To build on its efforts in support of the LGBTQ2S+ community, TD Bank is embedding diversity, equity and inclusion into the framework of the organization at every level.

In 2020, the bank launched a gender identity and expression initiative for its 90,000 employees in Canada and the U.S., says Girish Ganesan, global head of diversity and inclusion at TD Bank Group and head of talent at TD Bank in the U.S. Although the training isn’t mandatory, the bank has seen a 94 per cent completion rate, which he says is a testament to its investment in a culture of inclusion, care and respect.

Read: What employer participation in Pride means to employees

The organization’s DEI journey wasn’t an overnight process, says Ganesan, noting the bank’s strategy is grounded in principles of inclusion. “I’ve always said if there’s inclusion, diversity will come — whether you’re attracting talent from outside, developing it from within, servicing your customers or being active in the community.”

Promoting intersectionality is at the core of TD’s strategy, notes Ganesan. He points out last year, during anti-Black racism conversations, the organization made sure its panels included Black, South-Asian and LGBTQ2S+ members. Employees from the LGBTQ2S+ community are doubly impacted, he says, based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, as well as being from a racialized community. “If, as an organization, you’re not inclusive in ensuring multiple identities of an individual are respected in equal footing, you’re going to lose them on one stance or another.”

He pulls from his own personal journey as an example. “I’m a South-Asian gay man who came as an immigrant to Canada,” he says. “I don’t want to be torn apart into a variety of different identities. At TD, I can be [myself] and represent multiple identities. And we have hundreds and thousands of employees like me.”

Read: An in-depth look at LGBTQ+ benefits

The bank’s overall DEI strategy isn’t just about developing diverse talent, adds Ganesan, but also ensuring there’s a culture through which employees can be their authentic selves and succeed in their roles. To do this, TD has embedded inclusive leadership across its entire talent management curriculum — from onboarding employees to how they’re coached, how their performance is assessed, as well as how they’re rewarded and recognized. Case in point: throughout the coronavirus pandemic and social justice unrest in 2020, he says the organization was very deliberate in providing resources and tools to its people managers on ways to manage inclusively in the remote working setting.

In addition, TD’s inclusion and diversity council includes senior leaders across the organization who are required to sponsor either a diversity pillar or committee within their businesses, says Ganesan. And it has employee resource groups, with thousands of members, for each diversity pillar. The two governance bodies work in tandem to move TD’s DEI strategy forward.

Read: TD Bank expanding DEI goals via e-training, shared experiences

For companies embarking on their own DEI strategy, Ganesan advises to first assess what the organization’s representation looks like through employee surveys or listening tours to determine what binds them together in terms of values and culture, but also what their perspectives might be from a diversity and inclusion point of view. An overly sophisticated DEI strategy won’t resonate with employees if they don’t have a sense of what it means to be inclusive, he says, adding organizations need to start with what they stand for from a diversity and inclusion perspective and why both are important.

But, he says, representation matters. “If you don’t have role models at various layers of the organization, you’re not going to be able to move the dial very far because you need that diversity of thought and lived experiences in order to shape a strong DEI stance and strategy.”

Ganesan also suggests organizations ensure these efforts are led internally from the top down so they don’t fall solely on the human resources and the DEI teams. “DEI is part of an organizational strategy, not an HR or people strategy. It really needs to be part of the fabric of the organization.”

This is the first part of a series of articles running this month to dive into how the human resources, benefits, pensions and institutional investment industries are supporting the LGBTQ2S+ community during Pride Month and beyond.

Read the second story in the series here: Pride Month: How employers can create a more inclusive work culture

Read the third story in the series here: Pride Month: CN Rail dispute ‘catalyst’ for same-sex pension plan policy reviews