Reflecting Our Communities. Building a Diverse BC Public Service

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1 Reflecting Our Communities Building a Diverse BC Public Service

2 Introduction British Columbia s history in many ways is a story of finding strength and opportunity through diversity. And our ability to find strength and opportunity through the diversity of our geography and our communities is what has often defined our success and prosperity. We have rarely stood still for long. That has been as true within the public service as it has been within the province as a whole, and it has never been more true than it is today. Our population is more diverse than ever and it will only grow more so in the years ahead. Our understanding of the complexity of our diversity and our response to that is also evolving as surely as our communities are. Where once the concept of diversity drew lines around a limited number of specific groups based, most often, on ethnicity and gender, it now extends far beyond that. Today in the BC Public Service we understand that we are as diverse as we are numerous and that there are more than four million different and unique individuals in our province with their own needs and expectations and abilities to make their own unique contributions. The BC Public Service has always worked to be reflective of the diverse public and communities it serves. But more than that, citizens also have an expectation that they should be able to access the services they need from their government in a way that is inclusive of their unique circumstances. This is an expectation the BC Public Service must continually strive to meet. In the Corporate Human Resource Plan, Being the Best, the BC Public Service specifically embraced diversity as part of the corporate culture we aspire to build as an employer. That was a first step toward the goals set out in this diversity framework, which will guide how the BC Public Service works to both embody and ensure diversity not only as an employer but as a provider of services to the people of B.C. Embedding diversity in our human resource practices and employment experience is an important component of achieving this larger goal, but it is only one component. We will also look at the nature of the programs and services we provide, how they are accessed and the policies that support them with an eye to ensuring they reflect a diversity philosophy. This is no small task. It builds on the work done to date through Being the Best and the government 2.0 strategy the Centre. Indeed, it is integral to the continued progress of those plans for transforming the BC Public Service to better meet our obligations to citizens in the future. Diversity will be essential as we advance the idea of a more open government that more closely engages citizens in our work. The outcome will not only be a more diverse public service that better reflects our communities but public services that better reflect and meet their needs. Each person is valued because of, rather than in spite of, their differences. Reflecting Our Communities

3 What Is Diversity? Over the past several decades, both the public and private sectors have made progress along a continuum of responses to the diversity of our society. The first steps involved recognizing that some demographic groups lacked representation in the workplace and are not adequately served as clients relative to the overall population in surrounding communities. We have taken steps to address that imbalance, often with targeted programs aimed at specific groups. In the BC Public Service we have been measuring under-represented groups for many years and we know that our workforce does not fully mirror the broader population. We will continue to monitor this metric to ensure that our workforce truly reflects the communities and citizens we serve. However, the focus on representation of specific groups is just one component of our approach. The word diversity can be used in two different ways. The first, as it will be used primarily in this document, is to describe the depth and breadth of differences within our communities. But it has also been commonly used to describe the response to those differences. Organizations, companies and governments have frequently embarked on diversity strategies and in that sense diversity is a response based in defining groups, typically along cultural, ethnic and gender lines. We plan to go beyond this to recognize and celebrate the richness that comes from our differences whether they emerge from cultural, geographic, ethnic, social, experiential or life stages sources and the great benefits that come from valuing openness and appreciation of different perspectives. This can lead to a culture where different ways of thinking, being and relating to one another are sought out and valued. Importantly, it shifts from a focus on defining diverse groups, recognizing that our differences are myriad, to a focus on the value of the individual. In this environment, each person is valued because of, rather than in spite of, their differences. It means moving from focusing on the characteristics and attributes of certain groups, to thinking about maximizing the diverse and unique talents that each of us as individuals can bring not only to the public service but to shaping policies, practices and service delivery to citizens. It means every individual has fair and equitable access to participate and that they do not face barriers that limit participation because of their unique differences, many of which may be beyond their control. It is based not in tolerance, which implies accepting people despite their difference, but rather in respect for and valuing of differences. As subtle as these may seem, they are nuances important to understanding our focus. Top employers engage their employees to bring their best to work every day and strive to be recognized as employers of choice who are building a culture of diversity within their organizations. Effective and responsive governments are increasingly taking a similar approach to engaging citizens through initiatives like the open government model introduced in B.C. in July We are working to build better tools, processes and environments that are more flexible in recognizing the needs and preferences of individuals, for the benefit of each employee, the BC Public Service and the citizens we serve. 3 Reflecting Our Communities 2012

