Count Me In Ambassador

This West Australian initiative is aimed at increasing inclusion and access to persons with disabilities. The program, developed by the Disability Services Commission, provides the framework for an ‘ambassador’ to advocate for the interests of people with disabilities and help break down barriers between people.

“It is around people with disabilities but not exclusively for people with disabilities. We all have disabilities; we all have things we can’t do. It is about encouraging positive reinforcement.” ~Wendy Sugg, program manager, Collie Family Centre


Diversity: It’s not just an HR function anymore

By Melenie Lankau

Many organizations are experiencing “diversity fatigue.” To a great extent, this is due to disappointing results from all of those diversity initiatives HR managers have put in place over the years. At the same time, some employers enjoy great success with diversity. The difference often lies in basic assumptions about what diversity means and what it can achieve.

HR’s traditional role

The responsibility for managing diversity and inclusiveness in an organization typically falls within the HR function. In many organizations, HR executives hold the title of chief diversity officer. They work with line managers and executives to create an organizational vision that increases diversity and maintain a climate that leverages diversity into high performance.

Many organizations have placed responsibility for diversity and inclusion on specific areas inside the HR function, such as recruiting or talent management.

The major challenge that diversity specialists have is that they are often viewed as “the champion” for diversity and that they “own” the accountability.

While this may sound like the right way to structure the role, many diversity managers feel this actually makes it easier for others to dismiss the issue. The rationale: “Diversity is that person’s job or priority, so I don’t have to think about it.”

That can be a problem, because employees and managers may not really understand the importance of leveraging diversity or take the time to develop the skills needed to contribute to inclusive work environments.

What the best do best

Last year, I examined the companies rated as best places for diversity by the consulting firm DiversityInc. Most had several organizational practices in common:

  • Clear and consistent emphasis on the value      of diversity in communication—in vision, mission statement and strategic      goals
  • Identification of business drivers for      diversity; identifying how diversity can improve organizational results
  • CEO and top management team involvement in      diversity-related activities
  • Emphasis on diversity at the board level
  • Active diversity councils, advisory boards      and em­­ployee resource groups
  • Commitment to increasing supplier      diversity
  • Formal and facilitated informal mentoring      programs
  • Community and philanthropic outreach for      multicultural nonprofits
  • Partnerships with educational institutions      for increasing minority student enrollment and support
  • Measures of progress and accountability      mechanisms.

From this list, it becomes obvious that organization-wide diversity can’t just be the diversity professional’s job or HR manager’s responsibility.

Diversity’s shared vision

This level of commitment requires true partnership and participation across functional areas to align efforts that support a shared vision for diversity and inclusion.

At Wake Forest University’s Schools of Business, employers told us that the ability to leverage diversity is a critical leadership skill that can differentiate managers’ ability to achieve meaningful business results. That’s why we are piloting an extracurricular certificate program with our full-time MBA students. It offers students learning opportunities that will help them develop the leadership skills to build inclusive work environments, value diversity and leverage the unique talents and contributions of every team member.

We want our students to enter organizations realizing that fostering diversity is part of their obligation and responsibility as an employee and future leader. It’s not just the HR person’s job.


Melenie Lankau is senior associate dean of MBA programs and diversity at Wake Forest University Schools of Business. Contact her at (336) 758-4198. This article first appeared in The HR Specialist: Compensation and Benefits of Business Management Daily in HR Management,Human Resources.


The How-Tos for Recognizing your Multi-Generational Workforce

By Melissa Minkow

Too often, a diverse workforce with teams having generational differences is considered challenging — but it doesn’t have to be.  The diversity of multi-generations working together can be used to blend strengths and abilities of employees to build an even better workforce from within. Companies who embrace the diverse generations can actually be an advantage to managers, leadership and the team in general.

Generation gaps have become a growing challenge as the young workforce is working along side our more experienced personnel.  As companies and industries grow, transform, and adapt, so too have we seen a change in the workforce.  Now more than ever, there is a growing generational diversity caused by postponed retirements and a boom in employment opportunities.  Companies are discovering they have a growing group of entry-level to experienced senior staff working together which means sensibilities must be communicated across all ages.

