to address harassment, bullying and discrimination
with Stephen Hammond
Tip #33 — AUDITS CAN OVERCOME SYSTEMIC DISCRIMINATION
If your workplace doesn't accurately reflect the population (don't worry, no one is looking for an exact replica), it doesn't necessarily mean you're doing something terribly wrong. However, double-check whether your employment and workplace practices might involve direct or inadvertent discrimination or harassment. Ensure your policies and practices do not have systemic barriers working in favour of some and against others. And work hard at letting people know you are friendly and open to all employees and customers. If you are vigilant in these and other areas, you may never have to take interventionist action. But beware. Systemic discrimination is rarely something you can point your finger at and say, "Aha, this is where we're going wrong."
Employers should take time to ensure they are truly inclusive, through either critical analysis, an audit of the workplace or both. If you conduct a formal audit, be prepared for some boat rocking as employees are asked to be critical of strategies that have always worked for them (or you) in the past.
What types of applicants do you tend to attract? Do the potential hires reflect the community? Could hiring from referrals be perpetuating the problem?
Do employees and supervisors know the basics of workplace human rights issues and the importance of accommodating differences?
Who are your clients? If your organization exists in a multicultural community, but that's not your client base, what changes could you make to attract a broader base of clients?
What does your physical space say to clients and employees? Do the pictures or paintings on your wall reflect the breadth of your community?
When employees leave, do you know why? Do you have an anonymous exit-interviewing process to prevent employment mistakes from repeating?
Take time to look over your workplace objectively. Being inclusive is not about affirmative action. It is sound business practice. Today's immigrants are no longer from predominantly white, English-speaking countries. The Aboriginal population is the fastest growing in the country. Women have entered the workforce in large numbers, and persons with disabilities are winning court cases left and right as they insist on basic rights and dignity that for years had been denied them. Individuals with minority religious beliefs are also winning cases in court. The more your organization reflects the population it serves, the better chance you have of enhancing the work you do.
1) Beware of "revolving door" employment equity - since you'll be no further ahead. If you keep looking for people who reflect the community, but they don't stick around, then it's just a revolving door. Do the work before new people arrive.
2) Look at your workplace climate carefully - and make changes. A bad workplace climate might include more than just harassment. Where longstanding workers prevent new employees from doing certain tasks, a negative reputation will take hold. This applies to women as well as persons with dark skin (e.g. male employees regarding women as lacking in physical strength or skills). If such issues are lurking in your workplace, you better fix them right away.
3) Search out successes and ask for details - as they're around. Multiculturalism is no cakewalk, especially in the workplace. However, in today's Canada, a homogeneous workplace is no cakewalk either. There are plenty of success stories about organizations that have concentrated on being more inclusive and have prospered. Ask around and talk to those who have found their strategies successful. People are more than eager to talk about lessons they've learned.