How to Actually Promote Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Celebrating Inclusion: Why DEI makes both ethical and business sense

June 21, 2024

As Canadians celebrated the rich cultures, valuable contributions, and enduring strength of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in June for National Indigenous History Month, many organizations took a critical look at their own commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within their workplaces. While DEI has become a common buzzword, prioritizing inclusion through these goals goes far beyond fostering a positive work environment. Research shows it unlocks significant business benefits as well.

According to research cited in the Making the case for diversity, equity, and inclusion toolkit by the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI), companies with above-average diversity in their management teams have higher innovation revenue, and inclusive cultures and policies increase levels of creativity, innovation and openness in the workforce by 59 per cent. For every 10,000 employees, resulting feelings of belonging can increase productivity by approximately $52,000,000 in revenues, research shows. 

What’s more, at a time when businesses are struggling to attract and retain top talent, a strong culture of diversity can be a powerful employment draw. The CCDI’s report found that more than three in four job seekers will consider the diversity of companies in their search, while 42 per cent of millennials would leave their current job for a more inclusive employer. It’s a sentiment felt across generations: 33 per cent of gen-Xers and 37 per cent of boomers agree that DEI is an important factor when applying for jobs. 

Importance of follow-through

“Everyone is at a different phase, stage, and level of readiness, shaped by their unique set of experiences. Consistent, ongoing efforts in DEI practices ensure a genuinely inclusive culture where everyone can thrive, driving personal growth and organizational success,” notes CCDI’s CEO, Anne-Marie Pham.

But wherever companies are on their journey, it’s critical that businesses do more than merely pay lip service to their diversity, equity and inclusion goals. Instead, companies need to focus on taking actionable steps to strengthen inclusion, belonging and accessibility, and to address biases and barriers that stand in the way. 

That’s because, despite growing awareness of DEI issues, a third of diverse Canadian employees report “significant” obstacles related to recruitment, retention and advancement in a study by Boston Consulting Group’s Centre for Canada’s Future. On a more positive note, in a survey by Deloitte, the vast majority of workers—more than eight in 10—say they trust their employers to follow through on diversity goals. But people won’t stay patient forever, and they expect companies to put words into action.

Partnering for DEI in Canada

The good news is, employers are taking note. Increasingly, business leaders are realizing that DEI is no longer a “nice to have” feature. Simply put, it’s a must.

Here in Canada, the CCDI’s mission is to help deliver on industry diversity goals across sectors. And according to the organization’s most recent impact report, it’s making significant progress, having partnered with more than 700 employers across the country, from community services and non-profits to health care and companies in financial services and insurance. Initiatives include hands-on tools and resources anyone can access on the CCDI website, as well as webinars, events and the UnConference, a highly interactive annual gathering. As Canadians across the country honoured National Indigenous History Month in June, CCDI also offers educational resources to empower workplaces to incorporate celebrations and learnings in their programming.

It’s a mission that continues to gain momentum. Among other milestones noted in the CCDI’s impact report, the organization heralds the release of more than 427 new resources in its online repository, including guides dealing with mental health in the workplace, neurodiversity, and creating transgender-inclusive organizations. 

But true inclusion neither begins nor ends at the office. This is why CCDI has also developed resources and programming geared to those who have yet to enter the workplace. “By empowering and educating young minds, we are sowing the seeds for a society that embraces diversity in all its forms,” says Pham.

Download the CCDI Glossary of IDEA terms to get familiar with key terminology and get started on your company’s DEI journey.