Millennials were born between 1980 and 2000 – the first generation to have been raised with the Internet and, and this generation is now almost as large as the Baby Boomer generation. The first generation to have been raised with the Internet in existence since their birth – they developed Web social networking skills at the same time they learned to read, write, and answer the phone.  The Internet has given this generation speed, access, and immediacy – all which has led to a young workforce of high achievers eager and ready to take on leadership roles.   Next up, are the Gen X’ers who lean toward technology but also embrace the non-Web world.  Then we have the Traditionalists – the older part of our workforce – the ones who were once nearing retirement with many working past it and remaining on the job beyond what was once expected.  Each of these groups different values, work ethics, expectations, and most importantly each are motivated by different factors. Putting it all together can be a recipe for success or disaster depending on the effort of leadership to consider this diversity.

How can the difference for the established workers who believe seniority and career growth should be based on years of service and a long line of accomplishments that have been earned through experience be normalized alongside the instant gratification of younger entrants into the work force?

Here are a few ways to demonstrate recognition and rewards to optimize and strengthen your workforce:

1 ) Celebrate the experience: Often the older generations in have worked for an institution for many years.  While the “back when I was your age” theme may bore younger workers – having senior staff recall an important piece of work history that has the potential to both thrill and educate.  Invite your senior staff to share some of their company and industry memories in a newsletter or during department gatherings.  This is another way to open doors of communication and take away the barriers that decades in years often create.

2) Embrace the technology challenge:  Millennials (throughout the 20s decade) are more dependent on technology for communication and less on interpersonal skills. Having technology-free days has helped to increase interpersonal interactions with staff and make the generations more comfortable interacting with one another. On the flip side, providing extra training on technology devices for the Baby boomer and older generations helps to close the gap and has the ability to enhance respect or one another.  Try monthly lunch and learn lessons to give the younger employees a chance to share in a positive setting.

3) Create peer to peer recognition: Encouraging peers in the workplace to recognize each other for a job well done regardless of department, service line, or age can help to improve relations over all.   Create a program (weekly, monthly, quarterly) that allows staff/employees/nurses to say thanks to one another in person, in real time and nominate them for various reward programs that may be in place. The peer-to-peer is a great way to open up relationships and break down barriers between generations.

4) Rewards should be easily accessed. If your company is based in an area with a wide variety of restaurants, shops, theaters – then a gift card to one of them for any of your employees would be an appropriate reward.  But a gift card that requires a long drive or has a very limited time to redeem – then you are burdening your staffer rather than rewarding them.  Points programs applied to merchandise selections are also fun for employees but if they require computer navigation to redeem – that could get complicated for workers who don’t have much computer experience.  Make sure every offering is easy, comfortable and meaningful for everyone. Most importantly, make sure your supervisors are trained in communicating employee “thanks” for a job well done because that is universal across all generations.

Most importantly, never underestimate the power of the two words that will be clear to everyone on your workforce regardless  of where they fall in the generational mix:  Thank You.

Melissa Minkow, CRP is the Executive Vice President of Recognition Professionals International the only industry association dedicated to educating, improving and advancing employee recognition & rewards in the workplace.  Please send your comments to or @RPITweets.

What happens when technological environments change?

By Donna J. Jodhan

Whenever change occurs, there is always something that is bound to go wrong for the first while but when this pertains to the environment for a blind person, it is even more challenging.  In the case of the workplace, this often leads to high levels of frustration for everyone involved.  Especially so for the blind employee.

Think of it like this.  One morning, a blind employee comes into work and is told that the system is going to be upgraded and as a result, it would mean that access to technology and computer hardware will also have to be upgraded in order to work with the system wide upgrade.

The blind employees knows only too well what is going to come next.  As soon as the system wide upgrade is completed, certain challenges will need to be overcome.  She is not looking forward to this occurrence because she knows only too well that for the next few weeks at least, her production and frustration levels are going to rise appreciably.

She seeks to gently remind her superiors of this but the latter reassures her that all will be well and that her fears are probably not going to be realized.  However, the blind employee knows better and all that she can do is to wait for the other shoe to drop, so to speak.  It turns out that more often than not, the blind employee’s fears are realized.  Here is what happens.

The version of the software that the blind employee has been using up until the system wide upgrade no longer functions adequately to allow her to be productive.  The new hardware that has been installed does not work properly with the existing access technology software.

The blind employee is unable to navigate new screens in a meaningful way because certain parts of the system are now inaccessible.

The blind employee is unable to obtain adequate documentation in order to be able to learn the new features of the system wide upgrade.

Sighted employees are also frustrated because they are unable to help their blind co-worker.

The blind employee is told by access technology vendors that she will not be able to obtain upgrades for her access technology to be able to work with the system wide upgrades in their workplace. Plus other challenges abound.

