Archives for April 2023

6 Ways to Assess Your Organization’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

How can leaders rethink the implementation of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) training and initiatives to maximize returns on their people and culture?

Successful EDI training involves the embedding of equitable practices, procedures, and policies in every facet of an organization, and it is not offered as a stand-alone training or performative.  Organizations that rush to implement EDI training programs without reviewing their motivation, internal practices, policies and programs have difficulty sustaining the changes they wish to see, and return to the previous paradigm for their organizations. For an organization to develop, value, and profit from EDI training, it requires authentic buy-in to the benefits that can be had for all stakeholders; from employees, managers, customers and owners: to move from traditional “Human Resources” organization to a “People and Culture” organization[1].

When recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce, leaders should consider reflecting on the institutional, systemic, and personal biases they hold, as it is these biases that form the cultural inertia which undermines real lasting change.

Bias, in all its forms, is an integral part of who we are and is developed, nurtured, and sustained by our upbringing, culture, and society at large. There is no escaping it, and understanding how it impacts marginalized workers is essential in creating a work culture that is inclusive and financially successful. Bias is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “the action of supporting or opposing a particular person or thing in an unfair way because of allowing personal opinions to influence your judgment.”

Biases can be unconscious or conscious beliefs, opinions or actions. For example, implicit biases are unconscious attitudes or stereotypes that affect our decisions and treatment of others. Explicit biases are conscious attitudes and beliefs we have about individuals or groups. In the work environment, biases begin at the recruitment phase and can affect who we interview and hire. It impacts the retention phase of employment by affecting worker evaluations, promotions, and salary advancement. Simply put, bias (whether explicit or implicit) impacts our interactions with others and at times creates situations where others are excluded or unjustly treated, creating a toxic work environment. This can impact professional and personal outcomes, build resentment, and discourage full commitment to the organization. Meaningful improvement in these channels requires leaders to have the courage to actively interrogate and challenge their own personal and institutional biases; to build better, more resilient, more diverse cultures to get the best out of their people.

Cultural competency-based questions are used in schools by educators to determine how to best to support diverse student communities. Organizations can use a similar framework as a pre-emptive guide before hiring or implementing diversity initiatives.

  1. Whose voices are present?

Take the time to consider who is heard, who isn’t, and why they aren’t being heard? What settings silence the participation of employees? What settings enable fulsome participation of employees?

  1. How are they represented?

Does the diversity in your workforce go beyond visible characteristics of race and gender? Are there any invisible diversities/characteristics such as social status/class, gender identity, expression or orientation, and disability (physical, mental, or neurological) and do they intersect? How does this intersection of identities impact the employee and their employment?

  1. Whose voices are absent?

Are there voices that are absent due to a lack of representation or a lack of presence in decision-making settings? Is dissension appreciated or undervalued and silenced? Are neurodivergent thinkers given time to voice their opinions and thoughts?

  1. What and whose knowledge is recognized and valued?

Is knowledge that is not Eurocentric, colonial based or ableist valued? Are the same employees recognized and why? Is the recognition culturally competent?

  1. Do resources acknowledge as many people and perspectives as possible?

Are employee handbooks, procedures, and policies aware of visible and invisible biases in their presentation, the language used, and expectations? Are the documents and resources easily accessible?

  1. What assessments and evaluation tools are mostly used and are they equitable?

What are the metrics involved in employee evaluations? Is the assessor cognizant of any biases they may hold when evaluating an employee? What are the mechanisms to mitigate bias in evaluation, or to provide re-evaluation when complaints arise?

Review and reflect on the responses to the cultural competency based questions by considering the following:

  1. Did the responses challenge your understanding of the organization and how it functions? Why?
  2. What is the organization doing well? What are they not doing well?
  3. What areas require change?
  4. What type of learning will you and your organization engage in to implement these changes and initiatives?

Organizations who have unpacked their workplace culture by reflecting on past and current inequities and who lean into the discomfort can begin to develop initiatives that focus on recruitment and retention strategies, policies, procedures, and expectations to create a progressive work culture. It is the responsibility of leaders to communicate their commitment in making EDI a part of every facet of their organization by sharing the results of their discussions, their vision, next steps and learning opportunities for employees. EDI initiatives are not quick and easy solutions to reduce the impact of discrimination and employee flight, they take time, and require ongoing conversations that provide the tools for employees to navigate the workplace.

