The Commitment Pillar supports the creation of a welcoming workplace through leadership commitment and the incorporation of diversity into your company’s core values.
In This Section
For organizations to truly succeed in attracting and retaining diverse workers they must have workplaces that are welcoming and inclusive to all. They need to be equipped with an understanding of how to effectively connect and attract members of diversity groups.
Leadership is key to transforming an organization to a truly welcoming and inclusive work environment. The leader’s actions encourage employees to support and practice the new types of behavior. There is no substitute for leaders rolling up their sleeves, getting personally involved and modeling the desired attitudes and behaviours.
The actions that a leader can take to chart the course to success are:
1) State the issue and identify the benefits
Ask: Why is this is the right time for becoming a more diverse and welcoming workplace? What risks does your company face by not taking action? What you could gain from taking action? Build a case for diversity that fits your company. Use it to give insight into the issues, the solutions, the risks, and how change will benefit the company. Use the Building a Business Case for Diversity Template provided in this toolkit to build your business case.
Some of the benefits you’ll likely identify are:
- To become the employer of choice in your community
- To attract employees with new talent and experience
- To build a more creative company
- To support your company’s values
- To relate better with customers
- To gain access to new markets and diverse clients
- To meet legal responsibilities
2) Take the pulse of your organization
By understanding where your organization currently is in terms of inclusion, you’ll be better able to set clear and concise goals about what you want to achieve. It is important to look at where you are, where you want to go, and how you’ll know when you’ve arrived.
Use the Diversity Assessment Tool to help you identify the elements that you need to concentrate on, and where to find the resources you need, on the road to becoming a truly welcoming and inclusive workplace. Work your way through this tool until you can answer yes to all the questions.
Use an employee survey to gather thoughts and feedback from your employees. You’ll find more on this in the Employees Pillar.
3) Make becoming a welcoming and inclusive workplace meaningful
People go to extraordinary lengths for causes they believe in. Creating a powerful story for the transformation and letting people know how it will affect the company and themselves will help them believe in the effort and build buy-in. Develop a diversity statement and include diversity in your strategic goals.
4) Use the diverse knowledge, thinking, and talent of employees to achieve the organization’s goals
Involve employees, assign someone to spearhead the initiative, provide the necessary information and resources, give people the authority to act and celebrate successes.
Information, tools and resources to help engage employees in becoming a truly welcoming and inclusive work environment are provided in the Employees Pillar.
5) Remove discriminatory or less than inclusive hiring practices
This is critical to building diverse and inclusive workplaces. Reviewing your company’s HR policies and practices with a diversity lens will help identify those recruitment and selection practices that inadvertently create barriers to diversity. Areas most often in need of attention include broadening recruitment efforts and reducing bias in the selection process.
Information and resources to ensure fair and inclusive hiring practices are provided in the Hiring Practices Pillar.
6) Access resources and supports
For organizations to succeed in building a diverse workplace that is truly welcoming and inclusive they must be equipped with an understanding of how to connect with and support traditionally undervalued groups.
The many community groups, organizations and programs that are available to help your organization connect and attract members of diversity groups can be found in the Partnership Pillar.
A good place to begin building a welcoming and inclusive workplace is to incorporate your commitment to diversity and inclusion into the values of the organization.
Values reflect what your core or guiding principles are. They are often thought of as what you stand for, or those things that are non-negotiable. Your values become the anchor that grounds and guides your decision making.
A generic values statement could be:
- We are committed to providing and promoting a friendly, personalized work environment that genuinely welcomes people from all walks of life.
- Our decisions and actions are based on fairness, integrity and honesty. We are actively engaged in and supportive of our community.
Incorporating a more thoughtful, strategic and powerful statement about your commitment to building diversity and inclusion in your organization communicates commitment to your managers, your employees, your customers and to the community. It also commits your company to take specific steps towards cultivating a workplace that is diverse and welcoming. Here are two powerful statements that include diversity as a corporate value:
McInnes Cooper is committed to creating an inclusive workplace environment that values, respects and supports the different perspectives, cultures and experiences of our clients and our people. We believe that providing a workplace rich in diversity inspires all members of our team to realize their full potential and enhances our ability to deliver innovative and strategic solutions to our clients.
We nurture Valued Relationships Trusting, family-like relationships are fostered at Pete’s because we value people personally and professionally. We take pride in and respect each other’s diversity and connect through our shared values. We put effort into getting to know the people around us and we think it’s important to have fun at work.
The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is committed to fostering an environment that is welcoming and inclusive to our NSCC community and others. The Office leads and supports various educational and awareness activities throughout the year that highlight the value and importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and the promotion of a respectful working and learning environment.
The Community Sector Council of Nova Scotia is committed to employment equity and diversity in the workplace. We welcome and encourage applications from individuals from equity seeking groups such as racialized/visible minorities, Indigenous/Aboriginal peoples, persons with a disability, persons who identify in the LGBTQ+ community and others who reflect the diversity of our Nova Scotia communities.
Here are some things to think about while developing your values statement.
