5 ways to make your workplace more welcoming for Black Canadians

February marks Black History Month, when people across Canada participate in events and festivities that honour the legacy of Black Canadians and their communities. This is also a time to celebrate their achievements, learn about Black individuals’ contributions, take action toward racial justice and contribute to meaningful change.

At Agilus, we value a diverse workforce. Diversity, equity and inclusion are integral not only to our success but also a critical component to ensuring the success of our clients and candidates. We recognize that Black people continue to seek equity in our society and workplaces. The Survey on Employment and Skills, conducted by the Environics Institute for Survey Research, in partnership with the Future Skills Centre and the Diversity Institute at Toronto Metropolitan University, found that one in two Black employees experience race-based discrimination in the workplace.

Companies focusing on diverse and inclusive work cultures understand not only that workplace equity is a necessary step towards creating an equal and fair work environment, but also that their businesses and organizations are better for it. A diverse workforce increases employee engagement, innovation, and talent attraction.

We all play a vital role in driving meaningful conversations toward racial justice and making our workplaces equitable, diverse, and discrimination-free. Here are some ways you can honour Black History Month and create a workplace better for Black Canadians year-round:

Learn about significant events in Black Canadian history and the contributions of Black individuals

The Government of Canada website highlights significant events that have contributed to the story of Black Canadians and their impact on all parts of our society. You and your team can also visit a local museum or a library to learn about the accomplishments and challenges of the Black community in your area. A few organizations that celebrate and preserve the culture and history of Black Canadians are:

Volunteer with or donate to organizations that provide support and resources to Black communities.

There are many non-profit organizations across the country devoted to the promotion and awareness of Black Canadian history. They are passionate about fighting for equal human rights, tackling issues like police brutality, or helping Black people get jobs. Set up an office fundraiser to support these organizations and donate generously. Many companies offer a paid community day, including Agilus. Consider organizing a community day to volunteer at one of these organizations. Not sure where to start? Check out the list above, many of these organizations are seeking volunteers throughout the year – not just during black history month.

Support Black-owned businesses

Investing your money in Black-owned businesses makes a difference to Black communities. It is a positive form of economic empowerment. Aftobiz.ca offers a comprehensive directory of Black-owned companies & Black entrepreneurs in Canada, the UK and the US.

Looking around your neighbourhood, you will likely see some authentic food from Black-owned restaurants. Take your team out to lunch or order in when working remotely. It is a small action that hugely impacts small business owners. If you travel to the US for work or leisure, check out EatOkra, a trusted source for Black-owned food experiences.

Aside from restaurants, check out social media to find local gems. Ask your team to use hashtags such as #SupportBlackBusiness or #BlackBusiness to shop online owned by black entrepreneurs. Next time you’re thinking about prizes, gifts or rewards to your employees, consider spending your money at a Black-owned business. Your effort will be doubly appreciated.

Engage in self-reflection 

Many unconscious biases and workplace discrimination directed at people of colour result from a lack of education. Raising awareness is critical to ensuring people understand the challenges Black people still face in Canada and worldwide. To embark on a journey to support the black community, you could watch movies or organize a company-wide book club where everyone selects books written by Black authors.

To be a well-rounded person is to explore diversity of thought not just when you’re told to, but each and every day. Select books by Black authors throughout the year, not just during Black History Month.

Organize a diversity and inclusion event and facilitate conversations about race and racism

Establishing a formal council or committee can ensure your company’s goals toward the support of people of colour are achievable and measurable. If you do not have a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) team and/or program consider establishing one.

Promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace is the best way a company can support its minority workers. Thus, organizing a diversity workshop around topics affecting the black community will help your teammates become empathetic and considerate towards minorities. In addition, inviting leaders from the Black community to talk about their life experiences benefits everyone and enhances employee engagement at work. Education has an essential role in addressing and eliminating racism, so look for opportunities within your business to have thoughtful conversations about race, racism and the impact of being a person of colour or minority.

At Agilus, we value a diverse workforce

At Agilus, we are committed to employing people from diverse backgrounds and we actively demonstrate inclusiveness through fair, equitable and accessible hiring practices. We recognize the strength that comes from different experiences, backgrounds and perspectives and welcome candidates who identify as visible minorities, Indigenous people, persons with disabilities, and persons within the LGBTQ+ community. We feel it is important as an organization that all people have access and opportunity to be employed, to be valued and to be respected.

We work with clients who emphasize hiring equity seeking candidates that may have experienced marginaliation due to their nationality, race, gender or religion.

Change starts with us. Throughout the month, we will be sharing various resources with #TeamAgilus and encourage each of our team members to take the time to dive into these resources, and to explore new ways of how and where to contribute to positive action. We hope everyone engages in at least one activity this month to self-reflect, learn and improve their workplace for people of colour.

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