Leading Human Resources in Transformative Times

The field of human resources has experienced incredible change and transformation over the last five years. These include the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and changing expectations about work, to significant labour market challenges and new views of organizations’ responsibilities related to issues of equity. There has been much to navigate within this context.

Accompanying these external influences and pressures are equally dizzying shifts occurring in our identity as human resource leaders. With a view to every corner of an organization, human resource leaders are critical players who contribute invaluable perspective and insight on how to leverage human, team and leadership potential.

This makes it an opportune time to pause and reflect on where we are and how to prepare for what’s ahead. How do we define ourselves within this context of increased complexity? What are our priorities and critical “must have” skills to support us within this environment? Who are we as human resource leaders and what roadmap should we be using to gain insight into our leadership journey?

Refining our focus to the “what” of HR leadership

A helpful tool and starting place to explore these important questions is the HR Competency Model designed by the RBL Group. Co-founded by renowned author and HR expert, Dave Ulrich, the RBL group has partnered with the University of Michigan for over 30 years to collect a significant amount of data from organizations around the globe to examine three questions:

  1. What competencies do HR professionals need to deliver personal, stakeholder and business results?
  2. What qualities exemplify an effective HR department?
  3. In what way can HR create circumstances to maximize business and organizational success?

In 2021, the group completed its eighth round of the comprehensive Human Resource Competency Survey, which identified shifts in how HR professionals’ success factors are characterized. Of note is that these most recent findings identified the importance of moving from a list of “traits” that HR professionals “need to develop” and instead focused on “actions” to support business and organizational success. This interesting shift may reflect the imperative that HR professionals be increasingly agile and responsive to their environmental context. The last five years have certainly shown the success with which many HR professionals have been able to do this.

The latest study recommended that HR professionals focus on the following five actions to be effective leaders within this context:

  1. Foster collaboration: The ability to build trusting relationships with others to achieve organizational goals.
  2. Mobilize information: The ability to anticipate impacts on the organization – from technological innovations to social challenges – and then acquire, analyze and apply information to navigate change and support better decision-making.
  3. Simplify complexity: The ability to sift through vast amounts of information to understand a situation, apply critical thinking, and respond calmly on issues of greatest importance.
  4. Advance human capability: The ability to understand what skills are needed for an organization to effectively meet the demands of its competitive environment. This entails ensuring that the organization supports the development of its internal talent as well as knowing which practices, systems and structures are required for the organization to succeed. This action also encompasses HR’s important contributions in creating a workplace that embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  5. Accelerate business: The ability of HR professionals to contribute to bottom-line results through understanding the organization’s external environment, how it competes in the marketplace and how it creates value for stakeholders, clients and customers.

Each of these five actions is worthy of exploration and contextualization within your organization. As an approach of discovery, HR leaders may want to layer each of these five actions onto their unique organizational and business context to identify which should be prioritized and enhanced. This will inform strategy and enable you to measure impact across the organization.


The HR Competency Model shared here is only one of many frameworks available to HR leaders. You may find that a different framework is better suited to your needs. Whichever you choose, a framework has value in providing context and support for your work as an HR professional – creating guideposts to keep you on track in what is an increasingly complex landscape.

As HR professionals, we have seen how the global shifts in values over the last five years have led to new organizational pathways and approaches to HR practice and leadership. There are no indications that this rate of transformation is slowing. What won’t change is the importance of the HR leader. It is exciting and thrilling to be part of the journey.

About the Author

Janet Stewart





Janet Stewart is an accomplished human resource leader with a deep understanding of both theory and practice. As a consultant and leadership coach, she supports leaders across Canada to maximize workplace capacity, potential and harmony. She is a skilled facilitator on topics related to leadership, organizational wellness, workplace diversity, and building inclusive cultures. Janet is a Professional Certified Coach (International Coaching Federation), a Qualified Mediator (ADR Institute of Canada), holds a CPHR (BC & Yukon) and is PROSCI® change-management certified. She is a regular contributor to publications on topics related to HR leadership.

Janet is the lead facilitator for the Queen’s IRC Leading Human Resources program.



Ulrich, D., Ulrich, M., Wilson Burns, E., & Wright, P. (2021, April 21). New HRCS 8 competency model focuses on simplifying complexity. The RBL Group. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.rbl.net/insights/articles/new-hrcs-8-competency-model-focuses-on-simplifying-complexity.