- Link your values statement to your company mission and vision. For example, if innovation is a part of your company’s mission and vision, you might highlight how innovation comes out of working with people who have diverse perspectives. If you don’t already have a statement that articulates the company mission and vision it will be helpful to do that now.
- Clearly identify your company’s core values and the principles that guide how your company operates.
- Include the things your company believes about diversity and creating a welcoming workplace.
- Talk about ways that having a diverse workforce will benefit your company.
- Show how you want your company to work with diversity in the future.
- Include words that are positive and inspiring.
- Be open to change.
Use the Developing a Diversity Statement Worksheet to help you write your values statement.
Including your commitment to building an inclusive and welcoming workplace in your strategic goals will help you make diversity a priority.
Here are the steps to setting diversity goals:
Step 1: Make creating a diverse and welcoming workplace a priority
- Start by talking about your vision for making your company more diverse and welcoming.
- Look at ways your company already incorporates these principles into its values, mission, and vision.
- If you have not already developed a values statement that includes the principles of diversity do so now. See the Values Statement section above for information and a worksheet to help you write your values statement.
Step 2: Evaluate your workplace
- You’ll be better able to set clear and concise goals about what you want to achieve if you have a good understanding of where you are now, where you want to go, and how you’ll know when you’ve arrived. There are a number of tools and resources to help you with this.
- Use the Diversity Assessment Tool to help you identify the elements that you need to concentrate on.
- Use an employee survey to gather thoughts and feedback from your employees. You will find information on this tool in the Employees Pillar.
Step 3: Talk about your vision for diversity
- Meet with your employees to talk about diversity and to get their buy-in and support. Show them the results of your Diversity Assessment. Point out where you need to improve and highlight where your company is doing well.
Step 4: Set goals and objectives
- Once you have a clear picture of where you are and where you want to be it is time to make a plan. You may not be able to deal with all the issues you identified in your assessments right away. Prioritize the issues and then focus on 3 to 5 key issues at a time.
Make sure you set SMART objectives:
Specific: Be clear about what you want to do.
Measureable: Identify how you can track or quantify your progress toward reaching your goal.
Attainable: Make sure each goal you set is one your company can reach.
Realistic: Work with things you have control over.
Timely: Set a timeline for reaching each goal.
Use the Diversity Goals Action Plan Template to help set your goals.
Company Policies and Practices
Having a diversity policy or embedding into existing policy can help you to optimize your diversity strategy. Diversity policies such as anti-bullying, anti-harassment, flexible work, grievance, complaints and safety raise awareness and understanding with staff, customers and other stakeholders. They provide a clear case for action builds active leadership commitment and engages managers and employees at all levels.
Click here to download a Sample Diversity Policy and use the Diversity Policy Template to help you with writing your diversity policy.
Here are some key elements to consider when writing your diversity policy:
- Know your obligations under the law. Information is provided in the Relevant Laws section.
- Outline complaint and investigation procedures should harassment or discrimination occur.
- Identify the people in the company who are responsible for carrying out the policy.
- Outline the responsibilities that people have under the policy, such as how to act when they become aware of behaviors that goes against the company’s policy and procedures.
- Explain how the policy will be monitored and enforced.
- Outline the investigation procedures and what will happen if an employee has gone against the policy.
- State how and when the company will let people know about the policy, such as making it part of a newsletter, performance review, orientation, or training program.
- Give a timeline for reviewing the policy.
- Define terms that you use in your policy. For example, a harassment policy should define what you mean by harassment, and include an example to make the definition clear.
- Define recording and management information systems to measure progress against diversity goals.
Once you develop your policy, evaluate it to make sure it follows these principles:
- Short and concise
- Easy to read, easy to understand
The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission meets regularly with organizations to discuss human rights principles at work and to support organizations seeking to develop or improve their workplace policies.
To arrange a consultation call 902-424-4111 (Halifax) or toll-free at 1-877-269-7699.
A policy is only as good as how it is enforced
To keep your policies active, keep these things in mind:
- Write it down
- Let people know the policies immediately
- Make sure policies are enforced
Communicating Your Commitment to Diversity
How to embed the principles of diversity into your organization
Once you have laid the principles of diversity into the foundation and structures of your company by writing your diversity statement, establishing policies and practice guidelines and setting goals it is important to communicate internally to employees and externally to customers and other stakeholders.
Consider using some or all of the following strategies to communicate your commitment to diversity and build a culture of inclusion.
- Let all your employees know your strategy and make sure they can easily source, understand and share your company policies and practices and your goals. Post your diversity statement in a highly visible area such as a lunch room, staff lounge, and front reception.
- Post your diversity statement on your company website, job postings, email signatures, newsletters and promotional materials.
- Display posters and wall art that highlights diversity in the workplace. Put these where everyone can see them to show your commitment to ‘walking the talk’ about your belief in diversity in the workplace.
- Encourage activities that give your strategy life and keep it fresh and alive. For instance: create a diversity calendar that highlights holidays from other cultures and traditions; share calendar dates that have been set aside for special awareness with everyone in the workplace; hold events, celebrations, and activities that focus on diversity; track your company’s efforts to create a diverse and welcoming workplace so that you can watch how your company evolves and develops. Go the Employee Pillar for more ideas on creating a welcoming and inclusive work environment.
