversity promotion in the workplace.

For the Sake of Numbers.

Encouraging hiring managers to hire more women or ethnic minorities, seems to be the easy approach, and this does increases the overall diversity of the workplace. Being granted a position in a company does not necessarily mean actually achieving equal footing. Some studies have found that people hired for ‘diversity purposes’ were sometimes seen as less qualified for the position they were hired for.

Changing Entrenched Mindsets.

Management buy in and education of employees across the board, top down with continuous reinforcement, is key to mitigating this challenge. Entrenched old ways of thinking and prejudices have serious potential to hinder diversity efforts and create unnecessary tension and conflict. Additionally, as cultures collide, there may be misinterpretations of meanings. What’s funny to one culture may be considered disrespectful to another.

Short-Term Cost Outlay.

Diversity changes to some businesses will come at a financial cost or may require some flexibility. For example, if you have employees who are practicing Muslims, you’ll need to give them time and space for daily prayer. Transgender employees may need their own bathrooms. As your employees become more diverse, you may face associated costs that you hadn’t considered. But it’s worth the effort and the investment and the results are both morally and financially rewarding.

Innovation from Diversity.

Workplaces where employees come from varying groups and backgrounds have a variety of life experiences to call on to solve problems, with more creative solutions, they also tend to make better informed decisions and these experiential learnings can be shared for the benefits of the whole team. Diversity helps employees approach things creatively and from many different perspectives. Studies have found that companies whose employees had three or more inherent diversity traits and at least three acquired from experience — performed better than their competitors.

Diverse Companies = Better Financial Results.

A workforce that hails from different backgrounds allows your company to connect better with a wide range of consumers. They’re also more effectively in reaching a variety of customers, and those customers will trust your company more when they feel represented by your employees. Numerous studies show that companies with diverse teams are more profitable than homogenous businesses. A 2015 McKinsey report on public companies noted that those with the most ethnic and racial diversity in their management were 35 percent more likely to be financially successful.

Inclusivity Improves Employee Retention.

We live in a global economy so companies should employ people who represent diverse populations and points of view to compete on this world stage. A homogeneous work environment chases employees and prospects away — even when it’s created unconsciously. By contrast, a diverse and inclusive work culture attracts a diverse applicant pool and creates a stimulating work experience that raises both morale and retention rates.

Ultimately, the workplace diversity initiatives and work environments must be conducive to ALL employees thriving, not just being hired because they belong to a certain ethnic or minority group. Diversity is about increasing people’s actual participation, not just their symbolic participation.