Unlocking the value of a more diverse workplace

The future of trucking sees younger people behind the wheel, women as fleet managers and a variety of ethnicities being included  – a far cry from the predominately older, male, white industry we work in today.

Diversity is a hot button issue for the trucking industry as it struggles to recruit and retain a lot of its workers, especially amid the driver and technician shortage. So in order to find success, human resource and diversity experts are sending the industry a clear, concise message: embrace diversity or watch your company flounder in the rough economic waves.

In terms of the workplace, diversity isn’t just adding an assortment of genders, ages, and ethnic backgrounds into your company to check off all the diversity boxes and hope for success. Rather, the word diversity in the workplace has a much deeper definition according to experts.

“On the surface, diversity is measured by what we can see. That’s why I think gender gets a lot of attention…and visible ethnicities,” says Shannon MacDonald, chief inclusion officer with Deloitte. “But it’s what is under the surface… it’s the diversity of thought and the collaboration of ideas – that’s true diversity.”

MacDonald stressed that most HR teams should be focusing on someone’s diverse thinking to achieve the goal of diversity, rather than their gender or skin colour.

“We have to train ourselves to look at those who might be a little different and will want to do things differently,” she said. “When we drive a car, we’ve trained ourselves to look in our blind spot. And this is a huge blind spot. We have to ask ourselves, I have to hire someone for this team, have I thought of hiring someone different who wouldn’t normally fill this role?”

Simply hiring someone with a different ethnic background to add diversity to your payroll, doesn’t solve this problem says Jennifer Laidlaw, diversity inclusion with CIBC, in fact, it hinders your diversity efforts.

The key, said Laidlaw, is to unlock the value of that diversity within the workplace.

“We want to get at those moments of truth,” Laidlaw said. “We can tick off all those boxes and say yes we have diversity…but the question is, are we valuing that diversity or are we trying to take difference and turn it into sameness? Diversity on its own has limited value because you have to unlock that value.”

To unlock the power of diversity, Laidlaw said fleet executives need to start getting comfortable hiring people who might challenge them in the boardroom. Welcoming this push and pull within the boardroom will leverage a team’s different thought process and will cause a positive change in an organization, Laidlaw added.

The power of unlocking diversity is seen when companies have both men and women in the boardroom. Men and women are so different that it provides a great opportunity for discussion and conflict management since both sexes think and react differently to certain situations, experts say.

“We need both men and women at the table and we need them to be well positioned and well equipped to work well together to value the fact that, you may come at this differently and I may come at this differently, but if we come at this differently we are going to get a better outcome,” said Laidlaw.

Kelley Platt, chief diversity officer, Daimler and president of Western Star Trucks said that adding women to management positions in a company has other benefits, too, that add value to a business.

“Women tend to think more about how you get results not necessarily about what those results are,” she said. “They also tend to provide more recognition. And they tend to notice the little things, such as whether somebody actually has a problem at home that needs to be addressed.”

This in turn, said Platt, shows your employees that your company actually cares about them.

To add diversity to your workplace, Angela Splinter, CEO of Trucking Human Resources Canada says that trucking companies in particular should start looking at those traditionally underrepresented groups (those with disabilities, Indigenous peoples) when hiring because unbeknownst to many companies, these groups are actually growing.

“These groups are growing and they are becoming an increasingly larger portion of the Canadian labour force as a whole,” she said. “What we’re working to do (at Trucking HR Canada) is ensure the trucking industry is aware of this so they can start being proactive in terms of how they go about recruiting and most importantly retaining these untapped labour pools into their workforce. I think the industry can overlook (those with disabilities), considering the nature some of our work, particularly when we’re talking about drivers and technicians. But I think it’s important to continue to look at that group in particular and what workplace accommodations we can be making.”

To add more Indigenous people into your organization, Splinter suggests partnering with Aboriginal organizations that specialize in finding work for those in the community.

Splinter added that there are multiple benefits of having a truly diverse workplace.

“First, it’s going to ensure you have the workers that you need and will help solve the shortages we have in trucking,” she said. “Plus, your workplace will be reflective of the Canadian population. And then when you’re reaching out to these underrepresented groups, that word of mouth is important to help build up your reputation that you are a good, inclusive place to work. And you’ll want more people working for your business. That is just good branding.”

Splinter stressed that in order for your workplace to achieve true diversity it is paramount that the messages of inclusion and acceptance come from the top down. This will create something else your business will want to achieve once it is a diverse workplace – a culture of inclusion.

“To have a culture of inclusion that is meaningful, it does have to come from the top,” she said. “The senior management of the organization needs to believe in it and needs to champion so everyone within the organization knows it’s important.”

She used the example of how Kriska Transportation, which has a large population of Indo-Canadian employees, supports and includes all of its employees.

“Kriska for example, has more of an Indo community and they celebrate those holidays within their workplace, in addition to Christmas and the other traditional holidays.”

Splinter said that HR staff and managers in trucking need to make diversity of point of focus to ensure a successful future.

“Fleets today need to make diversity a priority within their HR strategies,” she said. “Workplace inclusion is important. Employers need to look at the makeup of their workforce and look at their policies and approaches and culture can be reflective of that. Workplace inclusion is important today and will be important tomorrow.”

Sonia Straface is the associate editor of Truck News and Truck West magazines. She graduated from Ryerson University's journalism program in 2013 and enjoys writing about health and wellness and HR issues surrounding the transportation industry. Follow her on Twitter: @SoniaStraface.

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