4 Steps to Achieve Sustainable DEI Transformation

In recent years, organizations have turned their human resource energies to enhancing workforce diversity, fostering inclusive workplace cultures and addressing systemic barriers to employment equity. These efforts are simply the right thing to do, and they also reflect leaders’ growing appreciation that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts enhance organizational success. From being able to attract and retain talent, to being more able to innovate and problem-solve, the benefits are plentiful.

Despite these benefits, organizational efforts are not always effective in achieving long-term sustained impact. This work is highly complex and nuanced and, as such, requires careful planning and organizational-wide understanding and commitment. While success requires leadership champions and workplace-wide roll-out, long-term transformative change in this area requires powerful conversations and buy-in across all levels and corners of the organization.

What this means is that at its core, enhancing DEI is about transforming organizational norms, structures and culture. And as with all significant organizational change, without careful attention to how DEI strategies are approached and implemented, the culture change will not be sustained.

Emerging research is identifying some of the success factors that support successful workplace DEI implementation strategies. A 2020 report from McKinsey[1] reveals that those organizations whose DEI efforts have achieved measurable and sustained change share common elements. Specifically, these organizations:

  • Approach DEI efforts in an organizational-led manner with strong leadership commitment
  • Articulate clearly how DEI initiatives support organizational goals
  • Possess a strong culture of accountability
  • Deploy bold initiatives related to inclusion

How do you turn these aspirational elements into concrete actions your organization can take now to enhance its DEI initiatives? This article proposes four practical and foundational steps to begin your workplace DEI planning. Together with the aspirational elements listed above, they propose a path forward that will maximize the likelihood of transformational and impactful DEI changes in your workplace.

Step 1. Know where you’re starting from

The first and most important step in an organizational DEI plan is to clearly understand your current workplace culture. No two DEI strategies are the same. As such, it is impossible to approach this work in a formulaic manner. Your DEI strategy needs to be crafted to address your unique organizational challenges. Knowing your “starting place” requires assessing your current workplace culture through organizational data, surveys and focus groups to identify gaps and areas requiring attention.

To frame your workplace assessment, you may want to consider following three distinct areas of inquiry:

  • Diversity: How diverse is your current workforce? Do you notice varied perspectives, strengths, identities and backgrounds across departments? Are certain identities over-represented at particular levels of the organization?
  • Equity: What systemic barriers – policies, norms, practices – are impeding equity of opportunity for particular segments of your workforce? How might they be addressed?
  • Inclusion: What does it feel like to work in your organization? How inclusive is the workplace culture and do all employees feel they belong?

Once you have explored these questions and identified emerging themes, you will be in a place to have meaningful conversations about setting your goals for change and determining how to achieve those goals.

Step 2. Establish accountability structures

Doing this work is complex and takes time. To ensure success, it is essential to demonstrate an organization-wide commitment, starting from the top down. Your leaders need to show that they understand the importance of DEI and are working for change in this area.

Having a clear structure of governance is a proven way to ensure accountability. Consider the following questions when creating a governance structure for your organization’s DEI initiatives:

  • What structure will be most effective to ensure all voices are contributing?
  • Who will ultimately be responsible for the work?
  • How often will you meet?
  • How will you ensure representative and diverse voices are included?

Step 3. Develop a DEI vision statement

A strong DEI vision statement is an articulation of your organization’s ultimate reasons for engaging in this work and what you want to achieve. Creating a statement serves a number of purposes, including:

  • Demonstrating the organization’s commitment to fostering an inclusive workplace culture
  • Establishing a common vocabulary across the organization to facilitate employee engagement and understanding
  • Helping employees understand how their own job duties connect to the organization’s overall DEI efforts
  • Enhancing the organization’s employment value proposition

Your vision statement sets the tone and direction for the initiative and should resonate with and engage all employee groups, guiding the work that they do every day to enhance DEI. Creating a strong vision statement is not an easy task; check out Ongig’s article Top 10 Diversity Statements for some helpful tips and examples of statements that stand out.[2]

Step 4. Develop a project plan and measure success

Once you have undertaken the first three steps, you will be well-positioned to develop a project plan and roadmap to help you reach your goals. Best practices in this area include:

  • Creating a project plan with clear and realistic timelines and measurable goals
  • Involving employees at all levels of the planning
  • Identifying ways to engage with staff and to increase understanding and appreciation
  • Designing staff and leadership training on related DEI topics

McKinsey’s identification of the importance of having a strong culture of accountability is relevant here. Your project plan should be ambitious in its attempts to address the gaps you’ve identified in your organization. Similarly, a culture of accountability is one that takes the time to measure and report on progress. This, too, should be built into your plan.