4 Why Is Diversity a Priority? While we may not have always fully valued its benefits, B.C. has long been one of the most diverse provinces in Canada. Today, on traditional representative measures, B.C. is more diverse than the Canadian population overall. Our communities are home to citizens born in over 170 different nations. We have a higher proportion of Aboriginal and visible minority citizens than the average across Canada. As a provincial economy that thrives on trade, we have used our diverse ties and offerings to successfully reach out to markets spanning oceans and continents. But our diversity runs much deeper than along ethnic and cultural lines. Each of us can also be defined by more than just traditional identifying factors like culture and gender. Our needs, priorities and expectations are also influenced by countless other elements like physical ability, education, family status, age, economic standing, language, employment, employment status, sexual orientation and others. Trying to base our response to diversity on one or even a few of these factors ultimately runs the risk of stereotyping rather than inclusion. It can also lead to unintended consequences of exclusion and bias against those who don t fit into easily defined priority categories. Making information available in multiple languages With its strong international focus, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure recognizes the importance of embedding the principle of diversity in its business practices. Because they are committed to engaging citizens in ways that make sense to them and to providing clear and meaningful information, the ministry is working to provide access to services and information in the Lower Mainland District in Cantonese, Mandarin, Punjabi, Korean and French through a multilingual call centre. To ensure all citizens throughout the province requiring support in another language can receive it, they are also working on multilingual signage and publications, the internationally recognized symbols and graphics, and access to translation services for all employees. That doesn t mean there is no value in making these distinctions. Monitoring on this sort of representative basis can help provide an important gauge of progress in addressing major obstacles to inclusion. But representation should not be the sole guiding response to diversity. It is an indicator not a measure. Diversity is becoming even more pronounced and fundamental to how we live and behave, and not responding effectively means we will not be fulfilling our obligation to citizens but also failing to seize a great opportunity to build a stronger province. It is now increasingly evident that our diversity is a remarkable asset and its value needs to be embraced and fostered. Within B.C. and globally, society and institutions are opening up. Fueled by technology but also by changing social attitudes and norms, we are all exposed to a wider array of ideas, information, cultures, religions and other social and economic influences than ever before in human history. In an era where geographic and cultural boundaries are not the barriers they once were, the societies that succeed will be the ones that are most inclusive because they draw on the benefits of a wealth of different perspectives to drive innovation and advancement. Reflecting Our Communities

5 Given its geography and export-based economy, B.C. has long tended to be a more outward looking province by its very nature. As a gateway between North America and the Pacific in particular, we have a long history of different cultural and social influences that we have come to embrace with some success in recent decades. This will continue as B.C. remains Canada s third-largest destination with over 40,000 new immigrants arriving to our province each year. Significantly, more new immigrants are choosing to live in regions of the province outside the Lower Mainland. How will we respond effectively to the implications this has for demands on public services? Just as importantly, how will we shape policies, programs and practices to ensure we draw on the remarkable advantage cultural diversity provides, whether it is in education, trade, labour and community development, social services, education, the arts or any other sphere of government influence? And what shape must the BC Public Service take to best support these opportunities? These same questions apply when we look at the dramatic demographic trends currently surging through our population, dramatically influencing demands on key services like health care. There are now four distinct generations in the labour force, each with different expectations of work, Creating awareness of our diverse society To create economic prosperity, the programs of the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation are designed to create awareness of the value of a diverse workforce and society. They help attract global talent to the BC labour market through the Provincial Nominee Program, provide settlement and integration services through WelcomeBC, and support multiculturalism and anti-racism through EmbraceBC. government and community. As an employer, this creates new challenges for recruiment, development and retention of the talent needed to serve citizens. But it also challenges us to rethink how we deliver those services in ways that meet this broader spectrum of expectations. Then there is also the rapid evolution of technology and how it creates tremendous potential for government and citizens to interact in new and effective ways. But it also introduces the complexity of technological access and literacy, recognizing that one portion of the population s enthusiasm to adopt online services may need to be balanced by reluctance, language barriers or limited access among another portion. These are only some of the powerful drivers behind our increasing diversity. Immigration has an influence on the age of our population, and vice versa. Technologcal literacy can be influenced by generational differences, and so on. Within every traditionally defined diversity group or demographic are a vast range of other differences that make it impossible to provide a single solution that meets the needs of, for example, new immigrants as a group. 5 Reflecting Our Communities 2012

