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Beyond Good Intentions

Bringing an Employee Lens to Diversity and Inclusion in Corporate Canada
By BCG Centre for Canada’s Future
Despite attention and resources, significant obstacles remain for diverse employees in Canada.
BCG Centre for Canada’s Future surveyed more than 5,000 Employees in Canada on gender, LGBTQ2, racial and ethnic, Indigenous, and disability diversity and inclusion in the workplace (companies with over 1000 employees).

Diverse groups in Canada generally perceive fewer barriers in the workplace than peers in other developed countries. Nonetheless, workplace bias remains a day-to-day reality for too many in Canada.

In fact, one-third of employees from different diversity groups face persistent barriers to recruitment, retention, and advancement.

More troubling, 50% of diverse employees see bias in their day-to-day experience at work.

So, where do good intentions fall short? The obstacles that diverse people in Canada face at work are widely underestimated by majority groups. Executives tend to take a more optimistic view of their company’s programs and progress than non-executives.

While many executives across the country view diversity and inclusion as a priority, rank and file employees often do not. Nearly half of diverse Canadians do not see consistent leadership commitment and less than half believe they have “allies” at work.

BCG research identified three imperatives for corporate Canada to improve workplace diversity and inclusion.

Leadership commitment at all levels, ally culture, and employee-centred programs are pillars of effective diversity and inclusion programs.

Committed engagement from the CEO with management is crucial to creating the conditions for success. Often, an employee’s direct manager has much more influence on an individual’s day-to-day experience, and similarly, colleagues can have the biggest impact on an employee’s workday. Having allies at work, colleagues who champion inclusion in the advancement of colleagues from diverse backgrounds, makes a difference.

Program design must be rooted in the issues that matter to diverse employees: a visible strategy backed by leadership and action; policies that support employees’ families and lives outside of work; and diverse recruiting. More broadly, companies should approach programs as they do other strategic priorities: design thoughtfully, execute well and measure progress.

The study found that Canadian companies recognize the importance of D&I, but significant numbers of employees still experience barriers to advancement, lack of representation, and workplace bias.

Despite good intentions, most corporate D&I programs don’t go far enough. The senior leaders may say the right things, but lack of clear support down through the managerial ranks can lead to inconsistent experiences on the ground.

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