Like all large and complex endeavours, the benefits accrue when you set a vision for where you want to be and then put in place the structures needed to support your work to get there. In the case of enhancing DEI in the workplace, these structures include a team of diverse individuals and a clear and actionable plan to achieve measurable change.

Remember that this paradigm-shifting work takes time and commitment. Investing in these first steps will ensure you have a strong foundation upon which to build more specific strategies.

To summarize, you need to:

  1. Know where you are starting from
  2. Commit to the work by setting up an accountability structure
  3. Develop a DEI vision statement
  4. Develop a project plan that includes clear goals that address the identified gaps and measure your success

If you follow this overall planning framework, your organization will be on the right path to achieve its DEI vision and see sustainable, transformative change.


About the Author

Janet Stewart





Janet Stewart is a human resource and organizational development consultant whose primary focus is on maximizing workforce engagement.  Her work is informed by her 20-plus years working in public sector leadership roles. In addition to her Master’s in Adult Education, Janet has a Certificate in Conflict Resolution from the Justice Institute of BC, a graduate Certificate in Organizational Coaching from UBC, and an Organizational Development Foundations Certificate from Queen’s IRC.  She is a Qualified Mediator with ADR Institute, is a Certified Coach with the International Coaching Federation and is PROSCI® change-management certified. Her book Hiring Well: Building Strong Selection Practices in K-12 was published in April 2021.



[1] Dixon-Fyle, S., Dolan, K., Hunt, V., & Prince, S. (2020, May 19). Diversity wins: How inclusion matters. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/diversity-wins-how-inclusion-matters

[2] Barbour , H. (2020, September 17). Top 10 diversity mission statements. Ongig Blog. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://blog.ongig.com/diversity-and-inclusion/diversity-mission-statement/

Diversity Hiring to Enhance Inclusive Workplace Culture

With recent social movements and the emergence of complex and highly profiled workplace conflicts, there has been increased awareness of organizations’ responsibility to foster safe, diverse and inclusive workplaces. Organizations large and small have taken action to strategically learn about and implement inclusive policies and practices in order to both enhance employee engagement and foster positive organizational culture.

Prioritizing diversity and inclusion efforts has immeasurable value. Workforces that have diversity of thought, perspectives and ideas are better able to solve problems creatively and collaboratively, and diverse and inclusive organization are more likely to achieve their goals.[1] Another benefit relates to an organization’s ability to attract and retain strong talent. Research conducted by Deloitte University Leadership Center for Inclusion reveals that workers born after 1980 – those who are increasingly the majority of the workforce – are highly motivated to join and remain with organizations that prioritize diversity and inclusion.[2] When you have a diverse and inclusive culture, you have an edge in attracting candidates to work for you.

What is Diversity and Inclusion?

Diversity and inclusion are terms that frequently appear in organizational development literature. Within this context, diversity refers to employee characteristics that are protected under human rights legislation, including race, age, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disabilities and other characteristics. Diversity also includes qualities beyond those protected by human rights such as education, values, knowledge and socio-economic status. Some of these characteristics are visible while others are not. Each of these characteristics influence individual views and perspectives of the world, and the combination of these perspectives impacts the way employees interact with each other in the workplace.

Where diversity is about the makeup of your workforce, inclusion is about culture and belonging. Inclusion, as it applies to the workplace is, in essence, the way an organization’s culture “shows up.” It includes the tangible and intangible workplace culture, environmental factors and rituals that impact how comfortable employees are in being their genuine and authentic selves at work. For example, are multiple voices and perspectives invited to the table to take part in discussions and decision-making processes? Can many differing viewpoints and opinions safely arrive in conversations and be appreciated by others?

Where Do We Start?

Knowing the importance of enhancing diversity and inclusion in our organizations, we must be serious about considering how we can be most impactful. An obvious place to start is to consider how we hire. This critical step in an employment relationship – the entryway to the future generation of workers – is an important part of the solution. By carefully examining our selection practices and using targeted diversity hiring strategies, we can reduce employment barriers facing underrepresented groups and in turn, provide increased opportunities for inclusive workplaces to blossom. Let’s take a closer look at how to actively engage in this process.

Acknowledge and Recognize Bias

The first and most critical step in diversity hiring is to acknowledge that bias – both conscious and unconscious – plays a very real role in the selection process. Research has identified that bias is an inescapable part of being human.[3] These mental shortcuts help the brain conserve energy in decision-making. However, when this instinctual tactic is left unchecked in a selection process, the unintended outcome is that we are more likely to hire because of “gut instincts” and “first impressions,” neither of which are predictive of job performance. Rather, these decisions often result in bringing on new employees who are similar to those already employed in the organization, thereby increasing homogenous workplaces that lack in divergent perspective and creative problem-solving potential.

