This blog is part of our Employer Resource Guide series.

Attracting and retaining underrepresented workers is one potential strategy for addressing labour and skill shortages. In fact, studies show that increasing overall workplace diversity improves financial performance and result in better business outcomes[i].

“People want to support businesses and organizations that are inclusive. How you treat your employees matters, and promoting an inclusive environment means staff want to stick around and be part of the organization,” says Andrea MacDonald, of My Smart HR & Leadership, “They’ll share with friends and family, and their broader community, who will in turn support the business. With greater diversity in employees, the support for the business is broader within the community.”

During the Covid-19 health crises, however, businesses typically scaled back diversity and inclusion initiatives. This was counterproductive when the more diverse and inclusionary workplaces actually perform better in the face of crises, as creative solutions often emerge from diverse perspectives, and diverse workplaces are better at anticipating and responding to changes[ii]. Several studies by McKinsey and Company concluded that companies with a diverse workforce financially outperform the industry median. Since 2014, three studies have been conducted, and the results demonstrated a statistically significant relationship of better financial performance from companies with more diverse leadership team. In the most recent 2019 study, the top quartile of companies for gender diversity and ethnic diversity were more likely to outperform the industry median by 25% and 36% respectively (Figure 1)[iii].

Figure 1 Likelihood of financial outperformance vs the national industry media for gender and ethnic diversity (McKinsey and Company, Diversity Wins Dataset, 2019)

Workplace diversity and inclusion is about more than just the purely visible characteristics. The dimensions include internal dimensions, such as gender, ethnicity, and age; external dimensions, such as personal characteristics like education, skill sets, experiences and appearance; as well as differences in personality types[iv]. In its broadest sense, workplace inclusion means acknowledging all the differences in a workforce, and adapting to create an inclusive environment that values different ranges of skills, perspectives and backgrounds[v].

Spotlight on accessibility: Disabilities are one of the most commonly misunderstood diversity groups, and businesses consistently underperform in terms of awareness, capacity and recruitment[vi]. The unemployment rate for persons with disabilities is much higher than those without. In particular, people with disabilities were more likely to lose their jobs during the pandemic, and face more obstacles returning to work[vii].

“The word disability itself can be perceived as a negative to some, the dis– focuses on what a person can’t do, rather than focusing on what they can,” says Nate Toevs, of Work BC Assistive Technology Services and the Neil Squire Society, “But people with disabilities tend to be really resourceful, are expert problem solvers, and don’t give up easily. That’s the cool thing, there’s tons of statistics on how good it is for a business’ bottom line.”

The working age BC residents with a disability thus represent a robust and largely untapped labour market[viii]. Furthermore, research indicates including workers with disabilities improves workplace morale, staff retention, safety and innovation[ix]! In terms of making an existing workplace more accessible, studies have shown that more than half the time, no extra investment is needed to make a workplace accessible, or if there is a cost, the average is about $500[x].

How to recruit for diversity?

Diversity and inclusivity is important in the workplace, but how can businesses and organizations begin to work towards a more inclusive environment? Some initial first steps that an organization can take include:

Identify and remove barriers: The first step is to take a good internal look at existing workplace culture and policies. Ask yourself: does the diversity of the organization reflect the diversity of the community? Examine your internal working dynamics, such as the trust, collaboration and support between employees. See if you can work with existing staff to identify any barriers, which can range from the physical environment, digital technology, to workplace culture, such as disrespectful behaviour and stereotyping[xi]. You can then work with existing employees to develop workplace inclusion statements, including values, goals, and commitments; and work together to address the identified barriers.

Review hiring policies: Typical hiring processes often have an internal bias towards applicants with a good “fit” for the workplace culture[xii]. Individuals from underrepresented groups often face underemployment because of the least job-related elements of the hiring process, like small talk and chit-chat about personal interests.

“Job descriptions are written to describe a super-person”, says Nate, “they want someone who can fly around the world backwards, and that really dissuades certain people. That ad is not speaking to them, they can’t identify with that description.”

