From boosting innovation to capturing greater market share and reducing employee turnover, the benefits of workplace diversity are well documented and embraced by leading Canadian employers, including two professional services firms that scored top-50 positions on the Great Place to Work Institute’s 2013 list of Canada’s Best Workplaces.
Ernst & Young Canada (ranked 41 on this year’s list of Best Workplaces in Canada, and recognized among the World’s Best Multinational Workplaces in 2012) and Grant Thornton LLP (ranked 20 in Canada for 2013 ) are among the firms leading the way in creating environments that welcome talent – regardless of gender, race, age, religion or sexual orientation.
“Diversity and inclusiveness aren’t just nice-to-haves, they’re business imperatives,” says Steve Shea, managing partner, people at Ernst & Young Canada, part of a global firm that provides assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. “The more diverse thoughts you can bring into a team, the greater the ideas.”
Sharon Healy, national managing director of people and culture at accounting and advisory firm Grant Thornton, points to various research over the years that have shown heterogeneous teams perform at higher levels, are more creative and communicate more effectively.
“And as a company that’s in the business of selling expertise and insights, diverse thinking is fundamental to Grant Thornton’s brand promise,” she says.
So how are Canada’s leading employers building diverse workplaces?
At Ernst & Young, the thinking has evolved from recognition and support of diverse groups to human equity – a concept that recognizes that each person has unique attributes that contribute to the firm’s success and ensures that inclusiveness is embedded into Ernst & Young’s core processes.
“From recruiting and leadership development to client handling allocation and succession planning, we try to embed inclusiveness and cultural sensitivity into our core processes,” explains Mr. Shea.
In practical terms, this means Ernst & Young applies an inclusive lens to decisions around hiring, promotions, team designations and succession planning. For example, when assigning consultants to a client, the firm looks at the people on the team and works to ensure they represent a diverse mix of skills, thinking and backgrounds.
While Ernst & Young works hard to support certain groups, such as women and gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered employees, its approach to inclusiveness isn’t about counting heads to meet quotas, says Mr. Shea. What it’s about is making everyone in the company feel they can bring their own unique attributes to work and feel appreciated for who they are and what they’re good at.
Grant Thornton takes a similar inclusive approach to diversity, says Ms. Healy.
“Our approach to diversity is not to segment different groups, but to create an inclusive culture,” she says. “That’s why inclusiveness informs everything we do – who we recruit, how we recruit, how we develop people and how we build teams.”
Both companies commit significant time and resources to building greater awareness about the importance of a diverse and inclusive workplace, including providing leadership training and assigning inclusiveness champions. Grant Thornton, for instance, has 11 “inclusiveness partners” – one for each business unit. Ernst & Young has inclusive leaders, an inclusiveness steering committee and a chief inclusiveness officer.
In both companies, success in diversity and inclusiveness is measured not so much in the numbers of people from certain groups, but in how accepted and respected people feel. At Ernst & Young for example, a Great Place to Work survey conducted last year confirmed that team members felt they were treated fairly regardless of their age, race, sex and sexual orientation, with scores ranging from 85 to 96 per cent.
At Grant Thornton, scores in this area ranged from 90 to 96 per cent, says Ms. Healy.
“We believe that it’s not just about measuring statistics,” she says. “It’s about asking people, ‘Do you feel like we have an inclusive culture?’ and obviously they do.”
NOT ON THE LIST?
If your workplace isn’t on this year’s list but you think it should be, we encourage you to participate in the 2014 list of Best Workplaces in Canada. We are now accepting nominations at www.greatplacetowork.ca.