Centre for Employment Innovation’s Key Learnings (2017 – 2022)

Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Access (IDEA)

Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Access (IDEA)
What is Diversity?
  • Diversity can be defined in terms of observable and non-observable characteristics: 



Examples: Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Functional Abilities, Religion, and Age 

Examples: Socioeconomic Status, Education, Organizational Tenure, Personality Characteristics, Cognitive Abilities, Political Beliefs, Sexual Orientation, and Cultural Values 


  • The concept of diversity symbolizes the diverse and unique perspectives and methods that people from different social identity groups bring to the workplace.  
  • Diversity is an understanding that individuals are unique and different. 
What is Inclusion?
  • Inclusion puts the concept and practice of diversity into action by creating an environment of involvement, respect, and connection where the richness of perspectives and backgrounds are used to create a successful and welcoming organization. 
  • Inclusion brings together diverse forces and resources in a way that is beneficial.
  • An inclusive environment ensures equitable access to resources and opportunities for all people.
  • Inclusion 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.
    What is the difference between Diversity & Inclusion (D&I)?
    Diversity  Inclusion  
    • Diversity is a representation of many different types of people 

    • Inclusion is the deliberate act of welcoming diversity & creating an environment where all different kinds of people thrive and succeed 


    • Diversity is what you have 

    • Inclusion is what you do 


    What is a diverse and inclusive organization?
    • A diverse & Inclusive organization has specific D&I policies and practices 
    • All staff members value diversity while acknowledging the cultural contexts of the various communities that they serve.   
    • The organization is open to shifting the workplace culture to align with the values and goals of an inclusive and equitable environment. 
    What are the benefits of having a diverse workplace?
    • Individuals from diverse backgrounds bring a fresh and new perspective to the workplace  
    • Better problem solving and increased productivity 
    • Workplace diversity leads to innovation 
    • Supporting diversity in the workplace helps attract and retain talent. 
    • Workplace diversity creates greater opportunities for professional growth 
    • Increased innovation and creativity (as a result of diversity) can help motivate employees and foster a sense of belonging 
    • Reduced interpersonal conflict and improved teamwork  
    • Workplace diversity leads to better decision making 
    • Workplace diversity can increase employee engagement 
    • Workplace diversity can improve cultural awareness 
      What are some challenges to making the workplace diverse, accessible, equitable, and inclusive?
      • Resistance to change  
      • Employees/employers holding racial or unconscious biases 
      • Reluctance to embark on the journey of becoming diverse and inclusive due to the fear of the unknown as organizations may not have the resources and/or knowledge to engage in organizational change 
      • Managers and executive directors do not know how to establish a successful working relationship with underrepresented staff members 
      • The non-existence of diversity and inclusion policies 
      • Organizations do not have a conceptual framework to clarify their understanding of workforce diversity in human service organizations 
      • Not having the financial resources to develop D&I policies (e.g. inability to hire someone to take on this initiative). 
      • Management does not know how to effectively communicate the importance of having an equal and diverse workplace to staff members 
      • Employers/organizations may not know how to manage a diverse workforce 
        What is Diversity Management?

        Diversity management refers to organizational actions that aim to promote greater inclusion of employees from different backgrounds into an organization’s structure through specific policies and practices. 

        What are some practices for Diversity Management?
        • Both managers, HR, and executive directors must define the motive(s) behind their interest in diversity and identify the specific ways diversity will benefit their organizations. 
        • Integrate elements of diversity, equity, and inclusion into management and employee performance reviews and professional development plans. 
        • Having a vision of diversity should be demonstrated and communicated by top-level management. 
        • Have a diverse board and leadership team. 
        • Approach diversity with patience, optimism, creativity, persistence, a willingness to learn from failure, a responsiveness in the face of discomfort and disagreement, and a readiness to present and pursue multiple options and rationales to advance diversity. 
        • Listen to others and give them time to tell their story in their own way and words. 
        • Recruit historically marginalized groups and include inclusive language in job ads. 
        • Review policies that affect work/life balance and make changes to reflect changing family structures, and home situations.
            How can organizations create an inclusive and diverse workplace?

            1. Develop a Strategic Plan for D&I 

            • A strategic plan needs to include a shared commitment to D&I across the organization and at all levels 
            • Leaders within an organization need to drive D&I principles as organizational values.
            • A strategic plan may include a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis as it helps organizations identify their leverage points and challenegs 
            • Develop standards for measuring progress 
            • It is essential for organizations to set clear and realistic objectives, supporting tasks, and action steps to achieve D&I related goals.  
            • After setting specific goals and objectives, an implementation/monitoring plan or process needs to be established. This may include developing metrics (success measures) for each of your objectives. 
            • Having key indicators that D&I is occurring within the organization is essential. Key indicators may include more leadership opportunities as well as more decision-making power for people from marginalized communities. 