When recruiting and hiring, try to focus on the job skills, and not place emphasis on hobbies or life outside of work[xiii]. Bigger organizations may use software to screen resumes, which often filter based on any gaps in employment or spelling mistakes; which may not be relevant to the actual job and disproportionality eliminate marginalized people from the candidate pool. If technology is available, try using it to remove candidate’s names instead, to reduce potential bias in review. Ensure interview questions are culturally sensitive, keeping the questions on competency not personality – and note that for some cultures, it’s inappropriate to emphasize personal achievements[xiv].

Reach out and establish partnerships: It can be difficult for small businesses or new enterprises to know where to start, but luckily there are lots of existing organizations that can help. Partnering or reaching out to organizations that support targeted employment groups can assist businesses of all sizes.

“There are different approaches to creating a more inclusive work environment. Many people are taking it upon themselves to do the right thing, but may be inadvertently causing more harm”, says Andrea, “If you’re uncertain, reach out to someone who is trained in diversity and inclusivity practices.”

In Cowichan, the Clements Centre Society provides services for adults with developmental disabilities and child development services, and may be able to connect businesses with potential new employees. The Cowichan Intercultural Society is the leading community resource for immigrant settlement services, as well as education and awareness to developing welcoming and inclusive communities. The organization also provides employment support, including connecting employers with society clients. Work BC offers numerous programs and resources to assist businesses and those looking for work, including, training, and wage subsidies. WorkBC Assistive Technology Services, operated by Neil Squire, can assist with funding workplace accommodations and modifications for people who have a work-related barrier due to a disability or a functional limitation. This can include vehicle and wheelchair modifications for those who have barriers related to traveling to and from work. These supports are available for people seeking employment through WorkBC, and those already employed or self-employed in the workforce.

The future of the workplace

With the low Canadian birth rate and baby boomers reaching retirement age, the future of the workforce is changing. Previously underrepresented groups of workers will become more prevalent as they make up the gap left by retirees.

“We need to adjust our idea of what a ‘normal’ workforce looks like”, says Andrea, “with the resignation of baby boomers and low Canadian birth-rate, our future communities will be much more diverse”.

The coming workforce changes mean that diversity and inclusion initiatives implemented now will help future-proof a business[xv]. And while diversity does come with challenges, as some of the benefits like innovation and creativity are often the result of working through conflicting perspectives[xvi], these will lead to resiliency and businesses thriving in today’s world.


[i] “Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters”, McKinsey and Company,

[ii] “How to Remove Barriers for People with Disabilities at Your Business”, Small Business BC Webinar, September 27, 2021 10:30 AM

[iii] “Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters”, McKinsey and Company,

[iv] “The Economics of Embracing Workplace Diversity”, Heather Conn, BC Business, July 4, 2012,

[v] “The Economics of Embracing Workplace Diversity”, Heather Conn, BC Business, July 4, 2012,

[vi] “Leveraging Diversity and Inclusing During Covid-19”, Hire for Talent,

[vii] “How to Remove Barriers for People with Disabilities at Your Business”, Small Business BC Webinar, September 27, 2021 10:30 AM

[viii] “Leveraging Diversity and Inclusing During Covid-19”, Hire for Talent,

[ix] “Leveraging Diversity and Inclusing During Covid-19”, Hire for Talent,

[x] “Workplace Diversity Could Help Solve Tourism Labour Shortage”, Destination British Columbia, September 20, 2017,

[xi] “Untapped Talent: B2B Guide to Innovative Hiring and Retention”, Mission Possible,

[xii] “The “Talent Shortage” Problem is a Diversity Problem”, Ludmila N. Praslova, ERE Recruiting Intelligence, July 16, 2021,

[xiii] “Untapped Talent: B2B Guide to Innovative Hiring and Retention”, Mission Possible,

[xiv] “The Economics of Embracing Workplace Diversity”, Heather Conn, BC Business, July 4, 2012,

[xv] “Leveraging Diversity and Inclusing During Covid-19”, Hire for Talent,

[xvi] “Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace”, BC Campus,

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135 Third Street
Duncan, BC
Canada V9L 1R9
T 250.746.7880
TF 1.866.746.2508



135 Third Street
Duncan, BC
Canada V9L 1R9
T 250.746.7880
TF 1.866.746.2508