These are all variables for all involved to be aware of whenever technological environments are about to be changed.  If these variables are kept in mind, then much can be done to minimize the frustration levels on all sides.  Chances are that not all of the challenges can be dealt with; the challenge of the unavailability of upgrades to enable access technology to work with new system wide upgrades is just one example.

I’m Donna J. Jodhan your freelance writer and roving reporter wishing you a terrific day.

You can follow me on twitter @accessibleworld and chat with me on Skype at habsfan0526.

For more of my blogs, please visit:,



2014 Diversity! in the workplace Calendar

The 2014 Diversity! in the Workplace calendar is now available for purchase. There is no other calendar like it in the marketplace. It is the only complete, comprehensive calendar reflecting the Canadian workplace, listing hundreds of multi-faith, multicultural and diversity-related holidays, festivals and observances, including explanations.  It  comes in three different versions and both official languages.  The Diversity! calendars are unique to the Canadian workplace and make wonderful gifts for employees and customers alike. Quantities are limited, so order today.
This year’s theme: Diversity Heroes, Gone but Not Forgotten.
“It is time to place these people in the spotlight,” says publisher Jill Walters. “Canadian history tends to hide its heroes under a bushel. Our calendar gives them their due.”
To order your calendar simply click on the Diversity Calendar tab at the top of the home page.

Encouraging and Nurturing Soft Skill Developement in New Canadians

Diversity at Work in London is offering a new workshop on November 13 designed around the needs of managers who are overseeing New Canadians .

With Canada’s current and expected labour shortages and the immense and highly sought-after technical skills that New Canadians bring to the workplace, it is incumbent upon employers to understand how to be successful.  This workshop was inspired by the stories that Diversity at Work President Evelina Silveira has heard over the  years from New Canadians and employers that they were not integrating well into the workplace and, as a result, missing out on promotions or even losing their jobs.

Employers can make a difference in retaining good employees by helping them obtain the skills that they need to be successful.  While New Canadians may come to the country with soft skills that adequately equip them for work in their homeland, they soon learn that they must acquire other skills to obtain and retain their employment.  This takes time and requires an understanding of workplace values and norms. Managers can play a huge role in helping their New Canadian employees understand these values.

The workshop which runs from 8:30am to 3pm, costs $199 plus HST, includes a continental breakfast, a light lunch and numerous handouts. For full workshop details or to register online, go to .  The workshop is limited to 30 registrants and the first 10 registrants will receive a free 2014 Diversity! in the workplace calendar.








B2B Bank wins the 2013 Acces Employment Walk of Fame award

B2B Bank has received the ACCES Employment Walk of Fame award honouring employers who support diversity and inclusion within their company. B2B Bank’s outreach recruitment strategy aims to find top talent and provide employment opportunities to people from diverse backgrounds.

Every year, ACCES presents the Walk of Fame awards to employers who have:

  • played a key role in supporting the hiring of new Canadians in their organizations
  • volunteered as mentors
  • contributed their time and expertise to jobseekers
  • found new and innovative ways of ensuring that new Canadians realize their employment goals

“Being nominated for the 2013 Acces Employment Walk of Fame award is a great honour in itself”, underlines Eva Stamadianos, Vice President, Human resources and Chief risk officer at B2B Bank, “but being recognized along with other organizations whose recruitment programs help create a fully inclusive labour force that reflects the diversity and skills of all new Canadians, is a true point of pride for us.”

ACCES Employment is a not-for-profit corporation that provides information about the Canadian labour market and helps newcomers to Canada with career opportunities through networking, resume help and aligning their career efforts with their personal goals.

About B2B Bank B2B Bank is a leading provider of banking products to more than 27,000 financial advisors and brokers across Canada. Through the professional advisor and broker channels, it offers a broad range of products and services to consumers including: investment and RRSP loans, mortgages, GICs, banking services, and investment accounts and services through B2B Bank Dealer Services. B2B Bank has been proudly dedicated to serving the needs of its clients for more than a decade, and it continues to provide innovative products and solutions that help advisors and brokers build rewarding relationships with their clients.

B2B Bank is a Schedule I bank with more than $13 billion in consumer deposits, $9 billion in loans and mortgages, and more than $24 billion in assets under administration. B2B Bank is a member of industry associations serving the financial community and is also a member of the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC). For more information please visit

SOURCE: Laurentian Bank of Canada


BLG Champions Progress in Diversity, Literacy and Access to Justice

National law firm Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (BLG) has released its first Corporate Responsibility Report, highlighting the firm’s key social commitments and sustainability endeavours. In keeping with the firm’s commitment to service, the report outlines the community initiatives at home and abroad where the BLG team is striving to promote diversity and inclusion, access to justice, women’s leadership, literacy and learning.

