The Workplace of the Future: A cross-collaborative ideation session for diversity and inclusion
Video by Ava Nasiri
This year’s second inaugural BWT sponsor summit, The Workplace of the future: HR Best Practices for Diversity and Inclusion, brought together leaders and human resources champions from our sponsoring companies to discuss HR best practices for promoting diversity and inclusion. The event was an invaluable opportunity for BWT members to openly discuss challenges, initiatives and new ideas to further an inclusive environment within their organizations. Carmela Thomson, founder of BWT and a member of the TELUS team, opened the event with a clear vision for the event: through pooling of efforts and the creation of strategic relationships, we could inspire thought leadership and tangible recommendations.
Speakers included Agnes Garaba, Head of HR at SAP Canada; Sarah McKinnon, Director of Coaching & Learning Solutions at TELUS, with Salina Keraj, Talent Acquisition Consultant from TELUS; and Kristin Bower, Manager of Diversity and Inclusion from Vancity. MCs Ryan Wong, Engineering Services Manager at SAP, and Sarah McKinnon facilitated the event, encouraging avid table discussions following each session. Participants shared their thoughts and stories of successes and challenges following each topic, with the event concluding on a broader group discussion to “cross-pollinate” ideas across tables and bolster action.
Agnes Garaba: Skills of the Future
Agnes opened her talk with a clear call-to-action: organizations need to understand the skills they need for the future and empower their workforce for life-long learning & development, lest they be forgotten by rapidly changing markets. We are now in the fourth industrial revolution, a “combination of cyber and physical spaces coming together”, and the world of business is changing at a faster rate than ever before. She challenged the notion that re-skilling is limited to a focus for HR; this impacts business professionals and leaders at all levels.
Sarah McKinnon and Salina Keraj: Growing a Diverse Pipeline of Talent
Sarah introduced the four focus areas for TELUS’ Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Council: Women in Leadership, Women in Skilled Trades & Technical Roles, Persons with Disabilities in Supervisory Roles, and Minorities in Skilled Trades & Technical Roles. While TELUS’ efforts in D&I are industry-leading, they found that these focus areas required the co-operation of stakeholders and the application of data analytics to find areas for improvement.
As a Talent Acquisition Consultant, the challenge of encouraging female applicants toward Digital Home Technicians initially seemed daunting for Salina until she realized that her hesitance and concerns were key to understanding the barriers-to-entry for others. Presentations with women’s organizations gave her an insight into the value of having a role model, such as a current female technician, within the room to talk about a technician’s “day in the life”.
Kristin Bower: Unconscious Bias
“If you have a brain, you have bias” says Kristin Bower, who opened her talk with a frank discussion on the role unconscious bias plays in our day-to-day decision making, and how it’s preventing us from pursuing innovative ideas and inclusive communication. She explained how a combination of factors including bite-sized learning modules, communication across all levels of their organization, and tangible use cases led to a 94% completion rate of unconscious bias training by Vancity employees. The true value of the training has been measured—Vancity employees continue to challenge their own biases by questioning themselves and each other and have changed their language to be more inclusive of others.
Engaging discussions… but where do we go from here?
The three topics presented from our speakers activated engaging discussions on the challenges faced in their own organizations. Preparing for the future of work with a multi-generation and multi-career stage workforce requires training on creativity, empathy and innovation. These soft skills not only humanize the workforce but is what’s truly essential in growing a diverse and inclusive workplace. Recruiting for a diverse pipeline of talent can be hard if applicants who apply are limited but perhaps more needs to be done in drawing minority communities. Building community relations with non-profit companies and schools along with a showcase of diversity within the company allows for a bigger talent pool to draw from. Finally, increasing awareness and recognition of unconscious biases can be done by using company-specific, real world examples. Ensuring the inclusion of every person in the room within videos & training with relatable scenarios of negative unconscious bias could help spark greater empathy and understanding of its prejudice.
As the summit drew to a close, all groups within the audience got together to share their ideas. The session concluded with call-to-actions to enable knowledge transfer amongst BWT members, with a focus on sharing the implementation of inclusion-driven recommendations, as well as establishing forums for discussion on BWT’s online platforms. The event showcased how the Sponsor Summit continues to be uniquely positioned to provide organizations to learn best practices, establish inclusivity in their workplace, and provide meaningful opportunities for empower diverse employees.
We would like to give a big thank you to all our volunteers and sponsors who supported execution on this event. We would also like to thank our facilitators and speakers for their contributions to such a memorable and meaningful event. Finally, the engagement amongst the audience was outstanding; there was excellent curiosity and passion for the topic. On behalf of Carmela, Camelia, and the BWT Governance team, our sincere thanks to our sponsors, the events team, our volunteers and to you, our greatest asset.
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