Lisa Gallivan & Alison Strachan
Lisa Gallivan & Alison Strachan, Stewart McKelvey

In April, we talked about Accommodating Religious and Spiritual Belief in the Workplace.  Today, August 15, is National Acadian Day, recognized by the Parliament of Canada in the National Acadian Day Act, SC 2003, c. 11 with the following preamble:

WHEREAS Acadians, in view of their origin, history and development, constitute the first permanent settlement from France in Canada and now reside in most of the provinces and territories of Canada;

WHEREAS the Acadian people have contributed, for nearly 400 years, to the economic, cultural and social vitality of Canada;

WHEREAS August 15 has been, since 1881, the day on which Acadians celebrate National Acadian Day;

WHEREAS the Acadian people’s identity is defined by their language, their culture and their customs;

WHEREAS it is in the interest of all Canadians to be able to share in the rich historical and cultural heritage of Acadians and to become more familiar with all its aspects, both traditional and contemporary;

AND WHEREAS it is important to encourage Acadians to be proud of their heritage;

What better day for our blog to talk about celebrating diversity in the workplace and the cultural and social enrichment that diversity brings!  Our workplaces have and will become increasingly diverse for many different reasons.  Statistics released in the 2011 National Household Survey conducted by Statistics Canada show that:


  • 20.6% of the total population of Canada is foreign-born (the highest proportion among the G8 countries)
  • Between 2006 and 2011, approximately 1.1 million foreign-born individuals immigrated to Canada making up approximately 17.2% of the foreign-born population and 3.5% of the total population in Canada
  • More than 200 ethnic origins were reported in the 2011 National Household Survey and 13 different origins had surpassed the 1-million mark.

Organizational success depends on the ability to effectively manage diversity in the workplace. When organizations develop and implement diversity plans, everyone benefits.  Here are a few tips to help you start and implement such a plan:

Tip 1 – Assess diversity in the workplace

An assessment and evaluation of your workplace will help determine what challenges and obstacles to diversity are present.  This may only require a simple audit of your existing policies, but usually it requires more.  Anonymous employee surveys can help highlight obstacles to a culturally and socially diverse workplace.

Tip 2 – Include diversity as a goal in the overall workplace plan

Create a plan that is comprehensive, attainable and measurable.  Ultimately, your organization must determine what changes are required and how much time is necessary for change to happen.

Tip 3 – Implement a diversity plan

Developing a plan is not enough.  Everyone must commit.  Values originate at the top and filter downward.  Every employer should participate in developing the plan and encourage employees to contribute ideas as to how to make a diversity plan work as it takes shape and effect.

Tip 4 – Diversity training

Most people resist changing the status quo.  Some are not even aware they are doing this.  Workplace diversity training can help to identify resistance and determine how to counteract the negative impact that resistance has on organizational goals.

Tip 5 – Review, audit and reassess

Build a process for reviewing and auditing your diversity plan as it unfolds at the workplace. Address successes and use them for an educational purpose.  Address bumps along the way and use them as a learning experience.  Is everyone embracing the policy?  If not, something is wrong and you need to find out why.

Tip 6 – It never hurts to celebrate diversity!

Almost everyone likes a party.  Cultural and social barriers can be lessened by celebration and team building.  Be creative – host a multicultural pot luck, luncheon or event where employees can celebrate diversity.  Provide time for employees to share cultural experiences with their co-workers.

Lisa Gallivan and Alison Strachan are the editors of, and regular contributors to, Stewart McKelvey’s HRLaw blog.  HRLaw regularly blogs current human resource issues and case law commentary.  In addition, Stewart McKelvey has a vibrant twitter presence @SM_EmployerLaw where Lisa and Alison tweet daily under the hashtag #HRpick on human resource issues.  Lisa is a skilled presenter, trainer and facilitator providing on-site training for employees and executives on all workplace matters including facilitation of executive meetings and retreats, policy development and strategic business planning.