6 Just as powerful as these, and other contributors to diversity, are the challenges the public service faces now and into the future. Driven by our aging demographic profile, the public service and the entire province face a looming labour shortage. Even with increased immigration, forecasts suggest B.C. will still not have enough people in the labour force to fill the estimated one million job openings that will arise over the next decade. Targeting individual groups whether immigrants, Aboriginals, youth or any other will not solve the problem. At the same time, government is faced with the reality of rising service demands and limited financial resources. We must increasingly seek to work smarter and better within these constraints. But we must do so in ways that meet the changing expectations of citizens, who are seeking new ways to be more engaged with government and new ways to access services. That includes adapting to the expectations created by technological change. Recruiting to better serve diverse clients The Ministry of Social Development provides support to the most vulnerable British Columbians and 60 per cent of its caseload clients are persons with disabilities. By leading the development and implementation of the Provincial Disability Strategy, the ministry is working to provide a flexible, comprehensive and integrated system of support that allows British Columbians with disabilities to participate more fully in the province s social and economic life. Within the ministry, they are working to enhance diversity through a cultural assessment strategy for the recruitment of underrepresented groups, focussing on Aboriginals and persons with disabilities. How do we provide improved services, including online services, in ways that are as accessible and relevant as possible to all four million citizens in the province? This focus has the power to help the public service meet these and other challenges, both internally with our employees and externally in service delivery to the public. Realizing that potential requires a shift in approach to one where we recognize the depth of differences we have and identify: 1. How we can draw on the strengths of those differences to benefit government and strengthen communities? 2. How we can ensure we do not create barriers to access and particiipation so we can maximize individual contribution? Reflecting Our Communities

7 Where We Are Today If a diversity strategy is new to the public service, that does not mean we have not been successful in the past in responding to the diversity within our communities. Those successes have come often through targeted programs for specific identified groups, and have often proven exceedingly valuable in providing improved service to those clients, whether Aboriginal, immigrants, women or persons with disabilities. To assess our progress to date, we have traditionally relied on representation. As noted above, this remains a valid metric as long as we understand that it isn t an adequate outcome on its own. For example, as an employer the BC Public Service has assessed its representation of women, Aboriginals and visible minorities based on self-identification by employees. As a result, we know that we tend to have a higher percentage of women in the public service than in the overall population and are about on par with the percentage of women in the labour force. Notably, in management and senior leadership roles there is a higher percentage of women than in the available labour force VISIBLE MINORITY 12.4% of BC Public Service 17.6% of Available Workforce 24.8% of BC Population But that positive representative picture for women is not necessarily reflected in the representation of other traditionally defined groups. With the exception of clerical roles where the representation is higher, Aboriginal people are under-represented in the BC Public Service workforce to date. While visible minority representation is about equal to the labour force in the Lower Mainland, visible minorities are significantly under-represented provincially relative to the labour force and even more so relative to the provincial population. It is a similar case with persons with disabilities, who are significantly under-represented relative to both the population and the labour force. All of this points to a significant opportunity for improvement PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES 3.6% of BC Public Service 7.0% of Available Workforce 5.8% of BC Population WOMEN 59.6% of BC Public Service 60.7% of Available Workforce 51.0% of BC Population ABORIGINAL PEOPLES 3.1% of BC Public Service 4.0% of Available Workforce 4.8% of BC Population 7 Reflecting Our Communities 2012

8 This representative data provides us with some insight into how the BC Public Service reflects our communities in a very visible way. But it provides limited insight into whether these identifiers are meaningfully reflected in the quality of our service delivery for citizens. For example, how culturally competent are we and does a higher percentage of visible minority employees equate to more equitable access to services in different languages, or services that are culturally inclusive? If language and cultural differences for clients are successfully reflected in a service, are those same clients still adequately served if at the same time that service does not address mobility or generational differences? Intuitively and anecdotally, we can assume that public service representation results in more representative and equitable services, but that quality alone does not guarantee it. There are other equally visible areas where we know we can improve. For example, there are government buildings that are not accessible to Barrier-free buildings Citizens Services and Open Government manages 1,000 leased and 600 owned properties on behalf of the Province to support customer program delivery. To assess the barrier-free status of these buildings, they are developing a checklist to review access from the street and parking, provision of barrier-free public washrooms and access to elevators or lifts. This will help create an inventory of barrierfree buildings and a plan for improvements to government-owned buildings. people with mobility challenges. Ironically, this means governments are challenged to meet the same standards expected of other public and private sector organizations to meet for accessibility. This same issue may also apply in other areas of diversity and is an important consideration in identifying priorities for action. But in many service, program and policy areas we arguably lack any true sense of how successful we have been in responding to the diversity that exists within our communities. And even where that has been a focus, the approach has not necessarily been a culturally sensitive approach. That is precisely what this strategy is designed to help address by providing ministries with some guidance in how to apply diversity in their policies and program design and delivery. Over the next year, a primary focus corporately and for ministries will be establishing some baseline for our current level of diversity so that we can focus on effective improvements in the years ahead. We are working to build better tools, processes and environments that are more flexible in recognizing the needs and preferences of individuals, for the benefit of each employee, the BC Public Service and the citizens we serve. Reflecting Our Communities

