The idea that a diverse, inclusive workplace is good for business isn’t new, but as expectations for both businesses and their employees continue to evolve, we’ve seen more companies in Alberta treating diversity and inclusion initiatives as an essential part of their business and company culture.

“This isn’t just a nice thing to do that someone can do off the side of their desk anymore. This needs a commitment like other business strategies do,” said Dr. Lori Campbell, Principal at the Colbourne Institute for Inclusive Leadership.

Campbell, who works for the Institute at Norquest College, said she has seen an uptick in companies requesting diversity and inclusion training.

“It’s gone from avoiding conflict and mitigating risk, towards upscaling employees, making sure processes are fair and equitable, and that talent management processes and employee development take into account the diversity of the workforce,” she said.

It's no surprise this issue is top of mind. Diversity is likely to grow in Alberta; 48 per cent of our growth is expected to come from international migration by 2046, according to statistics released by the Government of Alberta.

Companies in Alberta Making Strides with Diversity

The nature of work is changing, too. Companies have become more interconnected, and global organizations must find ways to be interculturally fluid, since they’re often working across different borders, languages, cultures and, ultimately, with different people.

Rachel Wade, the director of External Equity and Inclusion at ATB Financial, said that while all employees are required to take Respect in the Workplace training, ATB was able to bring energy into diversity and inclusion initiatives by letting employees lead the way.

Wade is a chair for Elevate, an evolution of an employee resource group where people were able to come together and create community in a grassroots way.

“We’ve taken hold and moved the initiative forward in a strategic way that allows the program to build community and also be an action-oriented group that creates change,” Wade said.

The program now has seven committees including a women of colour committee, a men's allyship committee and a corporate social responsibility committee.

The program has more than 1,100 members and 50 dedicated volunteers across Alberta. Together, ATB employees and their leaders have held 12 events over the past year, ranging from networking to educational experiences and celebrations of the diverse people that make the company whole.

One campaign of note is the first diversity and inclusion campaign run by the group. They took a look at the demographics of their workforce and shared this information, along with their concerns, with their coworkers. After this, they had employees send in their personal diversity and inclusions stories in their own writing, each of which was worth a $2 donation to a charity in the province. These stories were then printed, bound and distributed as a book throughout the company.

“This is some of the good stuff that happens when you have passion behind it,” Wade said.

KPMG is another company with head offices in Alberta, but like many other global companies, they face the challenge of working toward diversity and inclusion across many different locations.

Mary Lou Maher, Global Head of Inclusion and Diversity at KPMG Canada, said that you can achieve diversity through hiring, but if you can’t retain diverse people through inclusion, you’re missing the mark.

“Training on diversity and inclusion is not enough,” she said. “I think we need to help our leaders by managing the processes around them as well. So, we are looking at how we promote people, manage people and recruit people, and we're changing those processes to take some of the bias out beforehand.”

KPMG Canada has training for their leaders on unconscious bias, and they do self-assessments - a practice Maher says can be quite eye-opening for leaders who do not realize they have ingrained biases.

Maher is no stranger to the idea that diversity and inclusion is good for business.

“If you can allow people to bring their whole self to work then they will be more productive, and more productivity means more business,” she said.

This is a sentiment that rings true according to the Humans Rights Commission, which found that employee engagement suffers by up to 30 per cent due to unwelcoming environments for LGBTQ+ employees - and that's just one of the many diverse groups of people in today's workforce.

While her end goal would be to embed diversity and inclusion into all of the organization's processes and people, Maher said there is still work to do.

“I don't think I’m going to be working myself out of a job anytime soon.”

Diversity and Inclusion Support in Alberta's Workplaces

When it comes to diversity and inclusion training and support for companies, new options continue to crop up.

Norquest College will be rolling out a new inclusive leadership program in 2019, and companies like The Respect Group continue to serve companies in Alberta and across the country.

For companies looking for a different approach to diversity and inclusion, Diversio takes a data-driven approach to evaluate an organization's pain points by benchmarking across important drivers of diversity and inclusion, then matching the issues to a solution.

There are also options for non-profits that may not have the same budget as for-profit companies. The Calgary Catholic Immigrant Society, for example, offers a free workshop that explores the concept of cultural awareness, sensitivity and competency. Participants will examine their own cultural values, beliefs and attitudes, their work environment, and their work practices to become more conscious and culturally responsive in their daily interactions with others.

The Government of Alberta also offers a free online course to support diversity and inclusion efforts.