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Amy Silverstein is the senior director of People for Pizza Pizza Ltd.

When Pizza Pizza decided in 2021 to form a diversity and inclusion council, one of the first things we did was send out a survey designed to give us a foundational snapshot of our workforce.

The results told us about 60 per cent of corporate employees who participated were from racialized groups and more than 40 per cent were women. Almost 80 per cent said they viewed Pizza Pizza as a diverse organization.

Despite the inherent limitations of survey data, our results were a good starting point for building our initial slate of diversity and inclusion policies and programs. But we knew it wasn’t enough.

A key challenge with diversity and inclusion efforts is they tend to address only the diversity that’s visible and known, and organizations often have limited insight into the full range of interests and needs within their ranks. This limited perspective is caused by a number of reasons, including companies’ reliance on employees’ self-disclosure as well as the widespread use of tick-box questionnaires that leave little room for anything that falls outside pre-defined diversity groupings.

Consequently, many organizations must navigate forward with blind spots in their strategy, potentially missing opportunities to strengthen their culture and corporate brand. But how do you address blind spots you don’t know exist?

You need to think – and look – outside the box.

At Pizza Pizza we’ve started to use data analytics to find hidden patterns of inequality as well as unexplored areas of opportunity to strengthen our diversity and inclusion strategy. One example of how we’re doing this is through analysis of aggregated, anonymized data pertaining to use of company-sponsored health and wellness benefits. Do data patterns show, for example, more frequent use of our family resources? Are there increased claims for particular drug categories or health services, such as mental health or physiotherapy?

We undertake this and other types of data analyses with the goal of identifying unmet needs we could potentially address with new programs. For example, we might learn from our analysis that we need to expand our focus on wellness. This insight could also lead to actions that ensure stronger awareness of the resources available to employees, and that our leaders are trained to handle conversations around physical and health wellness challenges.

This data-driven approach doesn’t apply to all blind spots. Some instances of “unconscious bias” and inequity are hard to substantiate, but we know that when they happen, they erode an organization’s culture of inclusion. Consider, for instance, a department’s habit of automatically assigning overtime work to employees with no spouses or children. Or think about the manager who answers emails during meetings while lower-level team members sit and wait quietly. Would that manager behave that way in the presence of a peer or a more senior leader?

Ultimately, building a solid strategy – one with minimal blind spots – is about instilling and nurturing the right values within the organization. We do this by training leaders and team members and by having ongoing conversations about diversity. We also do this by asking questions.

Since we launched our first employee engagement survey in 2021, we’ve continued to ask what and how we can do better to make our employees feel like they belong. Through one survey we learned that our team members felt there was a need for more inclusive language. That prompted us to work with our partners at Pride Toronto to organize lunch-and-learns focused on inclusive language along with allyship.

These sessions proved to be relevant beyond the 2SLGBTQI+ context. Inclusive language and allyship, we all learned, are useful in virtually any dialogue or circumstance.

We know that as the country’s demographic makeup evolves, our diversity and inclusion strategy will inevitably run into more blind spots. Our increasingly multigenerational, racialized and gender-diverse workforce continues to be vulnerable to all manner of unconscious bias, which is why we also continue to fortify the strong culture we’ve built so far.

We know there are emerging needs among our team members that are likely to grow in urgency in the coming years, as many start families or, as we’re seeing with our more experienced workers, become caregivers to aging parents. We’ll need to adjust our programs accordingly.

As it is today, an evidence-based approach will be critical going forward, along with an ongoing commitment to a truly diverse and inclusive culture.

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about the world of work. Find all Leadership Lab stories at and guidelines for how to contribute to the column here.

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