Taking the time to reflect on the people they employ, the organizational culture that includes the policies and procedures implemented, and investing in strategic needs-based training is essential. Embedding time and flexibility to have ongoing, meaningful conversations with follow-up so that changes can be made to move forward must be a priority. Continuing to review, reflect and strategize allows for integration of strong EDI-based initiatives that are flexible and supportive of current and future employees is the new way of doing business.

When implemented with care and empathy, EDI initiatives and training can support previously marginalized and historically excluded employees to feel a greater sense of belonging and inclusion,[2] while also allowing others to step up and help create a positive work environment.


About the Author

Kalpana Makan

Kalpana Makan. Over a 30-year career in the education sector, Kalpana has worked to facilitate the success of students and teachers from all backgrounds. Embedding the principles of an anti-oppressive framework in her career as a Teacher and Elementary Vice Principal with specialization in inclusive education, language development, and mental health and well-being, has provided her with the skills to navigate various situation with compassion and empathy. Kalpana’s roles as an Executive Staff Officer at the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) in Equity and Women’s Services, and most recently in Professional Learning and Curriculum Services, has helped her develop an expertise in the benefits of EDI and its integration in diverse organizational cultures. For more than 15 years, Kalpana has led ETFO membership programs both locally and provincially; provided organizational environmental scans on programs, policies and demographics; and facilitated presentations at universities, school boards and not for profit organizations on supporting and promoting diverse leadership roles and inclusive and equitable practices. She has trekked to more then 16 countries and has volunteered as an educator and mentor in many of them. She currently lives in the Toronto with her family.


Recommended Readings

Asare, J. G. (2022, October 7). Have We Been Wrongfully Vilifying DEI Training? Forbes.

Broomhall, T. (2020, September 8). Are your colleagues really, ok? How to ask and offer support. Checkpoint.

Carter-Rogers, K., Smith, S., & Tabvuma, V. (2022, November 27). Diversity in the workplace isn’t enough: Businesses need to work toward inclusion. The Conversation.

Dobbin, F., & Kalev, A. (2016, July 1). Why Diversity Programs Fail. Harvard Business Review.

Government of Canada, S. C. (2022, October 26). The Daily—Immigrants make up the largest share of the population in over 150 years and continue to shape who we are as Canadians.

Karimi, A. (2022, December 22). How equity, diversity and inclusion policies are becoming a tool for capitalism. The Conversation.

Langton, J. (2022, October 26). Immigration boosts workforce, combats aging. Investment Executive.

Lobell, J. (2021, December 7). Liberating Human Resources: Finding a Path to a New HR Paradigm. Non Profit News | Nonprofit Quarterly.

Peiker, S. (2023, February 8). Council Post: Why And How To Evolve From Human Resources To People And Culture. Forbes.

Secretariat, T. B. of C. (2020, September 14). Many Voices One Mind: A Pathway to Reconciliation [Education and awareness].

Stewart, J. (2022, March 15). 4 Steps to Achieve Sustainable DEI Transformation | Queen’s University IRC.



[1] Peiker, Sarah (2023, 02, 08); Why And How To Evolve From Human Resources To People And Culture,

[2] Gassam Asare, Janice (2022, October 07), Have we been wrongly vilifying EDI training?

Organizational Transformation: Why it’s So Hard, Why it Matters, and Why You Should Start Now!

If there is one thing we’ve re-learned over the past few years, it’s that change is constant, whether we like it or not. The COVID-19 pandemic has often been credited for being the catalyst of changing the way we work, but it was only a reminder of how quickly people can adapt when they need to—and how resilient they can be.

Today, adaptability and resilience are required on a regular basis. Market volatility has made strategic transformations essential for some industries to survive. Critical and topical initiatives like equity and inclusion, digital transformation and building a future-proof workforce represent massive shifts, particularly for organizations where culture has remained unchanged in decades.

Here is where organizational transformation comes in. As organizations coast to coast in Canada and around the world face external pressure to innovate and remain relevant, as well as internal pressure to improve workplace culture and nurture talent, leaders now find themselves at a crossroads. There certainly isn’t a dull moment in the new, redefined roaring twenties we’re currently living in, where organizations are increasingly defined by their ability to identify changing market demands, redefine their vision and execute that transition.

