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5 steps to create a more diverse and inclusive organization

By ATB Financial 11 November 2020 5 min read

Years ago when Louis Martyres, business analyst at ATB, was in a recruiting role, he had to turn down a star candidate. “I remembered we had to say ‘No’ because the technology we had in place wouldn’t work for her. That was heartbreaking. Never in my recruiting life did I have to say ‘No’ to a star candidate.”

For Martyres, this was one of the defining moments in his career. Afterwards, he felt called to be a leader for greater diversity and inclusion in his workplaces. “I got passionate about diversity and inclusion. I started to question the obstacles and systems around people. If things are not fair, we have to fix it.”

Martyres has been part of the team that added ATB’s eleventh guiding principle — courageously be yourself and a true ally for each other. As a leader of the organization’s Pride Network, Martyres proudly champions the allyship journey map developed by the network to help people identify where they are in their journey and support their growth as an ally.

Not only is increasing diversity and inclusion the right thing to do, as Martyres put it, it also drives greater business performance for organizations. Research from Gartner found that companies with more inclusive workforces are 120 per cent more likely to hit their financial goals. That’s not all:

  • McKinsey found that racially and ethnically diverse companies are more likely to outperform their competitors.
  • Leadership performance company Cloverpop found that diverse teams make faster and better decisions the majority of the time.
  • Bersin by Deloitte Talent Management study found diverse companies are 2.3 times more likely to have greater cash flow per employee. While diverse teams are 1.7 times more innovative than non-diverse companies in the same industry.


What is the difference between diversity and inclusion?

Diversity and inclusion are not the same thing. “Diversity is very much a numbers thing. It’s something you can measure and track with demographic statistics,” says Martyres.

Inclusion is about the behaviours of the organization and its people. As the Conference Board of Canada explains, inclusion is “a dynamic state of operating in which diversity is leveraged to create a fair, healthy and high-performing organization. An inclusive environment ensures equitable access to resources and opportunities for all. It also enables individuals and groups to feel safe, respected, engaged, motivated and valued for who they are and for their contributions toward organizational and societal goals.”

For Martyres, he sees another state of being for organizations beyond diversity and inclusion—belonging. “Belonging is what we’re striving for. If diversity is being invited to the dance and inclusivity is about being asked to dance. Belonging is to dance like no one is watching. It is the culture piece. It’s the whole environment you create in an organization so that everyone can be their true and authentic selves,” he says.


5 steps to create a more diverse and inclusive organization

For leaders who recognize the benefits of being more diverse and inclusive, Martyres recommends the following five steps as a starting point for their journey:

Step1: Ask yourself if your organization is representative of the community at all levels. If not, recognize that your organization needs to be more inclusive. Naming the issue will help start important conversations. It’s critical that this step is acknowledged and embraced by senior leadership. Both Deloitte and Accenture list making diversity a priority at the senior leadership level as necessary for the success of any initiative.

Step2: Collect feedback and data from your employees and listen to it. To understand where your organization has room to grow, talk to your employees at all levels of your company and listen to what they have to stay. “Inclusion requires us to deeply listen. If people are running into issues with the way you do business—as an employee or as a customer—you’ve got to believe them. The problems they’re having are real and you have to care. If you don’t, you won’t develop real solutions,” Martyres says. Martyres suggests listening to human insights data from your organization too. “You want to listen to a number of different data points, both qualitative and quantitative,so you can identify what you do well and where you can improve,” he says.

Step3: Do the inner work. While learning about your organization from your employees, you might discover as a leader that you have room to grow personally. As an owner of a company or a leader in an organization, you have incredible influence on its culture and processes. “Reflect on your own biases, how you see the world and how you create strategy,” says Martyres. If you need a place to start, he recommends taking Harvard’s implicit bias tests as part of Project Implicit. Martyrs also suggests diversifying your social circles and social media feeds. The best way to overcome your biases is to challenge them with new perspectives.

Step4: Identify systemic challenges, like unconsciously biased hiring practices. Martyres says removing practices that can trigger biases in your organizational systems is as important as addressing your own personal biases. “For hiring, you can remove names or gender markers off applications as an example,” he says. The goal is to remove the things that could trigger biases in the systems in your company or provide people with resources so they can spot and check their own biases. Another example of spotting a bias in the system is to audit your hiring process. Check how diverse your candidates are at each stage of the process and provide reports to hiring leaders.

Step5: Develop a scorecard to track and measure your company’s progress on diversity and inclusion initiatives. Deloitte recommends tracking metrics for recruiting, who is getting promoted, how people are getting compensation, employee turnover and supplier diversity as a start. With metrics in place, outline what behaviours you want to see from employees and add them to reviews so teams and leaders can be held accountable for results.


Efforts to transform your organization to be more diverse and inclusive require courageous and vulnerable leadership. “You have to do the work and the work can be very humbling,” says Martyres. Many people in underrepresented communities have experienced many challenges in their lives and you can’t expect them to do all the work to fix these issues in your organization. You have to make an effort and demonstrate you’ve earned the right to participate in these conversations, he says, adding: “At some point in the conversation you may feel angry or overwhelmed with guilt or sadness. Remember that diversity and inclusion isn’t about you or making you feel better.. The focus should always be on providing equitable access to opportunities to communities that haven't had access to them before.”


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