According to Statistics Canada, by 2031, 25% to 28% of Canadians will be foreign born and 47% of second generation Canadians will be a member of a visible minority group. TD Economics projects a major labour shortage in the next twenty years, claiming retiring boomers and low fertility rates as major causes. Traditionally ignored, members of the aboriginal community, visible minorities, women and new immigrants are slotted to fill in the gap.
Google diversity, and the images of perfectly crafted group portraits of tactfully selected minorities dominate the web. As they pose with bright smiles, projecting the feeling of solidarity, you wonder if it could get any cheesier. Is diversity just a clich├®? Or maybe it's just a trendy buzz word employers like to toss around to sound genuine.
Canada's Best Diversity Employers is an annual competition which serves as a platform for companies from across the country to demonstrate their ability to meet the demands of our multicultural nation. With 100 employers making the cut, Home Depot, Loblaw's, Cameco, and SGI (Saskatchewan Government Insurance) have shined with their progressive hiring practices.
Michelle Edwards, Senior Director, Talent & Diversity, says Loblaw's has embraced diversity and has deemed it a major initiative, "One of our pillars for Corporate Social Responsibility is to reflect our Nation's diversity, because we see it as the right thing to do and the sensible business thing to do."
To put their money where their mouth is, Loblaw's has developed an Inclusion Toolkit, designed for recruiters to hire with diversity in mind for both the corporate and store levels. When hired, new employees can expect to be embraced, Edwards explains, They have the opportunity to partner with a ÔÇÿcolleague buddy' of similar backgrounds to ensure comfort and ease of adaptation. Women can also count on a future with Loblaw's due to an online network and special events promoting professional development and work-life balance for working mothers.
From a branding perspective, being known as one of Canada's Top Diversity Employers has its perks. Money is clearly being invested in recruiting minorities, but the bottom line is what matters. So, is diversity fact or fiction? Deborah Berwick, Manager of Organization Effectiveness, Diversity & Inclusion at Home Depot recognizes the importance of authenticity in life and wants all potential employees to know, from her lips to your ears, "The Home Depot offers an environment where you can bring your whole selves to work."
Being recognized as a leader has its downsides too, as it can open the door for skeptics. Berwick acknowledges how diversity can't always be at the top of the agenda, "The most significant challenge we've faced in implementing our diversity strategy has been the same challenge any business strategy faces ' competing priorities and a constantly changing marketplace."
Like any legitimate diversity plan, The Home Depot encourages feedback to monitor progress and remain accountable. Berwick confirms their findings show current employees not only believe they are working in an inclusive environment, but are confident in their ability to speak up, "they feel comfortable raising issues with their leaders when we don't live up to this expectation."
Cameco makes this year's list by integrating diversity in their hiring practices by investing in people, especially pre-employment. Jodi Ledding, Senior Specialist in Workplace Planning and Talent Acquisition, explains, "Cameco has invested over $8 million dollars in training in the past 20 years and is working with Northern Career Quest in a $33 million joint funding initiative to help approximately 1,500 aboriginals gain skills and experience to seek entry-level employment.
Although Cameco is committed to reviving the economy of Northern Saskatchewan, Ledding admits it isn't enough to satisfy demand, "Because the local Saskatchewan talent pool of both experienced and new graduates is limited, Cameco's talent recruitment efforts have become very pan-Canadian and increasingly international in the past few years."
Cheesy manufactured images aside, employers are clearly competing to be seen as diversity friendly, but are eager to find candidates who can meet them half way.
Personality and attitude come before background and academic discipline with Loblaw's new graduates program Edwards explains, "We are looking for grads who have been involved in community and extra-curricular initiatives outside the classroom, and understand the importance of superior customer service.
Photo: Serdarbayraktar, Alan Egginton/Thinkstock