By Leo Valiquette

Diversity matters—on a board, on a management team, in all facets of an organization’s operation. This is about much more than social justice. It’s also a prudent way for an organization to boost its competiveness, effectiveness and efficiency.

That’s why we have put diversity in the spotlight this year with our annual conference, CPES2018. Our new Women in FHE STEM Networking Breakfast and Innovation Award, while obviously focused on opportunities for women, is meant to start the conversation around the broader concept of diversity in the workplace and in the high-tech industry.

Diversity extends beyond gender. It includes diversity of culture, background and experience, age, and also cognitive diversity – differences in how people learn and process knowledge.

It’s not enough for a team to work together in harmony if that conformity undermines innovation. A team must welcome and encourage those individuals who run against the grain and have a contrary opinion, a different approach to problem solving, if they want to be successful.

What the data says

Research published last year in the Harvard Business Review concluded that teams that are more cognitively diverse do perform better. It can generate accelerated learning and performance on a management team when it is faced with new, uncertain and complex situations.

This extends to the board. In a review of U.S. publicly traded companies, research firm McKinsley and Co. found that those in the top 25 per cent of executive-board diversity generated a return on equity 53 per cent higher than average than those in the bottom quartile through the 2008-2010 recessionary period.

Most employees feel better about working for an organization they perceive as embracing diversity in all its dimensions. Deloitte’s 2013 report, Waiter, is that inclusion in my soup?, found that, when employees believe their organizations supports diversity and they feel included, it boosts their ability to innovate by 83 per cent, their responsiveness to changing customer needs by 31 per cent and team collaboration by 42 per cent.

A roadmap for diversity

What benchmarks can your team set to become more diverse and ensure every individual is encouraged to share their ideas and opinions?

The first step is to recognize, understand and value diversity in all its dimensions. This may require training and education sessions for your staff. One resource to consider is the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion. CCDI offers a regular calendar of events in 16 cities across Canada as well as monthly webinars.

The next is to formulate a diversity and inclusion policy for your workplace. Here are some basic considerations:

  • Do you have relevant and realistic goals based on an objective assessment of your organization? Again, there are third-party resources to assist with this, from CDDI to local chapters of the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA), among others.
  • How diverse is the pool of qualified candidates in your interview process? Who on your team is screening applications and on what grounds are they shortlisting candidates for interviews?
  • What do you do when two candidates are equally qualified for the job and one is from an group that is under-represented on your team? We would recommend hiring the individual from the under-represented group.
  • Is equal work earning equal pay? Does every individual in your organization have equal chance for advancement based on their merits? A workforce that is diverse, but a management team that is not, should be considered a red flag.
  • You can’t measure what you haven’t documented. Diversity and inclusion goals, like any other benchmarks used to define success in your organization, require regular review and assessment.

How we can help?

At intelliFLEX, we are already working with members to develop a Diversity and Inclusion Policy framework that all members can adopt to guide their operations. We hope to have this ready for member review and approval at our Annual General Meeting at CPES2018 on May 23.