“As professionals at one of Canada’s largest law firms we occupy a privileged position, which means we have an obligation to use that privilege in a way that supports and improves society,” said Sean Weir, National Managing Partner and CEO. “While the importance of corporate responsibility has long been ingrained in BLG’s culture, we are always challenging ourselves to do even better.”

Highlights of the Firm’s 2012 activities include over $2.3 million in pro bono work supporting access to justice, 300 classroom visits each week across the country to promote literacy and learning, signing on as a founding member of the new Canadian Law Firm Diversity and Inclusion Network and facilitating a series of new programs and training opportunities to foster women’s leadership.

Other community initiatives highlighted in the report include:

Diversity and Inclusion:

  • BLG is a national corporate sponsor of Pride at Work Canada and a sponsor of the Black Business and Professional Association National Scholarship fund
  • The Firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee has implemented a number of practices including diversity-related training and education sessions

Pro Bono and Access to Justice

  • The Firm’s 7,000 hours of pro bono work in 2012 included supporting the family of Lin Jun, the Montreal student who was tragically murdered, and helping to secure $5 million in special needs funding for the Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario
  • BLG was also one of four Canadian firms that backed a historic legal victory that will bring greater enforcement of rape laws to protect women and children in Kenya.

Women’s Leadership

  • The Firm’s Women’s Leadership Development Committee created a series of programs such as coaching and support for parents re-entering the workforce following parental leave and sponsorship of female lawyers for the Rotman School of Management’s Business Leadership for Women Lawyers seminar
  • Two of BLG’s senior partners – Linda Bertoldi and Noella Milne – were named among Canada’s Most Powerful Women in 2012 by the Women’s Executive Network

Literacy and Learning

  • The Firm celebrated 10 years of BLG Reads to Kids, a program which donated over $550,000 and countless volunteer hours in classrooms across the country
  • BLG demonstrated their commitment to fostering literacy beyond Canada’s borders, and a series of Mount Kilimanjaro climbs have fundraised more than $1 million for charities that promote education in Africa
  • In 2012 the Firm completed nearly a decade of legal research under the BLG Fellowship Program, bringing the firm’s total commitment to legal research to $2.2 million
  • Honouring the top university athletes in the country for over 20 years, the BLG Award encourages excellence and teamwork through two $10,000 scholarships to support post-graduate studies.

To view BLG’s Corporate Responsibility Report and learn more about the firm’s commitment to improve society and advance social justice, visit What We Do Matters.

About Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (BLG) is a pre-eminent full-service, national law firm focusing on business law, commercial litigation and intellectual property solutions for our clients. With more than 750 lawyers, intellectual property agents and other professionals in six Canadian cities, BLG assists clients with their legal needs, from major litigation to financing and patent registration.

CSCS Submits Comment Letter on Disclosure Requirements Regarding Women on Boards and in Senior Management

On October 3, 2013, the Canadian Society of Corporate Secretaries (“CSCS”) submitted a comment letter to the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) in response to their request for comments on their Staff Consultation Paper 58-401: Disclosure Requirements Regarding Women on Boards and in Senior Management.

As the principal advocate for those who work in the front lines of corporate governance, CSCS strives to enhance the public’s awareness of the importance of good governance. CSCS is the voice of governance professionals in Canada and participates with other stakeholders, including capital markets participants, government bodies and regulators, in fostering a governance environment that sets Canada apart in the world. CSCS also supports its membership with continuing education and networking opportunities.

In preparation for this response CSCS undertook a consultation with its members at open sessions held in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto in mid-September.

The CSCS member consultations were well attended, and small, mid and large-cap issuers were all represented. The comments provided in the letter represent the general views of members who participated in the consultations for a course of action that is believed to be both effective and not overly prescriptive.

CSCS applauds the OSC for addressing the critical issue of gender diversity on boards and in senior management of Canadian publicly traded corporations (Corporations). CSCS members believe that achieving gender diversity is a positive step towards greater diversity and encourage the OSC to consider further diversity initiatives that will encourage corporations to work towards including under-represented groups in senior management and on their board of directors.