            2. Adopt Inclusive and Accessible Hiring Practices 

                • Inclusive recruitment is the process of connecting with, interviewing, and hiring a diverse set of individuals through understanding and valuing different backgrounds and opinions. 
                • In order to create a diverse workplace, people from diverse backgrounds need to be part of the hiring process. 
                • Incorporating inclusive and non-discriminatory hiring practices in job ads 
                • Organizations should engage with neurodiverse community groups during the advertisement and application process 
                • Online job postings should be available in various formats, including HTML, large print, and accessible PDFs with alt texts. 
                • Implement a hiring committee that is made up of people from different backgrounds 
                • Accommodation statements should be clearly specified at the beginning of job postings and application forms 
                • Employers must structure their application and interview process to eliminate unnecessary barriers for individuals with cognitive or physical exceptionalities 
                • The hiring team should engage in employment equity training as it provides guidelines and best practices for equitable recruitment and selection processes. 
                • Use targeted recruitment initiatives to increase diversity within the organization

                3. Create an Open and Safe Workspace 

                      • Mandatory diversity awareness training and accessibility training should be viewed as a formal, integrated, and longitudinal thread within the organization.  
                      • Organizations should receive training on land acknowledgement as it offers a reminder about Indigenous peoples’ principal kinship to the land. 
                      • Delivering mental health awareness training to all staff members
                      • It is essential for all employees to receive training on how to support and be an ally to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, two-spirited, and queer (LGBT2IQ) individuals.
                      • Providing accommodations to enable employees with different abilities to function successfully on the job.
                      • Implementing diversity network groups as they provide a way for employees to come together based on a shared identity or life experience. 
                      • Employers can ask employees with disabilities—directly through employee surveys, focus groups, or discussions with employee resource groups—whether the workplace supports their needs. 
                      • Creating a safe workspace involves having someone within the organization that employees can seek in times of hardship and/or when they face harassment, discrimination, racism, and sexism. 
                      • Implement a “diversity committee” to guide, oversee, and champion the organization’s D&I initiatives. 

                          For more information on creating a welcoming and safe workplace, check out this framework that was designed for youth but can be applied to all age groups and populations. This framework was created by CEI Youth Engagement Specialist, Addy Strickland. 

                          4. Reach Out to Other Organizations for Support 

                          • Employers can reach out to other organizations for diversity awareness training 
                          • Organizations can reach out to community advisors when developing their diversity and inclusion policies. 
                          • Government and private consultants can bring a cultural lens to many organizations. 
                          • External organizations can help employers understand and respond to the marketplace and the needs of diverse clients. 
                          • Recruitment agencies can be used by employers with the purpose of making their workforce diverse and inclusive.
                          • Specific organizations can be utilized to raise more awareness on ongoing mental health issues such as the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health issues.

                          5. Utilize Internal Resouces  

                                • Diverse staff members can offer cultural awareness and training.  
                                • Organizations may conduct their own research on D&I before establishing their policies and programs. 
                                • Employers may have internal staff members reach out to other organizations to see what their policies and best practices are and how they adopt them. 
                                • Establish an internal D&I workforce committee  
                                • Develop an internal anti-racism action plan
                                • Implementing diversity network groups
                                  What are some characteristics of an accessible workplace?
                                  • The organization has specific policies and procedures that ensure people with cognitive and physical exceptionalities can obtain and maintain employment.  
                                  • The organization is actively hiring people with different abilities.  
                                  • All employees within the organization participate in disability inclusion training.
                                  • All staff (including management and supervisors) receive mental health training. 
                                  • Managers and staff members are trained on how to communicate with people with different types of abilities.  
                                  • Inclusion is emphasized and demonstrated as a priority by managers and leaders in the organization 
                                  • Employees with different abilities are included in formal work meetings and informal events. 
                                  • Alternate workspaces are available to meet the different needs of all people (e.g., quiet spaces to work).  
                                  • Accessible and inclusive workplaces have leaders, managers, and decision-makers who model inclusion and demonstrate that all individuals belong. 
                                      What are some methods of recruiting employees with different abilities?
                                      • Using disability inclusion statements in job ads 
                                      • Posting job openings on disability-oriented job boards. 
                                      • Ensuring that job applications are in formats accessible to all people. 
                                      • Providing reasonable accommodations to applicants. 
                                      • Educating all employees, especially managers, about working with employees with different abilities. 
                                      • Organizations should engage in targeted hiring practices. For example, connecting with disability-focused agencies/organizations.  
                                        What are some questions organizations can ask themselves when making the workplace accessible?
                                        • Are parking spaces close to the entrance of the workplace? 
                                        • Are there access ramps, and do they have handrails? 
                                        • Are doors wide enough for wheelchair access, and are the doors easy to open? 
                                        • Are elevator control panels closer to the floor and fitted with raised symbols or numbers? 
                                        • Are all required policies and procedures available in accessible or alternate formats? 