- Demonstrate that your commitment is more than just words. Send updates to show the progress you are making towards your diversity goals.
Planning and implementing a strategy to communicate internally with employees and externally with clients and other stakeholders will help ensure that you achieve the desired outcomes for your organization, your employees and the workplace culture. You may want to use the Diversity Communication Plan Template to plan your communication strategy.
As an employer it is your responsibility to ensure your employees' rights under employment law are protected. It is also up to business leaders and managers to create an enjoyable work culture that encourages communication, ideas, growth, and work-life balance. Following employment law is a minimum requirement for cultivating an environment that fulfills, motivates, and inspires employees each and every day. Not knowing or abiding to your legal obligations as an employer can cost you in other ways. Look at these facts:
- Hundreds of employment lawsuits are filed every day
- The hourly rate for a lawyer to defend a lawsuit varies from $200.00 for a junior lawyer to $600.00 for senior counsel
- The vast majority of employment lawsuits are won by the plaintiff
- One in five employment law jury verdicts are for over a million-dollars
This section provides the information you need to fulfill the rights of your employees and protect your business.
The Nova Scotia Human Rights Act is a law that makes it illegal to discriminate in this province. This law applies to private businesses as well as to the provincial government, and all of its departments and agencies. However, when Nova Scotians do business with the Government of Canada, or with a business regulated by the federal government, the Canadian Human Rights Act applies instead. If you are not sure which law applies or are looking for more information, call the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission at 1-877-269-7699, or in the Halifax area at 902-424-4111.
Protect the Rights of Your Employees
For employees it can be scary to speak up if they are not being treated fairly. Your company policy needs to be clear about the rights of workers and should identify complaint and investigation procedures for harassment or discrimination. It should also identify the people in the company who are responsible for carrying out the policy and outline their responsibilities under the policy. Information and resources to help you write company policies to protect the human rights of your employees are available in the Policies and Practices section of this toolkit.
The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission is charged with administering the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act. This Act makes it illegal to discriminate in Nova Scotian workplaces based on any of the following characteristics:
- Ethnic, national or aboriginal origin
- Sex (including pregnancy and pay equity)
- Sexual orientation
- Physical disability
- Mental disability
- Family status
- Marital status
- Source of income
- Harassment (and sexual harassment)
- Irrational fear of contracting an illness or disease
- Association with protected groups or individuals
- Political belief, affiliation or activity
- Gender Identity
- Gender Expression
The Act also:
- Protects equal pay for the same or similar work performed by males and females,
- Prohibits individuals who are in a position to grant or deny a benefit or advancement from engaging in unwelcome sexual solicitation with the person who is seeking or receiving the benefit, and
- Protects individuals who have made complaints under the Act or who have assisted with the complaint process from retaliation.
The Nova Scotia Human Rights Act applies to private businesses in Nova Scotia However, when Nova Scotians do business with the Government of Canada, or if the business is regulated by the federal government, the Canadian Human Rights Act applies instead. If you are not sure which law applies or are looking for more information, contact the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission at 1-877-269-7699, or in the Halifax area at 902-424-4111.
Duty to Accommodate
Employers also have what is called a “duty to accommodate." This means they must do what is reasonable to allow a person to get, or keep, a job. Accommodating a person may mean allowing shorter work hours, changing job duties, or providing equipment that will let a person continue to work. All employers must try to accommodate the needs of their employees up to the point of undue hardship. Where this point is depends on several things, including the size of the organization and the role of the employee within the organization. For example, the larger the organization, the greater is the ability to accommodate. Accommodation does not have to be perfect, but it should be reasonable. More information and support is available.
For decades, many people had to retire at age 65 whether they wanted to or not. The Nova Scotia Human Rights Act was amended on July 1, 2009 to prohibit mandatory retirement policies, plans, schemes or practices. As a result, most employers in Nova Scotia can no longer have mandatory retirement policies. There will still be situations where, for legitimate reasons based on job requirements, an employer can require a person to retire. However, this can no longer be based on an arbitrary age limit.
More information on human rights can be found on the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission website.
The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission meets regularly with organizations to discuss human rights principles at work and to support organizations seeking to develop or improve their workplace policies.
To arrange a consultation call 902-424-4111 (Halifax) or toll-free 1-877-269-7699.
For information about the federal Canadian Human Rights Act, visit the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
Links to Other Agencies and Resources
The Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work has a Job Accommodation Service. This fee based service offers advice, consultations, and assessment services to assist companies in complying with their legal duty to accommodate.
Other Organizations in Nova Scotia with Human Rights Responsibilities include:
Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women
Nova Scotia Disabled Persons Commission
Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS)
You can find resources to help you understand and accommodate specific disabilities by going to local advocacy groups and organizations that serve people with disabilities, and websites for national organizations like the Canadian National Institute for the Blind or Canadian Mental Health Association.