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INclusion OUT Diversity?

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diversity vs inclusion

I’m noticing a trend: people are using the terms “diversity” and “inclusion” interchangeably.

Remember when the conversation was about “equality” and equal opportunities? Since the 1970s the topic of workplace equality gained the attention of organizations and 1984 saw the beginnings of Employment Equity in Canada.

But over the past two decades, many organizations ditched the “traditional” language of equal opportunities in their internal and external policy statements in favour of diversity. Whereas equality emphasized non-discriminatory practices in the workplace, diversity was about recognizing the benefits of bringing together the different skills, backgrounds and viewpoints that exist in society.

We’re talking about more than just semantics here. The language an organization uses is a reflection of its values, and something as simple as one word can signal meaningful changes in its policy orientation.

Today, the word “diversity” is sort of becoming like your favourite jeans from last season. They still fit but they’re not in style anymore, and everybody else has a pair.

Organizations that want to stand out and lead the pack are now adding “inclusion” to their diversity statements – among them corporate leaders like RBC, HP and AOL. This begs the question: What is the difference?

Diversity is, quite simply, the “mix.” It means a variety of different kinds of people are at your workplace, reflecting the range of cultures, ages and other variations that exist in the workforce. Inclusion is taking that diversity to the next level.

HP defines inclusion as “a work environment where everyone has an opportunity to fully participate in creating business success and where each person is valued for his or her distinctive skills, experiences and perspectives.”

A salad, for instance, is a great example of “inclusion.”

You can lay out a variety of vegetables on a plate with dressing on the side but that does not make it a salad. It’s just vegetable diversity. In an actual salad, the lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and dressings are all mixed together. This creates synergies where all the parts are working together and the result is far more delicious and impressive than the plate of vegetables you had to start with.

Diversity is the range of differences among the organization’s people – women, people with disabilities, visible minorities, immigrants, LGBT people, blondes, redheads, tall people, short people, sports fans, foodies – you get the picture.

Inclusion is a quality of the organization itself.

Career Edge Organization embraces this shift, recognizing that the best companies are those that have integrated diversity at all levels, creating an environment that supports and leverages their employees so they can reach their full potential.

Don’t get me wrong – a variety of vegetables is better than just a boring plate of carrots. But wouldn’t you rather eat a salad?

What Toronto Can Do Better

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Earlier this week, our President and CEO at Career Edge Organization, Anne Lamont attended the Toronto Forum for Global Cities, put on by the International Economic Forum of the Americas, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

This year’s theme was “restoring growth in a post bail-out era” and the speakers included CEOs and representatives from the White House, OECD, Deloitte & Touche, Toronto Hydro Corporation, World Bank Group, IBM, TD, GE Canada and Scotia Bank. On a side note, it was great to see that several of our Host Organizations were represented there.

On Monday, the OECD issued its Territorial Review of Toronto which essentially identifies what we are doing right and what we can be doing better on economic development issues such as energy, infrastructure, finance and innovation, to name a few.

First, the good news – the Report cites Toronto as one of the most diverse cities in the OECD, and the most culturally diverse urban centre in Canada, with half of the population being foreign born.

However the reality is that we (Toronto employers) could do a much better job of tapping into this valuable resource.

One of the key policy issues identified is “the under-utilization of immigrants and cultural diversity” and not surprisingly, “bridging education programmes and internships” were cited as clear solutions to “address obstacles to the recognition and appreciation of foreign skills, which are an asset for the knowledge economy.”

We are pleased to see that the OECD mentioned us as a successful “bridge to work” program, in reference to our Career Bridge program for Internationally Qualified Professionals (for those of you who have the report, you can find us on page 115). The Report goes on to say that now that the approach has been tested, bridging and internship programs could be used more widely.

CEO welcomes a new team member!

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We’ve heard it time and time again – an organization is only as good as its people. That’s what makes the work of an employer both exciting and challenging. Bringing a new employee onto your team can be like adding a new piece of furniture to your living room. It breathes new life into the room and changes the dynamics of how all the pieces fit together. Most importantly, it makes your space complete.

This is why everyone here is nothing short of stoked to welcome Heather Brown to the team – and don’t worry Heather, the furniture reference was just an analogy!

Heather will be filling the newly created role of ESL/FSL Applicant Screening Specialist, joining our team of ESL Screening Specialists – Ollie and Paula.

Our “screeners” interview candidates of our Career Bridge program for Internationally Qualified Professionals to ensure the highest standards within our talent database. As our pool of bilingual talent continues to expand, we recognized the need for a French language screener and brought Heather on board.

Heather’s background and experience as a language teacher and adult educator, her educational credentials in Applied Linguistics and Professional Communications at the masters-level and her fluency in both English and French make her the perfect addition to our team here at Career Edge Organization.

On top of that she’s got a great personality. Welcome Heather!

