Have you noticed any changes to the ads on your devices lately? Or the use of different pronouns people include under their names on LinkedIn, Zoom, and email signatures to describe themselves (She/Her, He/Him, They/Them)? The above image speaks to many of these changes happening in the world at large. In many cases, this is the language of the new workplace.

Some of us may recall Bob Dylan singing, “The Times They Are a-Changin’” and wonder if he had a crystal ball looking into the future…

The world has changed so much and so fast in the last few years alone, that as leaders we have to rethink what we’re doing to build a high involvement, high performance culture. This time of year, many of us having an opportunity to expand our repertoire of festive phrases and dates, as the number of employees impacted by the usual Merry Christmas and Happy New Year is declining.

Looking at the Canadian demographics posted on Wikipedia last year, almost a third of Canadians are visible minorities or Indigenous and that percentage continues to rise. And many celebrate very different holidays. (You will need to reflect on your own community, rather than the index as the index is high level, provincial data only.).

A more sobering picture, taking a global view (updated in 2019), is this one, entitled If the world were a village of 100 people

  • 61 villagers would be Asian (of that, 20 would be Chinese and 17 would be Indian), 14 would be African, 11 would be European, 9 would be Latin or South American, 5 would be North American, and none of the villagers would be from Australia, Oceania, or Antarctica.
  • At least 18 villagers would be unable to read or write, but 33 would have cellular phones and 16 would be online on the Internet. 79 males and females would have a primary school education. 66 males and 63 females would have a secondary school education. 7 males and females would have a college degree. (Up from 1 in 2006.)
  • 33 villagers would be Christians, 20 would be Muslims, 13 would be Hindus, 6 would be Buddhists, 2 would be atheists, 12 would be non-religious, and the remaining 14 would be members of other religions.

If you, like many of us at CFR attended post-secondary education, you are in a minority. Maybe that helps explain why you are different from many of the people in your company, in your community, and in Canada.

If you are building a company that others want to join and enjoy, you and your senior leadership team may need to review these statistics and recognize their relevance to your future. Here are our suggestions.

Understand your Workforce

Given the changing demographics of the Canadian workforce, look at your employee profile. A good metric that has been around for some time now is the diversity and inclusion index (D&I). Here is a quote re: its purpose from the Environmental, Social and Governance Organization (ESG):

The index is based on the premise that a more diverse workforce is better able to meet the needs of a variety of customers and clients. Additionally, a diverse workforce can help to foster a culture of inclusion and respect within a company. The D&I Index provides a useful way to gauge a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and can be used as a tool to drive change.

It’s a simple metric, easy to calculate. Count the number of your employees with different backgrounds and divide by the total number of employees. When doing your calculations, don’t make assumptions about backgrounds – ask. A quick survey can help collect the facts. Do the ratios look like any of those cited above? If not, maybe it’s time for change.

Expand your Understanding of Diversity

To build relationships with people from different backgrounds you must do some homework. This means learning about the different ethnic, educational, economic, and religious upbringings that recruits bring to the interview. (For example, the new year is celebrated at different dates on the calendar for different religions and cultures including Chinese, Islamic, and Jewish, to name a few). Being able to show you understand and accept their differing experiences and expectations makes it more likely they will be drawn to your company. Better yet, being able to demonstrate you have policies and practices that support a cultural melange will put you in the employers of choice category.

Review your Recruitment Practices

Imagine you are a visible minority or a candidate falling into any of the groups in our opening image. Would they read your ads, talk to your recruiters, and see on site that you are truly welcoming them? A good way to attract candidates is to promote diversity in your marketing. However, if it’s a culture-shift that’s required, there are specialist who can assist with diversity and inclusion. Many now sit in-house in large organizations due to the importance of their skillset.

Avoid Hiring Bias

Preconceived notions are largely unconscious but have very real implications on our mindsets and approaches to hiring. While it’s true, we’re often required to make quick judgements when hiring, we also tend to extend offers to those who are similar to ourselves. If you feel your bias is preventing you from impartial hiring, ask for help from a neutral third-party.

We are naturally drawn to people and organizations that accept our differences and welcome us with open arms. A sense of belonging is as necessary as air, food, and water to our well-being. So we ask again, now that you’ve read our article – what are you doing to make the December seasons greetings meaningful to everyone? If you are already using Happy Hanukkah or Happy Kwanzaa with your workforce, congratulations! And Merry Christmas!

Gary Forget is the People & Leadership expert at Connecting for Results.
He considers himself an organizational doctor and everyone who has worked with him can attest to his deep understanding of people and of the barriers to high performance. Whatever the root cause of lackluster results, Gary has the tools, experience, and knowledge to significantly increase bottom-line results. Besides his diagnostic capabilities, Gary is adept at mentoring employees, so they are more effective and capable of achieving their personal, team, and business goals.

Gary can be reached at g.forget@cfrincorporated.com.