Canada is becoming known internationally for its progressiveness and inclusivity. So when Canadians witness events that undermine these values, many of us ask, “what can I do to help?” There have been several displays of unity over recent months, and many articles have been written about  how we can be supportive in our personal and social interactions. But what can we do in our workplaces?

According to the World Health Organization, we spend around one-third of our adult lives at work, so it would be fair to say workplaces have a powerful role to play in building inclusive and welcoming societies.

We spoke with two TRIEC partners, Accenture and the Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario (ETFO), about how their organizations have become leaders in diversity and inclusion and asked them to share their ideas about how people can be more inclusive in the workplace. Here is what they told us.

1. Start with an analysis of your current state

Paula Rankin, Human Resources Officer at EFTO, suggests carrying out an analysis of the current state of your organization to help you understand where you are now versus where you want to be and how to move forward. She notes that “it’s important to take steps that your employees and organization are ready for and will therefore be receptive to. You need to ensure your policies are effective, you don’t want to just be checking boxes.”

2. Set realistic goals

Michelle Deschenes, Inclusion and Diversity Manager at Accenture advises: “set realistic goals and build leadership teams that better reflect your workforce and society.” She also recommends “launching a referral program to encourage your teams to refer diverse candidates for open positions and award them with a bonus if the candidate is hired.”

3. Lead from the top

One of the key factors driving the success of both Accenture and ETFO’s diversity and inclusion strategies is that the message comes from senior leadership. At ETFO, everyone, including the executive team, receives ongoing training and professional development, so “conducting business through a diversity lens becomes business as usual,” says Paula.

In 2016 Accenture set out to drive D&I leadership accountability through the creation of the Canadian Diversity Council for senior Canadian leaders.

4. Share your progress

In the interest of transparency, Accenture has also started reporting on the demographics of its Canadian workforce including: gender, people with disabilities, visible minorities and Indigenous peoples. According to Deschenes, while Accenture is pleased with their progress, they have committed to building on their efforts and sharing their results annually.

5. Empower your employees

Both organizations spoke to the importance of opportunities for employees to own and contribute to D&I initiatives.

Deschenes shares that at Accenture, Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and other employee-led initiatives are one way to provide employees “opportunities to grow their skills, strengthen their networks, and give back to the communities where they live and work.”

6. Share knowledge and ideas

D&I related training, such as those available through TRIEC Campus, and regular communications keep employees up to date with best practice to work effectively with a diverse workforce and clients. Sharing knowledge and perspectives from different cultures also contributes to inclusion.

7. Become a mentor!

Offer programs like The Mentoring Partnership. Deschenes shares that “Accenture mentors who work with TRIEC and The Mentoring Partnership gain leadership experience and develop their cross-cultural competency skills while helping an immigrant professional reconnect with their career in Canada.” Since joining The Mentoring Partnership, Accenture has had 76 employees enroll in the program as mentors. Learn more about becoming a mentor or signing up your organization as an employer partner here.