CSCS members felt that best practice guidelines, together with mandated disclosure, are the ideal combination – allowing a Corporation to determine the appropriate path for it to reach gender diversity and ensure transparency to stakeholders. Members who participated in the consultations were divided in their views as to whether Corporations should be required to: (i) disclose their approach to gender diversity with reference to such best practice guidelines, explaining any differences (“comply or explain”) or (ii) satisfy certain minimum best practice guidelines including a target percentage of 20% to 40% to be achieved over a five year or longer period.

It was felt that most Corporations should be able to:

  • Determine the target and time line (based solely on its own assessment or within the minimum guidelines, as the case may be) appropriate to its circumstances;
  • As information becomes available, benchmark the target;
  • Disclose the reasoning behind the selected target;
  • Disclose the details of the plan to be implemented in order to reach the target through board renewal process, proactive management or inclusion of new policies or practices, such as term limits; and
  • Annually report on progress.

Requiring Corporations to explain their self-governing approach to implementing gender diversity practices in their senior management and on their boards will result in clear and useful disclosure (rather than boilerplate language) and provide stakeholders with good information on each Corporation’s views and commitments to creating gender diversity within their own organization.

A copy of the CSCS comment letter can be found on the CSCS website ( or by clicking HERE.

SOURCE: Canadian Society of Corporate Secretaries

Diversity in the Workplace? Where does it start?

By Mike Brown

A quick review from several case studies and articles on Diversity in the Workplace, an all too familiar subject that I have encountered in my own work throughout our community.

Diversity issues within the workplace can be a difficult discussion with employees if they are not aware of their own bias or prejudices.  Each employee comes from a different background, set of rules, values and styles that can cause individuals to struggle through the sensitivity issues they may already be accustomed too.

In a recent journal article, “Diversity in the Workplace” diversity is defined as “acknowledging, understanding, accepting, valuing, and celebrating differences among people with respect to age, class, ethnicity, gender, physical and mental ability, race, sexual orientation, spiritual practice, and public assistance status.” (Armache, Dr. Jalal., 2012)

In both a case study and articles I have studied on diversity it is clear that diversity is not just about how we may perceive others but also how we perceive ourselves.  The case study involves several workers each from different backgrounds that first work in life by independently and quietly judging others without first looking at themselves.  I often tell people to first look in the mirror and understand who you are before passing judgment on those you work with.

Diversity in the workplace as discussed earlier comes from a source of life perceptions and experiences that each of us have encountered.  While we all know that diversity is not about black, brown or white it is of the most common, outward issue individuals face today.  In a society of people who claim freedom in our America we are some of the most difficult individuals in our views of people we work with.

In my own opinion I believe our view in the mirror, if we were to look closely lacks the confidence, security, maturity and self esteem that drives us to look at others in an attempt to make ourselves feel better as individuals.  Discussions prior to this have focused on leadership and communication.  This particular topic around these case studies demonstrates an unwillingness to lead, take action or communicate with one another that allows for growth in our perceptions.  It demonstrates the truth about organizations everywhere and how the interactions of people who work together often plays out.

While I can appreciate the attempt to provide sensitivity training (which is suggested in the case) to others I believe these studies demonstrate that even the leaders have difficulty teaching and dealing with diversity issues head on.  Leaders of any organization would have served a better purpose in dealing with employees involved, giving them opportunity to build understanding, sensitivity and leadership within themselves.  From that discussion where expectations can be laid out to employees leaders would have opportunity to build opportunity for future more relevant training.

According to the same journal article on diversity in the workplace it states that “employees who will not feel that they are being treated fairly and respectfully will start looking for opportunities, causing high turnover from the company they left from.” Proven in this case example, high turnover was inevitable as employers did not confront the issue, support their teams or treat everyone in the company fairly.

In the end, we are a vibrant community that encourages real work in valuing all people.  As organizations, leaders and individuals begin exploring the truth about our struggles in the meaning of diversity we will have more opportunities to serve our communities.  All children and families deserve acceptance, in order to feel secure in the places they work and live.  We can only do this by working hand in hand to solve issues which in return builds a better Rockford.

For more information on these cases or studies I have included references below.


Armache, Jalal  (2012) Diversity in the WorkPlace: Benefits and Challenges. Journal of International Diversity, volume 2012, issue 1, pages 59–75.

Sharp, B., Aguirre, G. & Kickham, K. (2011). Managing in the Public Sector: A Casebook in Ethics and Leadership. Boston,MA: Longman

Mike Brown, president and chief executive of the YMCA of Rock River Valley, Illinois. This article first appeared in the Rockford Register Star,