Canadian employers missing the mark in engaging visible minority employees

Employers that fail to address and implement policies aimed at attracting and retaining Canada’s visible minorities are not tapping into a large, dynamic pool of skilled and professional workers, believes Deborah Gillis, vice president, North America, Catalyst. In the fifth and final report of a groundbreaking research series on visible minorities in corporate Canada, Catalyst has uncovered a gap that exists between organizations’ intentions to create inclusive opportunities for its visible minority talent and career satisfaction among visible minority managers, professionals, and executives.

Catalyst research found that visible minorities had lower levels of career satisfaction than their white counterparts. They perceived that opportunities for advancement were not made fairly available, that who you know outweighs what you know, and they feel excluded from social and business networks. Perhaps most significantly, says Gillis, is their lack of access to critical relationships, such as mentors and others to champion their success and advancement.

Canadian corporations cannot afford to underutilize the nation’s diverse talent pool – especially as Canadian business faces a turbulent economy and the need to maximize and leverage the best talent from an increasingly diverse workforce.

In this final report, Career Advancement in Corporate Canada: A Focus on Visible Minorities – Diversity and Inclusion Practices, Catalyst offers concrete examples of successful talent management practices that can improve engagement and career satisfaction among visible minorities and help develop, attract, and retain key talent.

“When you consider that talent management practices, such as mentoring, employee networks and diversity training for managers, increase career satisfaction scores for visible minorities by up to 22 per cent, the ROI for Canadian businesses is clear,” says Gillis. “Still, fewer than half of the employers surveyed reported policies and practices that address the concerns of visible minorities. By following the lead of the organizations and examples in this report, Canadian businesses can take an important leap forward in their support of diversity and inclusion and ultimately strengthen their competitive position.”

“Embracing a diverse workforce is a rich part of Canada’s economic history and now is the ideal time to leverage this national competitive advantage,” said Zabeen Hirji, chief human resources officer at RBC, the lead sponsor of the study. “Canadian companies have grown by welcoming the talent and ingenuity of diverse, smart, and energetic people from all over the world. Employers who take steps to eliminate the barriers facing visible minorities not only reflect the increasingly multicultural landscape of their client base, they attract and retain the talent they need for business success.”

According to Catalyst, Canadian organizations can learn from the experience of corporations with successful diversity and talent management practices to help improve career satisfaction for visible minorities and strengthen their bottom line. Gillis notes that the report contains specific information about 11 different programs from both Canadian and international companies. These programs could provide the templates that other organizations can adapt to suit their workplaces.

To this end, Catalyst recommends:

  • Incorporating diversity and inclusion considerations into talent management processes, such as recruiting and promoting practices, as RBC does with its diversity recruitment team, to offer equal opportunity to all employees seeking career advancement. Not only does RBC have specific visible minority outreach efforts, it strives for a diverse slate of candidates for senior level job openings.
  • Encouraging open dialogue to address sensitive issues, including race and ethnicities. Enhancing the exposure of visible minority employees to potential mentors and champions within the organization.
  • Creating an inclusive environment where managers understand and respect employees cultural differences as IBM Canada has done with its “Mindsets” manager training program.
  • Introduce critical relationship networks that provide employees with access to senior-level executives and employees from other departments and backgrounds.
  • Help influence business partners who implement daily talent management practices by appointing a senior-level diversity and inclusion executive as Deloitte & Touche LLP Canada has done through its Chief Diversity Officer position.

“When organizations create a more inclusive environment, they also create and retain employees who are engaged, productive, and creative – and contributing fully to the success of that organization,” concludes Gillis.

RBC is the study’s lead sponsor. Deloitte and IBM Canada are the participating sponsors. The Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration is the supporting sponsor.

A full version of the report is available at