Happy to JOIN – CEO takes in JOIN’s annual conference on hiring persons with disabilities

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Yesterday, November 5th, two Career Edge Organization “staffers” Rizwan Abdul and Rima Dasgupta attended the 6th annual JOIN Conference Employing Individuals with Disabilities – Strategies on inclusion, Recruitment and Retention.

First some information on JOIN.  Job Opportunity Information Network (JOIN), for Persons with Disabilities is a network of 50 community agencies who deliver ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) Employment Supports in Toronto and Central East Region. JOIN affiliates assist persons living with disabilities to find and maintain employment, and assist employers looking to recruit qualified candidates with disabilities to meet their hiring needs.

Now more about the annual conference. The JOIN Annual conference is an event that facilitates discussion among various stakeholders about hiring, retaining and promoting employees with disabilities. The Annual conference is widely seen as a leading event for businesses, not-for-profit sector organizations and public sector employers working with individuals with disabilities.

Career Edge Organization, one of the founding members of the JOIN Toronto Region Business Leadership Network was pleased to attend this year’s JOIN conference. From our perspective, it  was an excellent learning experience and we are pleased to observe that once again (and despite widespread recessionary constraints in effect) there was a great turnout as new businesses become members of JOIN and are taking a proactive approach by hiring persons with disabilities (PWD’s).

Our staff who participated in the event were very encouraged that many employers attending including Scotiabank, the lead event sponsor organization are also Career Edge Organization host employers who recognize us as a key player among organizations that work in the area of integrating PWD’s in the workplace through the Ability Edge paid internship program.  This year’s conference has seen many new employers participating but we encourage new employer involvement to keep the momentum created by JOIN on track. Hiring qualified persons with disabilities is a proven key business enabler – we hear that loud and clear from many of the host organizations that we partner with to provide graduates with disabilities meaningful work experience throught the Ability Edge program.

The keynote address by Dr. Jennifer Arnold was very inspirational as she narrated her journey as a person with disability and her experiences in overcoming the barriers to become a Pediatrician, neonatal specialist, professor and a reality TV star. The various sessions conducted by members of JOIN were also very informative as they discussed their key learnings and best practices working with employees with disabilities.

The sharing was phenomenal! Some of the key learnings from the sessions were that hiring, retaining and promoting PWD’s is an ongoing learning process and no one can claim to be the experts in the area. Notable best practices that can be emulated from these employers is that open communication between all key holders including the employees with a disability is crucial in integrating these employees and removing the barriers to their integration in the workforce.

More than employment expertise

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Career Edge Organization would like to thank the University of Toronto Mississauga Career Centre for inviting us to participate in a panel discussion yesterday.

As a panelist, our own Janice Rudkowski, Director of Marketing and Communications, shared her experiences in the marketing industry with eager, wide-eyed students who came from a variety of academic backgrounds from business management to anthropology!

One of the key insights Janice offered was on the topic of networking. Job seekers are often told that persistence and networking are the key to penetrating the job market but as employers, we all know how frustrating it is to be bombarded with pleading emails, voice-mails and LinkedIn requests from people you have never met. In a competitive environment like this one, employers may begin to feel like everyone is asking something of them.

“Ask yourself, what can I do for them?” Janice suggested to the would-be marketers.

She stressed that it is quality, not quantity that counts when it comes to building relationships, pointing out that relationships built on mutual benefit are the way to go, not networking for the sake of building a contact list.

Janice also told the group not to take it personally if an interview doesn’t result in a job offer, saying that it is often a matter of fit rather than qualifications and that “they may actually be doing you a favour!” Because working in an environment where the fit isn’t right is not an experience anyone wants.

Claire Westgate, Coordinator and Employer Services at UTM, organized the “Careers in Marketing Night at the University of Toronto Mississauga” in partnership with their Student Marketing Association, and did a fantastic job moderating the panel discussion.

Janice holds an MBA and has an extensive background in marketing including private sector experience in Brand Management, Category Management, Licensing, Sales and Retail across a number of industry sectors including Consumer Packaged Goods, Toys and Consumer Healthcare.

CEO gets “Brazen” with young professionals

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Since Brazen Careerist was kind enough to feature our post on their blog today, we thought we’d take the opportunity to let employers know about this interesting new website and career management tool.

Founded by Penelope Trunk, Ryan Healy and Ryan Paugh in August 2007, Brazen Careerist is a social networking site for young professionals looking to share more than their profiles. It’s a bit of a hybrid of various popular social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, all wrapped in one.

Brazen Careerist describes itself as “an online community and career center for Generation Y.” It’s a place where young professionals can exchange ideas and insights about topics relevant to the next generation. It is also intended to be a tool for managing their online brand. Creating a positive and professional online presence is a key issue for the Facebook generation as they transition from student life to work life. Brazen Careerist is accessible to employers who wish to learn more about Gen Y and witness unrealized talent at work.

