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4 Steps to Take Towards a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace

Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Guest Writers
Human Resources
Beth Clarke

In Diversity and inclusion: Not just another item on the to-do list we talked about why is it important for nonprofits to build diverse and inclusive workplaces.

As I mentioned in the first blog, the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) undertook a survey in 2013 that illuminated the leadership of nonprofit organizations in Ontario. What they found was that nonprofit leadership did not reflect the communities which they served.  In this environment, despite a clear value proposition, diversity and inclusion initiatives often take the back seat. However, as Canadian society continues to become more diverse, and our economies and communities more interconnected, charities and nonprofits need to start prioritizing diversity and inclusion in order to remain effective in accomplishing their missions.

But knowing that it is important is different from actually doing it. So this time around, let’s talk about what you can do to make your nonprofit organization truly diverse and inclusive: what steps to take and where to start. Remember, you do not need to start with complex strategies and comprehensive initiatives; just taking small first steps can already get you headed in the right direction.

At TRIEC, we’ve been working with nonprofit leaders in Ontario through our training program: Leading the Conversation: Inclusion in Non-Profits. Through this process, we identified four main building blocks to help nonprofits build more inclusive workplaces.

1. Start with awareness and assessment

Often, the easiest place to start is with yourself: what is your own cultural competence, blinds spots and biases. Your perceptions have been constructed by culture and will differ greatly depending where you are. Consider what are your expectations of a manager, of team work, of receiving and delivering feedback as well as of gender roles. Recognize that your colleagues with diverse cultural backgrounds might have different beliefs and expectations than you do.

Once aware of your own views and perceptions, it is easier to identify how cultural beliefs, attitudes and practices influence your workplace inclusion through all the stages of employment. Some questions to get you started include:

  • What is the value proposition of diversity and inclusion for our organization?
  • What is the make-up of our leadership team and our broader workforce? Is it reflective of the community we serve?
  • What are our priorities for building a diverse and inclusive workplace (e.g., recruiting and developing skilled immigrant talent; achieving the same cultural representation within the workplace as within our population, clients, community; ensuring equitable representation of skilled immigrants at all levels of the organization)?
  • What are we currently doing to support those priorities? Where are there obvious areas for improvement?
  • Who needs to be part of these conversations and initiatives?

2. Analyze how you find and keep talent

Recruitment, selection and onboarding processes often contain unintended barriers and biases that prevent diverse talent from being as successful. These can include policies like not recognizing education from foreign universities, to unconscious biases such as hiring managers preferring candidates with experiences and backgrounds that reflect their own.

To get started, consider: what are your recruitment and onboarding practices?  What’s working and what can be done better? Then, identify best practices and approaches in recruitment and selection of diverse talent as well as in developing a workplace where all new hires can become productive quickly:

  • Does your organization have a recruitment policy to remove barriers that may keep immigrants from applying or qualifying for positions?
  • Are your recruitment and interviewing processes bias-free?
  • Do you have on-boarding practices designed to help newcomers understand the organization and their role within it?

3. Review communications and development of human capital

A cornerstone of an inclusive workplace is a staff team with strong cultural competency and cross-cultural communication skills. Teams trained in cross-cultural communications and teamwork have a greater potential for successful collaboration that leads to results for your organization.

These skills can be built through a wide range of methods and there are tools available for almost any budget. Options include everything from individual online learning to team-building exercises. Take some time to identify what will work best for your team so that they develop the skills needed to work together successfully.

4. Start outlining your diversity strategy and work with leadership

Now that you know your organization’s strengths and challenges with diversity and inclusion, you need support from the top and leaders to take the process forward.

Start by identifying your leaders and champions who already value diversity and can lead the conversation in the workplace. Then, think about how to develop others in your organization to champion and lead practices in workplace inclusion.

Finally, come up with a plan for your organization to navigate change successfully. Generally, it is useful to develop a three and six-months plan that outlines how you’re going to move forward and what changes you anticipate in the next three and six months.

Remember, you don’t need to do it all at once

The secret here is to go slowly and take small steps to make big change. Start by identifying a few changes that don’t require extra resources or approval of the board of directors yet are measurable and evident. Some things can be done right away while others will take a little bit of time and work.

Also, remember you’re not alone. Ask for information and share best practices with your peers-colleagues from other nonprofit organizations. As well, there are many organizations that can assist and online resources like templates, case studies, policies and other useful materials (such as those found on our e-learning hub trieccampus.ca) that can be adopted by your organization.

I wish all the best in your diversity and inclusion journey.

About the Author

Beth ClarkeBeth Clarke is the Director, Employer Programs, at the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC). TRIEC is currently running “Leading the Conversation: Inclusion in Non-Profits,” a free training program for nonprofit organizations in Ontario. In addition, the TRIEC Campus offers a range of online learning resources for organizations seeking to build more diverse and inclusive workplaces. To learn more, visit www.triec.ca.

Guest contributions represent the personal opinions and insights of the authors and may not reflect the views or opinions of Imagine Canada.

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Submitted by Susan McKay on
Great article Beth. Having been in recruitment for many years, I believe in your values when it comes to your recruitment strategy. I find it challenging when hiring managers are not on the same page and understand the benefits of hiring from a diverse background. Instead many are looking at candidates with blinders on...and want potential hires to be a version of themselves. Diversity in all aspects is a powerful hiring tool.

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