The benefits of workforce diversity | BDC.ca
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Why workplace diversity benefits your business

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If your workforce doesn't reflect the community it serves, your business may be missing out on the chance to find great employees and break into new and growing markets, both locally and globally. Diversity simply makes good business sense.

This is especially true when it comes to hiring good talent. The exit of baby boomers from Canada’s labour force is making it harder for businesses to hire skilled workers. This means business owners need to be more creative to meet their recruitment needs.

Immigrants represent much of Canada's population growth today. Indeed, by 2032, immigrants will account for up to 80% of Canada’s population growth, and around one in four Canadians will have been born in another country, according to a BDC study.

"If you want to recruit successfully, you need to make your company attractive to this target group," says Peter Lawler, Executive Vice President, BDC Advisory Services.

However, only 6% of business leaders surveyed by BDC rely on immigrant workers to fill their needs for skilled employees.

Get a competitive edge

A key benefit of a diversity strategy is it improves your company's capacity to compete globally. "If you have employees who come from a part of the world where your company does business, you're more likely to be able to get closer to these foreign markets," Lawler says.

The same logic applies to hiring people who speak different languages. "There's no doubt that having a multilingual work force sharpens your competitive edge in the global arena," he says.

Beyond that, several studies have found that companies with an ethnically diverse workforce perform better financially than those with a more homogeneous staff. Research also suggests that diverse teams are more effective, produce higher quality work and have deeper engagement.

Better understanding of specific markets and customer groups

Employees of diverse backgrounds bring knowledge of their markets and cultures to a company. A firm that hires within the East Asian community, for instance, may get easier access to that audience as it becomes known that the firm has employees with this background. "These employees will have insight into the needs of this group," Lawler explains.

"If you're targeting a specific audience with advertising, you need to understand exactly what resonates with this market," he says, pointing to the need to find the right tone, visuals and messages.

3 strategies to attract a more diverse workforce

Clearly, a winning recruitment strategy in a tight labour market will include embracing diversity in your company and reaching out to immigrant workers. Here are three strategies to attract a more diverse workforce.

1. Reach out to specific communities

Business owners should be sure their recruitment strategies pinpoint specific communities. Long gone are the days when companies simply run ads in newspapers. "Recruiting has become increasingly specialized," says Lawler. "There are specific publications and vehicles to reach just about any group today."

You can start by targeting diverse communities through business associations and networks.

For example, a company that wants to hire from the Chinese community might approach a Chinese business association. A presence on social media sites such as Facebook can enhance your company's appeal to a younger, more diverse audience.

2. Adjust your training

Entrepreneurs who hire from culturally diverse groups need to be sure their training is customized to meet these groups' needs. For example, new Canadians who are less fluent in English or French may need specially adapted training materials.

3. Rethink your recruitment process

One way to eliminate unconscious bias is to practice “blind recruitment.” Removing the names of applicants from resumes will help ensure company opinion of potential new hires is based on work experience, skills and education.

You can also improve your hiring practices by partnering with organizations that specialize in helping new immigrants, such as ACCES Employment, WES Canada or the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council. Such agencies can help you address any hiring barriers, expand your pool of job candidates and educate existing employees about the importance of workforce diversity.

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