Today’s youth face a challenging work environment. Many graduated in a recession and saw youth unemployment skyrocket. They have little relevant work experience and are generally stereotyped as being transient, demanding and unwilling to pay their dues. Our study (which you can read about on Brazen Careerist) showed that these stereotypes are not true and the employers we work with know that recent graduates bring talent, education and a fresh perspective to the workplace. It is wonderful to see this generation has created a forum where they can properly represent themselves.

Paid internships: A postgraduate education

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Career Edge Organization Alumni Network Logo

Earlier this week, Career Edge Organization reached out to nearly eight thousand of its former interns to introduce a new initiative, the Alumni Network.

As part of our continuing efforts to give more to our stakeholders, we want the individuals who have gone through our program to know that we haven’t forgotten about them and that we have more to give.

Many of our Alumni have become Host Employers who now hire interns from us. We launched their careers and now they are doing the same for others. Our Alumni have also participated in past reunion events and mentoring programs. Due to the excellent level of engagement we saw, we have decided to offer more.

To kick things off, we made a call for volunteers to sit on a committee that will steer the direction of the programs and services we offer Alumni. I couldn’t believe the positive response we got and want to thank everyone so far who took the time to complete an application.

Among the interesting responses I received, several people asked this question: How can a career services organization have Alumni? So I did what anyone would do – I Googled the word Alumni.

As defined in most places, an alumnus can be a graduate of an educational institution or can refer to a former employee, member, participant or contributor. In our case I think any of those definitions can apply.

Our three programs give recent graduates and internationally qualified professionals their first relevant Canadian work experience. When they complete an internship they have advanced from one of the most important educational experiences of their lives.

A paid internship isn’t just a contract or a temporary job. Our partner employers provide a career-launching experience in a supportive learning environment. So when they complete their internships, in a way, they have graduated.

We don’t give them caps and gowns and we don’t play pomp and circumstance as they leave the office, but we know that our Alumni have advanced through a competitive process and we want to continue to celebrate their future successes.

Vital Signs Weak for Youth Employment

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“The future economic prosperity is in the hands of this generation,” according to Sonja Stockton, head of recruitment for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

In an interview on their website, Stockton was addressing the global issue of rising youth unemployment.

A report released earlier this month by Community Foundations of Canada found that youth employment was declining faster than any other demographic.

Canada’s Vital Signs 2009 reports that the unemployment rate is 16.3 per cent for youth, around double the unemployment rate for the general population.

It’s no wonder Millennials have been dubbed “Generation Y Me?”

Stockton went on to say:

“It will not be a quick fix, but if we get it right, we could have a generation that has learned some of the hardest business lessons, quicker and more effectively than many of the generations in full time employment.”

Many of the perceptions about this generation of youth are false stereotypes perpetuated by studies that look at Gen Y as a homogenous group, not taking cultural diversity into account. Older studies on Gen Y may be obsolete now anyway, as the recession and current youth unemployment rates have a significant impact on attitudes and values about working in Canada.

In our upcoming posts, we will be using the blog to share insights about Generation Y from our recent study conducted with Porter Novelli and Angus Reid Strategies (click here to read the press release), so stay tuned!

An open door policy

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Communicating with our stakeholders is not a new concept to us. We have an e-newsletter that is circulated to more than 25,000 subscribers and are frequent participants in employment-related workshops, conferences and other events.

The tools through which we communicate are changing, and Career Edge Organization has embraced this by embarking in new social media. This blog, our LinkedIn groups and our twitter account are just a few examples of how we are strategically leveraging social media to better communicate with you.

We observe the Canadian employment landscape from the perspectives of all our partners and stakeholders, including employers, government, agencies, thought leaders and job-seekers – in turn providing us with spectacular insights. We have our fingers on the pulse of what’s happening in Canada’s economic and labour market environments. Our staff is led by a management team of accomplished executives with a passion for progress and openness to change. We have also invited leaders and experts from the field to contribute from time to time. So while I will be the primary administrator of this blog, know that the viewpoints expressed here come from an excellent vantage point.

We decided to call this “The C.E.O. Blog” for a number of reasons, the obvious one being that the letters CEO are an acronym for Career Edge Organization. We recognize however that those letters represent much more to many people.
They represent thought leadership, knowledge and accountability – virtues we hope to convey through our communications here. The Chief Executive Officer or CEO is also one of the highest-ranking positions a person can aspire to in their career, and we like to think that the careers we launch here belong to the future leaders of tomorrow. Finally, C-level executives are ultimately the decision-makers who champion innovative and progressive hiring practices. They represent employers like you whose partnership over the years is the reason Career Edge Organization has been a true Canadian success story.

As we have developed strong relationships with major Canadian employers, post-secondary institutions and employment agencies, we are always kept in the loop regarding business, HR and employment-related events, studies and news. The great thing about having a blog is not only do we now have a forum where we can share this valuable knowledge with you; we have also created a community where you can share with us and join the conversation.

Welcome to The C.E.O. blog! Questions? Comments? Our door is always open.