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THE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE Not that long ago, having a diverse workforce was the right thing to do. But now it's a business imperative. With a shrinking labour market, and an increasingly diverse customer base, organizations that ignore diversity do so at their own peril. The diversity imperative Organizations must leverage internal diversity to stay competitive BY SHANNON KLlE T wo months ago, Jeff Waldman's employer, a large financial insti- tution in Toronto, asked h i to participate in a career fair geared toward people with disabilities. Wald- man, who has a hearing impairment, was more than happy to share his employ- ment experiences with potential recruits. "The whole concept was to get people out there to actually realize that (em- ployment with a disability) can happen," said Waldman. who works as an HR con- sultant. Tapping into an organization's di- verseworiforcc to sliowother job candi- dates that the organization is a good place for them to work is one way & ! - a nizations are leveraging diversity to a competitive advantage. With the coming talent shortage, di- versity recruitment is becoming an in- creasingly important way to meet an or- ganization's labour needs. "It's going to he important that we pull talent from every possible area. If I don't have diversity as one of my plat- forms, I can't attract from 100 per cent of the pool," said Colleen Moorehead, co- founder of the Judy Project, a Toronto- based group that idvocires for the ad- vancement of women to executive ranks. "I've got to attract from 100 per cent of the pool, otherwise competitively I'm putting myself in a worse position." Once an organization has a diverse workforce - people with different abili- ties, different racial and cultural hack- Nova Scotia Public Service Commission diversity management consultant Charlie Macdonald, pictured with his guide dog, says a grounds and different genders -that di- diverse workforce can help an organization better serve the needs of its clients. versity also enriches the thinking and development process. Peoole from differ- ent backgrounds can see how a product "The business case is around a more lic servants and diversity management province's foeus on diversity. Other pro- or service would be viewed by different effective and responsive public service for leaders. grams the province has created include populations and can anticipate problems where understanding that diversity In terms of recruitment, the three a diversity talent pool and a diversity ac- or opportunities others might miss. . . - brings different perspectives and innova- g r o u ~ the oublic service is focusine on commodation fund. s ~~~ ~ ~ '.It allows different perspectives tionio policies, programs and services," are ~borigi;ials, racially visible The talent pool is made up of about around problem solving. It eniiances pro- said Charlie Macdonald, a diversity man- and persons with disabilities. In Nova 3W ire-screened job canhdates who fall ducrivity through engagement. All of agemenr consultant with the Nova Scotia Scotia, these groups makc up 18per cent into one of the three designated groups. those areas are very critical to being Public Service Commission. '%Brulding tile of the working-agepopulation, with 11.7 In the past year, 34 people from this pool competitive and being productive," said competencies to be able to serve all citl- per cent of them participating in the have been placed in casual positions in Moorehead, who is also the president zens, wherever they're from and whatev- labour force,according to 2001 Canadian the oublic service. and CEO of corporate training company er their background and cultwe, is a re- census data. "It's U enuy point, generally through I Nexient Learning in Toronto. "By having sponsibiry ofgovernment.The way to do According to the 2005-2006 survey of casual emolosment oo~ortunities. so diversity in the thought process of your that very quickly and very effectivelyis the province's puhlic service, people they get experience with government," organization, you create new ideas and to have a representative puhlic service." from these groups make up only 7.7 per said Macdonald. "But it also gives de- breakthrough ideas." A diverse workforce can also help an most common language among resi- an increase from 7.2 per cent in2&-2005. an ~.. ~ ~~ --~ In Halifax, after English, Arabic is the cent of oublic servants. However. this is ~artments ou~ortunitv set hiehlv ~ " to ~ skilled, competent individuals for their ~ organization better serve the needs of its dents. To help all members of the puhlic "lt's not reflective of the population," short-term needs." clients through a deeper understanding service, be they in health care or educa- said Macdonald. "It's been a challenge The diversity accommodation fund of the issues these clients face. tion, better meet the needs of a culture and that's why we have an affirmative provided $29,000 in the past year for spe- That's one of the reasons the Nova that is vastly different from the tradition- action and fair hiring policy." cial equipment to help employees in the Scotia Public Service Conimission has al Gaelic cultureof Nova Scoria the Pub- That policy is under review and a new - oublic sector with disabities. and Mac- committed to increasing diversity in the lie Service Commission has instituted draft, based on best practices, is expect- ranks of the province'spublic servants. mandatory diversity trainh~g all pub- ed to he tabled shortly as part of the for See Page 17 I HELPING Helping employers see past their fears I Continued from Page 15 six-year career in HR. "About half of the actual em- disabilitv. hut all he needs a t work is aphone that hecan turn donald expects to surpass that ployers I've spoken to have no UD loud enough so he can hear. figure in the next year. understanding about how to ac- - ~ a l d m a n - i salso one of 15 By providing the funds, indi- tually deal with somebody who HR professionals who volunteer vidual department managers no has some sort of challenge," he with Ability Online, an online longer have to worry about said. "Their first gut instinct is social support network for whether or not a person with a to almost back off." young people with disabilities. disability will be too costly to And this reaction prevents This fall, the organization employ in a certain position. employers from seeing past launched a job readiness pro- Emnlovers' fears and igno- Waldman's hearing impairment gram. Waldman answers ques- ' rance around disability aceom- to seeing his skills. ~ m ~ l o ~ e tions about employment equity rs modation is the one barricr that are afraid it will take too much and what an employer can and Waldman has faced during his to accommodate Waldman's can't ask of a job candidate.
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