Oh Canada: Diversity in the workplace?

Yesterday, July 1, was Canada’s birthday.  “Officially”, we’re 146 years old.   O Canada is our national anthem. Canada has two official languages.  Most of us feel good about the diverse and multi-cultural nature of our country.  Yet, welcoming diversity, and people who are different from us, can be a challenge, in small and big ways.

image credit: Bruce Stotesbury, Times Colonist

image credit: Bruce Stotesbury, Times Colonist

Diversity in the workplace?

Take the matter of diversity…. diversity is the key to sustainability and innovation. Yet, many organizations (and countries) are seriously challenged when it comes to diversity in the workplace. And no one knows that better than new immigrants, especially smart, qualified ones!

Roberta Neault

Dr. Roberta Neault

Last week, I participated in a seminar entitled: “How to Effectively Recruit Diverse Employees and Volunteers”.  It was coordinated by the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria’s (ICA), and oriented to Community Partnership Network members (of which I’m one).

The guest speaker was Dr. Roberta Neault, of Life Strategies.  Roberta was great. Not only does she have a world of experience, and stories, to share, her self-deprecating and honest delivery style resonated nicely, with me.

Creating a diverse workplace

Roberta’s talk was oriented to bringing immigrants, newcomers to the Canada, into your workforce.  “Temporary foreign workers” is a hot topic, in Canada.

Here’s my main takeaways from Brenda’s presentation (which was followed by World Cafe style conversations)…

  • We need to travel to remain humble (to the immigrant experience).
  • Often immigrants are “global careerists”; government needs to recognize and action that notion… flip-side: if you traveled to another country to work for a year, would you see it as the action of a “temporary foreign worker” or career, life-expanding, move?
  • “Diversity trumps ability” (Steven Johnson)
  • Diversity buy-in at the senior/exec level doesn’t guarantee buy-in at the supervisory, front-line, level… think NIMBY and you’ll understand why
  • If diversity seems to black and white a concept for your organization, what are a continuum of solution alternatives… as a mediator, I loved this concept
  • We are comfortable when we see our culture acknowledge; e.g., if I am a new Chinese immigrant to Canada, and I see an advertised job that includes wording in Chinese that trumps “all applicants welcome” sign, any day!  This is another reminder of the value of travel.  I think of countries I’ve been where I didn’t know the culture or language.  I was always reluctant to go into a restaurant where there was zero English on the menu.
  • Diversity is a process. It’s not a one-time event.
  • Bottom line, when working with newcomers, “have fun”.  When we are having fun, we almost always can work out our differences, together.  Hallelujah!

What’s your diversity in the workplace experience?

How about you? What’s your insight as to why a workplace works (or not) for newcomers, from a foreign land?

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