HR Insights
January 30, 2023

Public sector leaders share their strategies for nurturing workforce DEI

Hear a new perspective from Canadian public sector and industry experts about how they’re advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion at their organization.

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“How are we, as a government, representative of the people we serve?” asked Ray Edwards, Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada. In a recent webinar discussion, Canadian public sector leaders and experts discussed the importance of nurturing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in government organizations.

The modern workplace has become increasingly complex, and today’s public sector needs to find the right balance of technology and people management to support their workers’ changing expectations. Organizations are committed to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion, but the momentum from one-off initiatives isn’t enough for long-term success.

Read on to hear the most valuable insights from Ceridian’s webinar. Learn how leaders are using real-time analytics to pulse-check their organizations’ well-being and leveraging workforce management technologies to make DEI a natural part of their daily processes.

The main catalysts driving technology transformation within governments

A popular strategy in the private sector is infusing DEI into everyday workplace processes so that it can naturally become part of company culture. Strategies to reduce bias in hiring processes, run more accessible meetings, and encourage self-reflection with automated surveys are built to be sustainable, repeatable, and engrained into a company’s identity rather than a separate initiative.

The public sector must pursue new processes supporting DEI in all workforce practices to ensure people are paid accurately, scheduled fairly, and engaged at work. Having the right tools is essential for tracking your progress and presenting a measurable impact. “It needs to be treated as every other priority in your organization. We’re going to make commitments, and we’re going to measure our progress,” said Edwards.

Having a public strategy is essential for accountability from the top. But today’s workforce must also be motivated to root out any unconscious bias.

“What will we do differently to get different results? Bias can be deeply rooted in processes and systems, and sometimes that bias is not visible to people who are not impacted. As we move forward, we need to be thinking about three questions:

  1. How can we change our norms and our behaviours?
  2. How do we embed organizational change to be more sustainable change?
  3. And how are we addressing the root causes of inequity?”

“Our mandate is to equip public servants with the knowledge and skills they need to serve Canadians with excellence,” said Nathalie Laviades Jodouin, Vice President of Public Sector Operations and Inclusion at the Canada School of Public Service. “This means they need to be walking the talk when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion in all facets of the work they do, whether they’re developing policies or delivering programs and services.”

Creating an employee-centric experience at work

“Specifically for public sector, employee expectations for technology have changed because of what they’re being offered in the private sector. As workplaces have become more global and hybrid, people want a technology-friendly experience at work,” said Jesaiah Mills, National Practice Lead of People Experience at BDO Lixar.  

This intersection is a great opportunity to elevate the employee experience while driving DEI initiatives through the same systems. Using tools like advanced workforce management and real-time analytics is essential for giving public sector leaders the information they need to make impactful changes to their employee experience.

“Technology can help you be more proactive instead of reactive. Many leaders have the right intention, but they’re not able to move quickly on DEI initiatives that could move the needle right now as opposed to next year,” said Mills. “For example, before starting a merit cycle, technology can help your payroll team run analysis of your representation across your workforce.”

One of the big benefits brought on by remote work is inclusivity. “We’ve democratized meetings,” Edwards shared. “We can have meetings with people all over the country. We’re not limited by the size of meeting rooms. We’ve increased our ability to bring diversity into important conversations around policy and programs.”

Jodouin echoed a similar sentiment. “The pandemic has had us really think differently about our business. We used to hold events in a room that held 100. When you remove that physical space as a barrier, we’ve held events up to 16,000 people. We wouldn’t have had that reach if we were limited to our physical space.”

Breaking down silos doesn’t happen overnight. Joudouin shared some of the digital standards the Government of Canada has formally introduced to create a better space to tackle DEI in the workplace. These are reminders to check in about inclusion for colleagues to work together online in the new world of work.

  • Design with users.
  • Work in the open.
  • Build accessibility from the start; be inclusive by design.
  • Design ethically.
  • Collaborate widely.

Leveraging digital tools to support DEI initiatives

“How are we leveraging tools out there for us to be able to do our work and follow these principles?” Joudoin asked in relation to the government’s digital standards, bringing big goals down to a practical standpoint.

In the HR space, people analytics can play a critical role in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion across workforce processes. Mills touched on the idea of carrying the whole person through a system. “Oftentimes in hiring, performance, and payroll processes, only the person’s name is consistent throughout. If that name can impact unconscious bias, it can impact small decisions occurring across the employee lifecycle.”

Real-time analytics can play a supporting role in HR processes to promote DEI in everyday processes.

  • Promotion cycles: Who are we considering for promotion?
  • Scheduling: Who are we offering prime shifts to when it comes to hourly employees?
  • Hiring: Who are we sending a job offer to?

When it comes to candidates and recruiting, often, we only find out these DEI indicators after recruiters have already reached out with an offer. This is a missed opportunity for DEI analysis.

“The way we apply technology can be used throughout the lifecycle of staff. Development and retention strategies could all be enabled through technology,” said Edwards.

It starts off with exposing these DEI indicators throughout all of your HCM systems. From there, government organizations can start to develop benchmarks and track potential weak spots across the full employee lifecycle. This is how predictive technologies can help HR leaders keep track of your organization’s process toward its DEI goals.

The power of real-time analytics for HR data

One of the most valuable aspects of analytics for HR data is seeing the whole picture of your workforce. It’s important to understand what people’s needs are and how you can better address them. “Understanding where your HR data is at any point in time is critical when you’re looking to make those meaningful changes regarding your DEI strategy,” said Donnebra McClendon, Vice President of Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Ceridian.

Adding nuance to your HR data is also critical to understanding what initiatives are moving the needle.

Engagement surveys once or twice a year are meaningful, but it’s important that you consistently have access to the data. You need to have a pulse of how the organization is feeling,” said McClendon. “Having the ability to drop a quick survey to find out the effectiveness really is critical when you’re talking about making sustainable changes in the way that people behave.”

Edwards agreed. “This is the opportunity for real-time feedback. We can poll people during meetings all at once. We can anonymize people’s contributions, so that if they don’t feel safe, they can make those contributions and we can have access to that information. This real-time feedback has been incredible for understanding where people are at.”

The challenges of adopting DEI analytics tools

That’s not to say that there aren’t challenges to adopting new technologies or human capital management processes. Mindshift is one of them.

“When you talk about DEI, it can be a touchy subject for some people. Most people believe that we are good and we don’t really have a problem. We work in harmonious places, we like the people we work with, and there isn’t a problem,” McClendon pointed out. “It’s more so about creating preventative measures and it’s getting people to think differently.”

When it comes to pointing to data, analytics can help objectively display weak spots. “We can shine a spot on the things we’re not seeing, like the unconscious bias that we don’t know we have,” said Edwards.

Time is another challenge. Changing company culture doesn’t happen overnight, and many of us want to see results. “From the enterprise level, the tone from the top is important as well as from the departmental level,” said Edwards.

Measuring and communicating progress over time is essential to letting your public sector employees know that your organization is committed to the long haul of change. Diversity, equity, and inclusion is meaningful work for a better workplace culture.

To hear more about how government organizations are leveraging predictive technology as part of their DEI strategy, watch the free, on-demand webinar Harnessing the power of technology for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Canadian public sector.

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