How an inclusive workplace is good for business

Dec 17, 2018

inclusive“Diversity is a fact… inclusion is a choice,” says Michael Bach, founder and CEO of the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion. Now more than ever organizational leaders must think about creating a diverse and inclusive workplace.

This was a key message that emerged from a roundtable discussion on building an inclusive workplace. Facilitated by Michael Bach, the session was organized by WSPS on behalf of the CEO Health + Safety Leadership Network, a group of senior executives committed to shaping health & safety policy and culture across Ontario and Canada. Members come together for two outcome-driven roundtable discussions every year, turning ideas into actions that will take health and safety to the next level.

Bach noted during the session that since a lot of energy and resources has already been dedicated to increasing representation, it’s time to focus on inclusion. “Inclusion is about getting the mix to work - creating places where people can come to work and do their jobs and be successful.”

Highlights of this workshop have been captured in an executive white paper: The Role of Leaders in Building Inclusive Workplaces. Among the highlights: the business rationale for diversity and inclusion, the role of leaders in changing attitudes and behaviours, and possible steps.

Why support diversity and inclusion

Canada’s changing. Here’s how:

  • women aged 15 to 64 now represent 50% of the working population
  • racialized individuals comprise 22%
  • 1 in 7 Canadians aged 15 years and older report a disability
  • Canada’s Aboriginal population increased by more than 20% between 2006 and 2011, compared with 5.2% for the non-Aboriginal population[1]

While the business case for diversity and inclusion will differ for every organization, there are three common motivators:

  1. People - every organization needs to attract, retain and promote the right people, and needs them to be productive and engaged
  2. Customers - whether you serve other businesses or the public, every organization has a customer
  3. Brand - how you’re known in the market and whether you’re seen to be an inclusive employer affects your ability to hire talent

That’s not all. Research shows a strong correlation between diversity and inclusion and performance. For example, McKinsey reports that more diverse companies are better able to win top talent, and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision-making. This creates a virtuous cycle of increasing returns, and suggests that diversity beyond gender and ethnicity/race (e.g., diversity in age and sexual orientation), as well as diversity of experience (e.g., a global mindset and cultural fluency), also likely offer a competitive advantage to firms attracting and retaining such diverse talent.[2]

How leaders influence inclusivity

In his presentation, Bach cited Deloitte’s report The Six Signature Traits of Inclusive Leadership[3], drawn from  interactions with over 1,000 global leaders and a survey of 1,500 employees. The report identified six essential leadership traits that influence inclusivity:

  • commitment
  • courage
  • cognizance of bias
  • curiosity
  • cultural intelligence
  • collaboration

Workshop participants also contributed to the discussion by sharing steps already taken in their workplaces, and discussing possible next steps.

Bach ended the session with examples of tools and resources that help workplaces build a business case and implementation strategy. He challenged participants to move from tolerating differences to making people feel they are respected, valued members of the team.

Start your own journey by downloading The Role of Leaders in Building Inclusive Workplaces.


1 Statistics Canada
2 Hunt, V., Layton, D., Prince, S., Diversity Matters, McKinsey & Company, 2015.
3 Dillon B., Bourke J., The Six Signature Traits of Inclusive Leadership: Thriving in a diverse new world, Deloitte University Press, 2016.