Why it’s So Hard

Any type of change is hard—that’s a fact. Among organizations, approximately 70% of all change initiatives fail.[1] If you are having trouble, remember that you are not alone. Here are some examples of change scenarios illustrating why strategies may not progress past the implementation phase:

  • The transformation is mentioned once or twice at an all staff meeting and never mentioned by anyone ever again.
  • This the third leader the team/organization has had in three years. Teams are too focused on trying to keep their jobs to get excited about this new vision.
  • There’s a high degree of comfort in established processes and relationships and absolutely no compelling reason for staff to make any changes to that.
  • The organization has identified a strategic shift in one direction but every single structural component (unit business plans, operational goals, employee performance metrics, incentive structures) are focused in another direction.
  • Staff are exhausted and have no bandwidth to lead, implement or even entertain a change of any kind.

Why it Matters 

Every organization faces the need for change at some point.  However, transformation doesn’t happen overnight. Whether your organization is looking at a complete strategic shift or the implementation of a new procedure, change is a long game. It’s about the collective commitment, communication, and collaboration to see it through until it’s done.

Reasons for Organizational Transformation

A great cultural reset can be mission-critical if you’re facing a number of challenges. If you aren’t sure if change is on the horizon for your organization, ask yourself:

  • Are employee turnover rates at an all-time high?
  • Are your revenue outcomes consistently underperforming while competitors continue to eat into your market share?
  • Are you still using legacy technology that is no longer being updated, with workarounds costing twice as much as implementing a new system?
  • Are the values of employees and other stakeholders evolving but aren’t reflected anywhere in your current organizational structure?

When done right, organizational transformation has the power to redefine a sustainable future, encourage a culture that supports it and usher you to a new era of growth and industry leadership.

Benefits of Organizational Transformation

If your organization is at a critical juncture, it’s helpful to consider the critical outcomes that can be achieved and continuously leveraged directly through organizational transformation initiatives:

  1. Your organization will have the necessary infrastructure to enable seamless collaboration among stakeholders who have all bought into a renewed, shared vision. Employees are not simply working for you, but with you, and are continuously encouraged to adopt a collaborative mindset.
  2. Multi-faceted priority growth areas are met as a result of adopting new processes, tools, and strategic frameworks. A “transformed” organization is increasingly agile and responsive to evolving market or sector demands, with flexibility and adaptability being core collective competencies that enable teams to achieve various goals and bridge gaps in current delivery of value to stakeholders.
  3. The “future of work” is achieved through a productive people and culture reset. Through a commitment to well-being and ongoing professional development, organizational transformation empowers teams to become champions of change. A highly skilled and resilient workforce can lead the charge in operationalizing strategy through high-performance execution that yields crucial results.

Before undertaking this process, it’s important to establish a solid foundation for change. Initiating organizational transformation begins with bringing all stakeholders to the table—beginning with leaders who typically start the conversation to frontline staff who will be carrying out this new mission. This process requires a 360-degree view of the organization’s current vision, work structures and results generated in order to deliver on shared goals.

Why You Should Start Now

The lessons learned from the last few years have illustrated how organizations and entire industries are now at a critical period. To evolve means to survive in an increasingly competitive market, with the support of the people that work to make it possible. Transforming the way our organization works is the key to achieving this, setting up for a successful future.

As you’ve seen, organizational transformation goes beyond initiating a change management strategy when innovating one process that affects how certain teams work. Rather, it’s a complete reset of everything we know about doing business and leading in the age of disruptive innovation. Leaders who recognize this need today and take steps towards transformation will be rewarded with: (1) low employee turnover and increased commitment to a shared vision, (2) higher revenue and an expanded footprint, (3) innovative offerings, (4) agile processes and technologies (5) and an overall stronger future.

If your organization is facing pressures to innovate or challenges in boosting employee retention and nurturing talent, you need an organizational transformation strategy to navigate this changing landscape. The Queen’s IRC Organizational Transformation program at the can help you prepare and equip you with the necessary tools, frameworks and approaches for transforming the way you work.

About the Author

Carol Kotacka

Carol Kotacka is a results-oriented strategist, specializing in transformational change and strategy execution in local, national and international markets. Holding senior leadership positions in industry, healthcare and NGOs, her background reflects a deep understanding of the nuanced approach diverse cultures and stakeholder groups require, with proven results driving change time and again through work in North America, Europe, the Middle East and, most recently, South America.  During her career, Carol has had the privilege of co-creating strategic vision and system wide transformation with organizations, residents, employees, government entities as well as first responders. Carol’s undergraduate studies include Social Sciences and Public Affairs. Post graduate work includes Strategic Business Leadership from the Rotman School of Management and an EMBA from the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University.

Carol is the lead facilitator for the Queen’s IRC Organizational Transformation program.


[1]Nohria , N., & Beer, M. (2000). Cracking the code of change. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from



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