                                          For more information on making the workplace accessible, check out the Youth Engagement Framework.

                                          What are some examples of reasonable accommodations that organizations can offer?
                                          • Provide a quiet workspace or room for employees 
                                          • Allow the use of noise cancellation or white noise 
                                          • Minimize marginal functions to allow focus on essential job duties 
                                          • Physical changes may be required so that all staff members have access to the workplace. 
                                          Why is it important to have specific D&I policies and practices?
                                          • By establishing D&I policies and practices, employers and staff members from non-marginalized groups are better able to support historically marginalized employees to be fully involved at all levels of the organization and to be authentically themselves. 
                                          • Having specific D&I policies and practices ensures that success and acceptance of individuals from historically underrepresented.  
                                          • Implementing specific D&I policies and practices helps to ensure a safe and welcoming environment where individuals from historically marginalized groups are comfortable to participate and achieve their potential.
                                          What are some questions that employers can ask themselves when developing D&I policies and practices?
                                          • What are we doing well in terms of diversity and inclusion? 
                                          • What areas can we improve? 
                                          • What would our vision of success look and feel like? 
                                          • What are the barriers to achieving this vision? 
                                          • How can we initially reduce and eventually remove barriers that hinder our success? 
                                          • What tasks need to be completed? 
                                          • Who will complete said tasks? When will they be completed? 
                                          • If funds are required, how will they be acquired? 
                                          • How will the organization know when the task is completed?  
                                          • What are the measures that an organization can take to ensure that tasks are completed in a timely manner? 
                                            What are some best practices for D&I policy development?

                                            Diversity policies and practices as well as board inclusionary behaviours mediate the effects of diversity on governance practices. Without adequate policies and practices, organizations cannot move towards a progressive, inclusive, and diverse workspace. The following are a few best practices for policy development: 

                                            • Establish a review committee that is responsible for establishing policies, providing technical assistance, reviewing/approving plans, and monitoring progress toward the achievement of goals. 
                                            • Implement an internal diversity committee which gives employees a safe space to discuss the various ways in which they can make the workplace more inclusive and diverse. 
                                            • Engage in diversity and accessibility training.
                                            • Utilize external resources such as government agencies and private consultants with the aim of acquiring diversity awareness training as well as knowledge on diversity and inclusion.
                                            • Conduct a needs analysis prior to introducing diversity and inclusion policies as it enables organizations to identify and meet the needs of the organization and its employees. 
                                            • Employers need to identify the specific ways in which they plan to implement diversity and inclusion within their organization. 
                                            • Apply a diversity and inclusion lens to identify barriers in policies, plans, practices, programs and services. 
                                            • Organizations should obtain systematic feedback from employees about how they view the overall culture of the organization. 
                                            • Ensuring that planning of events and schedules is done with recognition of important holidays for people with different ethnic backgrounds and religions. 
                                                Africentric Systems Change Working Model
                                                Why an Africentric Model of Systems Change?
                                                • For all the excellent programs and non-profit organizations foundations have seeded and scaled up, funders have rarely reached their ambitious goals for lasting change. Complex problems such as mass incarceration, educational disparities, and environmental degradation remain intractable due to myriad constraints such as government policies, societal norms and goals, market forces, incentives, power imbalances, knowledge gaps, embedded social narratives, etc., that surround any specific program a foundation might fund.
                                                  • One such program is the Nova Scotia Works (NSW) Diversity and Inclusion Program (Phase 1): ANS/PAD which gave people from the ANS/PAD community an opportunity to design and plant seeds of equity in the employment ecosystem; ANS/PAD communities for generations have largely faced exclusion within this system. This Africentric Model of Systems Change was developed in order to amplify and replicate the lessons learned from this program.
                                                  Africentric Model of Systems Change

                                                  An Africentric model of change requires voices, perspectives, and experiences of persons of African Descent to be centered in the change initiative. It privileges the unique voice of color, which holds that “because of their different histories and experiences with oppression, black, Indian, Asian, and Latino/a writers and thinkers may be able to communicate to their white counterparts matters that the whites are unlikely to know’ (Delgado and Stefancic, 2001, p. 9).

                                                  Africentric Systems Change Model: Click for Printable PDF