As job-seekers, we're accustomed to hearing earfuls about diversity: Employers seemingly always want more women. More aboriginal employees. More ethnic minorities. More employees with disabilities. More LGBT staffers. At face value, this can only be a good thing'after all, no one wants to encounter discrimination on their job search.
Still, this warm-and-fuzzy talk about inclusion has us feeling a tad sceptical. When it comes to diversity, how often do companies put their money where their mouth is? How often do diversity policies simply not measure up to the corporate rhetoric? When is a so-called commitment to diversity a PR tactic'and when is it genuine?
So, we took one employer'BMO Financial Group'to task. We caught up with members of their Product Operations Group, who work behind the scenes on everything from ID management to credit decisioning, to give us five reasons why they care about inclusivity. And why other employers should, too.
A national organization like BMO is everywhere: It's in Victoria. It's in St. John's. Heck, it's even in Yellowknife. So, they have recruited a diverse team because, quite simply, they serve diverse communities.
"The work we do in vastly diverse communities is a direct reflection of BMO itself," says Shane Butcher, vice president of BMO's personal and commercial product operations group. "And diversity isn't an initiative'it's the way we do things. When you have diversity around a boardroom table, you can look at a problem in eight, 10, 15 different ways. And diverse groups can identify problems within a community that non-diverse teams might not."
Translation: The only way to reflect Canada's mosaic is to instil an understanding of the value of diversity at every level of the organization.
"We've had phenomenal success with diverse teams," says Butcher. "And we work hard to ensure that teams that aren't rich in diversity become so. When they do, we see improvements in their creativity and in their ability to raise and solve problems."
Those aren't just platitudes, either. Hiring workers with disabilities, for example, has yielded concrete results: Studies have found that 90 percent of people with disabilities had better-than-average performance scores at work; 86 percent had better-than-average attendance scores; and 72 percent had better-than-average retention rates. And we could go on'these are the types of advantages a diverse workforce delivers for a business.
Or, as Butcher puts it, "In my product operations group alone, there are 1,100 people and we want to tap all of their different skills and insights. If you have 1,100 people who are exactly like me, then guess what? You lose."
And if an employee can achieve their potential, says Butcher, then they're a great asset to BMO. "We look for people with talent and skill first'it's about what's required to do the job," he says. "If they need certain accommodations to turn their potential into performance, then we can make them."
He's not bluffing. Butcher lists numerous examples: They've equipped their deaf team members with ASL interpreters and Blackberries to communicate in real-time. They've made desk and chair adjustments for employees who need them. Certain offices have quiet rooms. As Butcher explains, by helping individuals succeed, he's also helping the company thrive, too.
"Everyone wakes up every morning thinking, 'I want to be successful,'" he adds. "And if an organization wants to partner with you to be successful, that's a pretty good reason to stay there."
Dave Kim, a safekeeping service representative for BMO's wholesale product operations group and recent York University grad, experienced BMO's commitment to diversity firsthand.
Kim, who has epilepsy, came to BMO from Lime Connect, a not-for-profit organization aiming to connect students with disabilities to meaningful work. First, Kim earned a Lime scholarship. Then he got an internship as a financial services manager at BMO. And finally, he landed a job with BMO's product operations group.
"I've been very open about my disability at BMO, and they haven't treated me any differently."
Kim said disclosing his disability'which many employees are reluctant to do 'wasn't difficult for him. "I felt comfortable talking to my manager about my epilepsy, and sharing that information with my co-workers. If I had a seizure, I wanted them to know what was happening and how to help. It just made sense."
As a corporation, BMO is a trailblazer of sorts. Seriously, just listen to this sound bite, as provided by Butcher: "There is still a glass ceiling in corporate North America for women and there's still one for visible minorities. But our experience tells us those limitations shouldn't exist. It's about capabilities and skill: If you recruit people from every corner of the community, success will fall into place."
Which leads us to the next pointÔÇª.
BMO's product operations team has a 5.5 percent turnover rate'largely the result of retirements and employee movement within the company'which means they're always looking for new talent. And, as Butcher explains, his group is committed to diversity because it offers them a larger, qualified talent pool.
"Every time we have any opening, we want to cast a wide net. We want to attract the best candidates from all walks of life. And we live by that.
That, in a nutshell, is why companies like BMO value diversity.
If you're interested in a career at BMO, go to bmo.com/careers, or if you're a person with a disability who would like more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. BMO's Aboriginal Recruiter is interested in hearing from Canada's Aboriginal students and graduates. Interested candidates can apply to email@example.com and include the words "jobpostings Magazine" in the subject line.
Photo: Kittichai Songprakob/Thinkstock