Niagara Casinos wins award for far-reaching diversity initiatives

An entire month of diversity and inclusion initiatives led Niagara Casinos to take home the title of best diversity program at Benefits Canada’s 2018 Workplace Benefits Awards on Oct. 11.

The company’s diversity and inclusion committee, formed to leverage resources and drive participation, set a month of different activities in April 2018 to highlight the benefits of inclusivity in the workforce and the broader community.

Niagara Casinos launched a sign campaign to raise awareness by displaying ways to foster an inclusive environment. It distributed bracelets and pins for employees to signal their support for the initiatives. As well, multicultural music was played in employee spaces and daily dining specials celebrated the workforce’s variety of cultural backgrounds.

Read: Who are the winners of the 2018 Workplace Benefits Awards?

All managers were registered for a webinar by the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion. The organization also encouraged employees to sign on to the diversity and inclusion committee, which subsequently welcomed 47 new members.

“Everyone was accepted, of course,” says Cathy Siemens, human resources talent acquisition and diversity manager at Niagara Casinos. “The employees needed to make the effort themselves. We’re here to guide them, but they have to take the initiative.”

The committee also created sub-category employee resources groups to focus on women, those with disabilities, visible minorities, First Nations and the LBGTQ+ community. Each subcommittee was responsible for brainstorming and submitting ideas.

The women’s group offers female employees with the opportunity to network and build on their skills. Since it was introduced, the company has seen a rise in participation in community events, as well as employees’ volunteer efforts. It has also been able to promote a more concentrated approach to recruiting women for leadership roles at the company, leading to the promotion of 37 women internally. Further, the group sponsors a scholarship program that has awarded five $2,000 scholarships to employees’ dependant children who are pursuing women’s advocacy studies in post-secondary education.

Read: How to use benefits to support diversity and inclusion

As for employees with disabilities, Niagara Casinos partners with Ready Willing & Able, a national advocacy initiative aiming to improve the dismal employment rates for those with intellectual disabilities. As well, the company hosted a mental-health awareness campaign in January 2018, which coincided with Bell Canada’s Let’s Talk initiative, promoting openness in discussing mental health. The company leveraged this period to remind employees about the mental-health resources it makes available, as well as monthly talks on topics such as mental fitness and workplace stress.

Among its initiatives for visible minorities, the company has translated specific forms into Cantonese and Mandarin to help employees complete opinion surveys and better understand their pensions. As well, the company has made an effort to celebrate holidays from cultures outside of Canada, such as Chinese New Year in February. In addition to featuring culturally diverse food offerings for employees, it also offered a recipe contest to encourage employees to share their culturally inspired dishes with the winning entree featured in the employee dining room as a daily special.

Read: Fidelity Canada wins diversity program award for driving change

As for Niagara Casinos’ LGBTQ+ community, its human resources team received training on how to assist transgender employees through their transition process at work. As well, the company has ensured its benefits coverage is inclusive of same-sex couples. It also supports and participates in the Niagara pride celebrations, including a company booth at the region’s Pride in the Park event.

“The committee expressed that they wanted to do more to participate in pride and so this year we were able to have a presence,” says Siemens.

For First Nations, the company actively recruits indigenous people to work as table games dealers and participated in a Canadian Centre for Diversity & Inclusion seminar on integrating them into the workplace.

With the aim to quantify the impact of this wide array of initiatives, Niagara Casinos’ latest employee opinion survey included three questions on diversity. The majority (93 per cent) said the organization supports diversity in the workplace; 85 per cent said they feel they can be themselves at work without worrying whether they’d be accepted; and 88 per cent said those at work treat each other with respect, regardless of personal identities.

Read the full list of 2018 Workplace Benefits Awards winners here. And tune in across the next 10 days to learn more about each of the winners.