Achieving a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace requires a multi-pronged approach that ensures inclusion is embedded into business practices, beginning with traditional recruitment practices.

After the social justice movement of 2020 in response to the death of George Floyd, employers across the globe pledged to address systemic racism in the workplace. Indeed, many Canadian employers have joined the BlackNorth Initiative pledge, with some — including Scotiabank and Enbridge Inc.  — implementing diversity targets that they aim to reach within the next five years.

According to an update on the BlackNorth Initiative’s website, the percentage of participating companies without any Black employees dropped from 17 per cent to six per cent in 2022 and Black representation among companies with more than 1,000 employees grew from roughly two per cent to four per cent. In addition, companies with no Black representation at the first-line manager level decreased from 45 per cent to 30 per cent.

Read: Scotiabank focusing on further strengthening workforce diversity, inclusion

However, as encouraging as these percentages are, more work is needed to gain better representation of minority groups at all levels in Canadian workplaces. What will move the needle most in this area is rebuilding the current recruitment regime to one that ensures systemic barriers are removed from hiring practices.

According to a 2020 report by Canadian think tank Public Policy Forum, racialized Canadians have higher labour market participation than their non-racialized counterparts, indicating they’re more likely to be seeking work. It also found racialized Canadians reported greater unemployment, particularly among women, and were also less likely to be found in management positions and earn less than their non-racialized counterparts across all occupational groups.

There are many steps employers can take to make the recruitment process more equitable and diverse, including using blind hiring practices that remove any identifiable characteristics from job application processes to ensure focus is on candidates’ related skills and experiences. They can also make job descriptions more inclusive. Unconscious bias takes many forms and in job postings, it can show up in terms like “go-getter,” “outspoken” and “aggressive,” terms that often unintentionally deter women from applying for roles. When I see job postings that include “articulate” and “ability to communicate complicated ideas,” I ask myself, “isn’t that a given for any role?”

Read: Enbridge making progress on workforce diversity goals

It’s also important for employers to recognize that the traditional hiring process doesn’t work for everyone, particularly people with disabilities. KPMG in Canada recognized that in order to expand its talent pool, it had to re-examine its recruitment process to make it more accessible to neurodiverse candidates. In December 2021, the organization launched a program that removed barriers in its recruitment process by narrowing down competencies in its job postings to focus on what the day-to-day functions look like and, rather than holding traditional job interviews, successful candidates went through a four-week training program to learn the ins and outs of their roles. From there, candidates were chosen based on their skills and performance.

This is just one of many ways in which some employers are rethinking the recruitment process to bring more diversity to their organizations. While the job market is moving toward employers’ favour, there’s still a ‘Great Labour Shift’ afoot and employers that will come out on top are those that cast a wider net and ensure roles are filled with diversity of thought and experiences.

According to Benefits Canada’s 2023 Future of Work survey, 84 per cent of Canadian employers said they’re providing employees with diversity training; however, just 53 per cent noted that training was in diverse and inclusive hiring practices. This percentage should be higher, considering employers have been contending with a competitive hiring landscape.

The best way to ensure Canadian workplaces are truly representative of the makeup of the country is to model diversity at every level of the corporate ladder. And a great way to ensure current employees know they can be their authentic selves in the office is to show them everyone is welcome and has something to bring to the table. Young Canadians from all walks of life should see themselves modeled in every aspect of the companies they interact with on a daily basis — from frontline workers to middle and senior leaders to C-suite executives.

Read: How KPMG is recruiting, supporting employees with disabilities, neurodiversity