The three key practices for an inclusive work culture

By Shazia McCormick

Shazia McCormick is the Director, Culture and Inclusion at Scotiabank. She’s worked globally in multiple industries, and is a recognized thought leader in her field.

Growing up as a child of mixed-race parents gave me a unique perspective on life. I learned first-hand how ethnicity can impact how you are treated—having both experienced privilege and being the target of non-inclusive behaviours. It also spurred me to want to understand the world more. I’ve had the opportunity to live and work in multiple countries, with each having their own socio-economic challenges.

As an adult, this has allowed me to recognize that privilege comes with a choice: how we use it. I believe in the concept of “I am the problem. I am the solution.” It is everyone’s job to help create an inclusive culture, especially in the workplace. Being an ally and amplifying the voices of others are key components, but there are many levers needed to make change happen.

And this is where we have the opportunity to do better in our workplaces. Creating an inclusive culture is not just about initiatives, it’s about fundamentally changing the things that happen every day. This includes processes and practices throughout organizations, how we communicate, and the skills that managers and leaders have.

Yes, it’s easier said than done—but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Through my experience in organizations around the world, and in my current role as Director, Culture and Inclusion at Scotiabank, I’ve been able to identify some elements that help create an inclusive work culture.

Don’t just create diversity, embrace it.

With over 23 million customers globally, Scotiabankers speak over 100 languages and hail from over 120 countries. As Canada’s international bank, diversity is key to the success of our company. We believe that inclusion is the action that delivers the benefits of diversity. If an organization lacks systemic practices to help its employees deliver their best, it will never see the full potential of a diverse organization.

Our inclusion journey has evolved over our many years in business. We embrace diversity by valuing differences. Through our practices, we strive to create an environment where we amplify and leverage these differences to foster innovation and performance. Through our people, we continuously build our understanding of our customers and each other. It is our varied perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences that enable achievement of our business goals.

Related: Learn how Maria Theofilaktidis is leading by example, and how she navigated her career to land at the top.

Encourage involvement throughout the organization.

We believe that every Scotiabanker has a role in creating an environment where people feel involved, respected, valued, connected, and are able to bring their authentic selves to work. By fostering this mindset with all employees, we enable them to do their best work.

We have had success engaging all levels of our organization through Employee Resources Groups (ERGs). These are the grassroots voice of Scotiabank employees, amplifying the voice of our diversity, spanning cultural groups, gender groups, LGBT+ and more. They focus on employee development and general awareness, and they identify opportunities to have customer impact.

An organization doesn’t necessarily need to follow this model—but even without large programs, you can find success by encouraging individual employees at a grassroots level. A great example of personal action is the HeForShe movement, which we have also embraced at Scotiabank. It’s simply men taking tangible actions in their day-to-day jobs to make a difference in gender equality. The immediate impact may be within their sphere of influence, but the results of the movement are inevitably broad-reaching.

Set the strategy and tone from the top.

If senior leaders are not on board acting as role models, inclusion efforts will fall flat. At Scotiabank, we emphasize leadership development, specific to inclusive and respectful behaviours. We also hold our leaders accountable to demonstrate inclusivity in their actions and teams. This can be seen both through daily practices and initiatives, such as our leadership development program and our Inclusion Council.

Founded in 2014, the Inclusion Council has a mandate of demonstrating, monitoring, and promoting a culture of inclusion and diversity of perspective for better business results. Led by our Chief Human Resources Officer, and consisting of Executive Vice Presidents and Senior Vice Presidents from across the Bank, they are tasked with embedding diversity and inclusion into strategic business initiatives. The group meets regularly to ensure they’re having an impact. Whatever your organization’s inclusion strategy, by regularly examining what’s working and what isn’t, you’ll find that progress can be put on a faster track.

My last piece of advice: don’t rest on your laurels. Scotiabank is continuing to evolve what it means to be an inclusive workplace and the need for it to be an action. It is never enough to say, “We support diversity.” An inclusive environment is a daily, organization-wide effort, demonstrated through both people and practices. At Scotiabank, we understand that and it is how we compete at our best.