Written by Raman Kang | Cover story Vol. 18, Issue 15 | Published by the Source Forum of Diversity

February 22, 2018

Room for Diversity in a Changing Workplace

The 2018 Community Summit, Brave New Work, invites audiences to consider how society can be successful in a changing world (Feb. 26–Mar. 7).

“This year’s Community Summit, Brave New Work, asks a critical question: "How can we thrive in the changing world of work?’” says Janet Webber, executive director at SFU Public Square, a community engagement program at Simon Fraser University (SFU).

Brave New Work

The Community Summit, a week-long event, is meant to make audiences aware of various current issues in the world of work, prompt to action and work together to find solutions for a better future.

“We hope to appeal to a broad base of attendees, inviting as many people into the conversations as possible, with the goal to bring increased and focused attention to the issue over the Summit week,” says Webber.

This year, Brave New Work encourages audiences, from as many sectors as possible, to discuss the topic of how technological growth is changing what we do and how we do it.

“One of the biggest challenges in responding to this new world of work is creating a shared understanding of the issues. This is why knowledge mobilization is vitally important,” she says.

According to Webber, in order to thrive in this new world of work, individuals, businesses, governments and educational institutions must collaborate.

The summit’s organizers hope to provide an environment where everyone will feel welcomed, valued and heard.

The Future of Jobs

“We need to be looking at how to retrain people whose jobs may be shifting as technology leaps across different parts of our economy,” says Sarah Doyle, director of Policy and Research at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, an institute that aims to advance the growth of the innovation economy in Canada through research, piloting work and bringing together stakeholders from different sectors.

Representing the Brookfield Institute at Brave New Work, Doyle will be talking about the future of work in Canada.

Sarah Doyle, director of Policy and Research at the Brookfield Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

“I’m excited about what our colleagues at SFU are doing, this topic deserves attention,” says Doyle. She explains having conversations about economic growth, innovation and inclusion with people from across sectors and across the country is critical.

One of the themes the Toronto-based Brookfield Institute will focus on is the future of work and skills.

“We recognize how important innovation is as a driver for Canada’s economy and for well-being, but at the same time recognize the disruption that technological change, in particular, can bring about,” says Doyle.

She explains that focusing on the support workers need to transition through this change is essential and for some, this will require new approaches to training. Doyle says in order to reflect the diversity of Canada within the workforce, there needs to be more attention paid to broadening access to education programs and training opportunities, including digital skill development.

“While the number of programs for teaching digital literacy and coding is growing, access to these programs, and in some cases to an internet connection, remains uneven across Canada’s population,” she adds.

A report published by the Brookfield Institute in 2016, The Talented Mr. Robot: The impact of automation on Canada’s workforce, explains that about 42 per cent of Canada’s labour force is likely to be impacted by automation in the near future.

That doesn’t mean all of these jobs are going to be lost but it does mean many of them may change, which is why retraining is important.

“I think we need to pay particular attention to sub segments of the population that may be disproportionately impacted by these changes. There is a need for policy and program solutions that respond both to the changing talent needs of employers, and to Canada’s goal of building an inclusive innovation economy,” says Doyle.

Workplace language training necessary for success

“Stats show immigrants earn less than the local-born professional person. We advocate for the immigrant that’s perceived as a lower class employee,” says Queenie Choo, CEO of SUCCESS, an organization committed to showing employers the advantages of having diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

In order to increase diversity Choo says companies need to look into “inclusive hiring practices.” She adds there needs to be blind recruitment processes to overcome any biases.

“Companies should be looking at skill sets, establishing diversity and inclusion committees, using diverse recruitment teams,” she says.

According to Choo, who came to Canada 36 years ago, one of the biggest challenges facing immigrants is the language barrier in Canada.

“We want to advocate for language training, particularly workplace language training. Language is a basic means to reach out to people,” she says.

Choo explains many immigrants have the skills but “they need to acquire the professional lingo.”

According to Choo, the future of diversity in the workplace is a journey that should start at the top.

Diversity, says Choo, is not a lip service.

“It should be very much driven by senior leadership, and then permeate towards the rest of the staff. We’ve got to give the opportunities [in order] to give people a chance to excel,” she says.

Among other topics, Brave New Work will be focusing on is diversity, equity and inclusion in the future of work.

Panelists Iglika Ivanova, senior economist for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and Patrick MacKenzie, CEO of Immigrant Employment Council of British Columbia, will discuss how organizations can make workplaces more inclusive and diverse through hiring practices, policies and procedures as work practices change.

This article was originally published on Source Forum of Diversity on Februray 22, 2018.