Knowing and recognizing when bias appears will greatly assist diversity hiring. If you become aware of bias, you are more able to understand its impact on decision-making. For example, similarity bias emerges regularly in the hiring process. This natural human condition results in being attracted to people that are more similar to us rather than those who appear different. This can manifest in noticing that an applicant’s background is similar to ours – such as having attended the same school or coming from the same community – and then attributing unwarranted weight to this similarity, even when it has no relation to the job they are being hired for. If we notice this bias as it enters our decision-making processes, we are more able to interrupt it and actively counteract its impact. The same is true of other hiring biases. Being aware of how you may have been triggered by a particular element of a person’s demeanor allows you to consider how it has influenced your perceptions and actions. Only then can you consciously activate strategies to counteract and make better decisions.

8 Strategies for Hiring Diverse Candidates

As important as it is to consciously counteract the impact of individual bias in the hiring process, it is equally important to examine organizational and structural barriers that impede efforts to hire for diversity. The following lists some targeted strategies to reduce barriers and enhance your chance of hiring more diverse candidates.

  1. Make your diversity goals explicitly clear by identifying where you need to strengthen your organization’s diversity. Know your organization’s demographics and ensure diversity hiring goals are incorporated into strategic plans.
  2. Ensure everyone involved in selection is trained on the impact that internal bias plays in the hiring process. An exceptional starting place is the free implicit association test developed collaboratively by Harvard, Virginia and Washington Universities.[4]
  3. Ensure your job postings don’t include bias-laden language. Instead, use gender-neutral and culture-neutral language. Online tools to support this task are abundant.
  4. Carefully consider where and how you will recruit and engage with applicants. Several issues such as leveraging appropriate recruitment channels, enhancing your employment value proposition, and profiling your organization’s commitment to diversity should be articulated.
  5. When shortlisting, consider anonymizing candidates’ personal information such as names and gender to reduce the possibility that this information triggers bias in decision- making.
  6. Build a structured interview process focussing on evaluating only job-related criteria and ensure candidates feel comfortable through the process.
  7. Avoid interviewing one-on-one. Instead, establish interview committees of at least three; and wherever possible, have diverse representation on the committee itself.
  8. When making decisions as to who to move forward to the final interview stage, consider the Harvard Business Review study that determined that having more than one minority candidate in a final interview has a profound impact on the chances that a minority candidate will be selected.[5]

Our hiring processes are the entry-way to diversity and are a foundational step to enable inclusive workplace cultures to take hold. Complemented by a larger organizational commitment to inclusion, these targeted hiring strategies can help foster the growth of a diverse and inclusive workplace where employees can develop a strong sense of belonging. This work is not easy and takes time. Sustained effort, honest conversations and organizational commitment are required. The outcomes are worth it.

About the Author

Janet Stewart

Janet Stewart is a human resource and organizational development consultant whose primary focus is on maximizing workforce engagement.  Her work is informed by her 20-plus years working in public sector leadership roles. In addition to her Master’s in Adult Education, Janet has a Certificate in Conflict Resolution from the Justice Institute of BC, a graduate Certificate in Organizational Coaching from UBC, and an Organizational Development Fundamentals Certificate from Queen’s IRC. She is member of the International Coaching Federation and is PROSCI® change-management certified. Her book Hiring Well: Building Strong Selection Practices in K-12 was published in April 2021.



[1] Delivering through Diversity. (2018, January). McKinsey&Company. Retrieved May 12, 2021 from: https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/business%20functions/organization/our%20insights/delivering%20through%20diversity/delivering-through-diversity_full-report.ashx

[2] Smith, C., Turner, S. (2015). The Radical Transformation of Diversity and Inclusion; The Millennial Influence. Deloitte University; the Leadership Center for inclusion. Retrieved May 12, 2021 from:  https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/about-deloitte/us-inclus-millennial-influence-120215.pdf

[3] Henneman, T. (2014, February 09). You, Biased? No, It’s Your Brain. Retrieved May 12, 2021 from: https://www.workforce.com/news/you-biased-no-its-your-brain

[4] This test can be found at https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/

[5] Johnson, S. K., Hekman, D. R., Chan, E. T. (2016, April 26). If There’s Only One Woman in Your Candidate Pool, There’s Statistically No Chance She’ll Be Hired. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved May 12, 2021, from: https://hbr.org/2016/04/if-theres-only-one-woman-in-your-candidate-pool-theres-statistically-no-chance-shell-be-hired

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