SCS Perspectives on EDI in the Workplace

SCS Perspectives on EDI in the Workplace

Microphone on stage

Dr. Catherine Chandler-Crichlow, Dean of the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies (SCS), shared a keynote address with the Toronto North Local Immigration Partnership.

This morning, SCS Dean, Dr. Catherine Chandler-Chrichlow, shared her perspective on applying EDI in the workplace at the Toronto North Local Immigration Partnership live event “Mainstreaming EDI in the Workplace: Challenges & Successes."

Dr. Chandler-Crichlow spoke to the importance of addressing approaches for creating inclusive work environments for newcomer jobseekers in the Toronto region, particularly in this post-pandemic era. “This strategic conversation is especially critical at this time. Employers across all sectors are determining new norms and practices in their workforce development and management coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it has impacted the business operations of many companies,” she said. “I would argue however, that the impact of the pandemic on the human side of organizations is one that requires deep and intentional consideration of EDI practices as we build new norms in the workplace.”

According to Dr. Chandler-Crichlow, newcomers experience some consistent challenges in areas such as understanding the labour market landscape, and identifying the unique skills, knowledge, competencies, and prerequisite work experience being sought by employers. They might also have a limited understanding of how their expertise, which was developed in a different country, maps onto the requirements of specific jobs in our region. In fact, Dr. Chandler-Crichlow noted that “it is tremendously unhelpful for employers to continue the rhetoric that newcomers do not have work experience in Canada ---- these individuals were approved to come to our country because of the skills, knowledge, and expertise that they bring, and I suggest that that is where conversation should begin.”

Dr. Chandler-Crichlow went on to explain that these factors can result in “information shortages” for newcomers; they would therefore be reliant on service providers to help them bridge the knowledge gap and establish careers in the region. “Newcomers would also benefit from access to mentors from different sectors to provide information pertaining to on-the-job realities in the workplace. The ability to participate in information sessions with employers from diverse industries would also provide insights into how their skills and experiences are needed in different sectors such as financial services, technology, and manufacturing,” she asserted. “The interesting thing is that these needs are similar to what I experienced decades ago as a newcomer. What is different today however, is the heightened acknowledgment that there is a need for an intentional approach to tackle and focus on EDI as it relates to newcomers.”

Importantly, Dr. Chandler Crichlow shared that there are a number of practices that can be adopted by employers to help newcomers integrate into the local workforce. 

Transparency

From an equity perspective, Dr. Chandler-Crichlow says employers should be more transparent on the specific capabilities being sought for key roles that they are recruiting for in their organizations. This can begin with the job postings that are listed on their sites or other portals. Information of this nature would be invaluable to service providers whose focus is on preparing newcomers for recruiting in the region --- especially in this difficult post-pandemic era in which some sectors have been negatively impacted.

Cultural Considerations

Dr. Chandler-Crichlow says that from a diversity perspective, there needs to be a recognition that some newcomers come from cultural backgrounds in which it is thought to be offensive to speak about their strengths and successes. In fact, in some cultures, this sharing of one’s capabilities is deemed to be boastful and unacceptable. “Our recruiting environment is built on individuals not only knowing their strengths and capabilities, but also on sharing them through storytelling and highlighting their capabilities relevant to the role,” she explained. “Some people could be highly skilled and experienced but have low confidence, and be reticent about sharing their narratives in the interview process. It is incumbent on all groups working on preparing newcomers for recruiting to also include modules in areas such as confidence building.”

Inclusion in Career Management 

When newcomers are recruited into companies, Dr. Chandler-Crichlow stressed that measures need to be taken to provide the career management skills to help them with advancing their careers in the organizations. “This could be focused on inclusion that helps newcomers to build an understanding of the cultural norms of our organizations, and to build a career within an organization,” she shared. In addition, Dr. Chandler Crichlow noted that individuals from under-served communities, including BIPOC communities, women, and related intersectionalities, have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, so a special emphasis on these groups would be beneficial as well.   

“From an EDI perspective, much can be achieved from employers and service providers working in partnership to address the long-standing challenges that newcomers face in building careers and being integrated into the local workforce,” she concluded. “If we don’t take an intentional and transparent approach to tackling these issues and implementing solutions to newcomer integration now, then when?”