9 How We Can Proceed There is no quick path this is not something that starts or stops at a defined point. Nor can it ultimately succeed if it is just another program unto itself. If it is to be truly effective, it must become a core part of how we work, what we believe in and everything we do in the public service. The ultimate goal is to ensure all our policies and procedures reflect the diverse communities we serve. To achieve that goal we will focus on three priority actions: 1. Attract, develop and retain a workforce in the public service that reflects British Columbia. 2. Embed the principle of diversity in the practices, policies and services of government. 3. Remove barriers in our interactions with citizens and within the public service. Supporting a student-centred experience The Ministry of Advanced Education is supporting the delivery of post-secondary education and ministry programs in ways that embrace a variety of student needs, whether geographical, cultural, financial or physical. They are creating opportunities for discussion with students and soliciting feedback to provide a student-centred experience that embraces the rich differences among B.C. s citizenry. Inclusive promotion of health services The Ministry of Health undertakes extensive analysis of population health issues and the evolving needs of diverse groups. By using a mix of social, traditional and cultural/multilingual media, they are better meeting the communication needs of B.C. s diverse citizens. These actions will be applied corporately in the context of our human resource practices and other internal operational areas that are common across government and an action plan to do so will be developed by the BC Public Service Agency and the Ministry of Labour, Citizens Services and Open Government. But, particularly in the context of services to citizens, ministries are empowered to identify how best to apply their expertise. Whether adapting corporate internal practices or public-facing services, success lies in starting with a fresh assessment of clients, operations and barriers. In other words, we must: Know our clients: who do we serve, what are their commonalities but also what are their differences that might affect their ability to interact with government? Know ourselves: how do our policies, practices, services and programs reflect diversity in meeting our clients needs and where do they need to be improved to achieve our mandate as effectively as possible? Know our barriers: what obstacles do we currently present, what solutions can we find and what tools or resources will we need to remove the barriers? 9 Reflecting Our Communities 2012

10 The path to this kind of assessment isn t prescriptive. But there are three important realities worth considering: 1. Ministries themselves don t know all the answers. We may not be able to internally identify all of the barriers our services and programs currently present. There may be great value in developing public engagement strategies to help determine where improvements are most needed. 2. Not all solutions require big changes. There may be cases where applying an approach to diversity requires significant change and resources. But there is often value in the details in changing the little things that can have a big impact without a major investment. Sometimes it can be addressed simply by changing forms or application procedures rather than completely overhauling a program. 3. Being culturally sensitive does not necessarily require more work. Rather it can require removing barriers that impede access to the work we already do and even potentially result in greater efficiency as well. Diversity competency for supervisors The Justice and Public Safety Sector sees equipping employees to work from a diverse perspective as critical to business success. They are giving supervisors clear performance expectations about diversity in order to increase staff competency and enhance their service delivery responsiveness. While ministries pursue this work, we will take a number of corporate actions in the next year to support ministries and lay a foundation across the public service, including: Improving outreach and marketing of the public service as an employer to underrepresented groups. Demonstrating progress on representation starting at senior management. Incorporating diversity activities into senior leader and supervisor performance planning. Providing increased opportunities for dialogue and learning on diversity to increase awareness at the individual, ministry and corporate level. PST outreach reflects diversity As the Ministry of Finance works to ensure the successful return to the provincial sales tax (PST), having employees able with 20 different languages spoken helps support clients. The ministry is building an outreach team that reflects the diversity of the businesses from which they will be collecting PST in order to provide taxpayer information effectively and improve voluntary compliance for payment of taxes on time. Reflecting Our Communities

11 Conclusion Ultimately, our approach to diversity is aligned with the ongoing transformation of the BC Public Service. Ministries have identified existing and new opportunities for improving diversity both in their service to clients and in the experience of their employees. They have assessed their current strengths, and they are acting on opportunities to advance diversity. At the same time, the BC Public Service Agency and the Ministry of Labour, Citizens Services and Open Government are identifying the corporate actions needed to improve our human resource practices, core infrastructure services and related policies. Based on the submissions from ministries, they will also identify resources needed to support ministry-based opportunities and planning. Toolkit of best practices To better support the children, youth and families it serves, the Ministry of Children and Family Development is promoting cultural competence by developing a diversity toolkit for the ministry by researching best practices in other Diversity is not an end in and of itself. Rather it is an essential component of ensuring the BC Public Service continues to deliver the best possible level of service to citizens in what is arguably one of the most dynamic periods in our history. The idea of diversity is often presented as the right thing to do from the standpoint of building a healthy, just and prosperous society. That is indeed true and in that sense it is entirely aligned with the very role of the BC Public Service. jurisdictions. But it is also the right thing to do in the very pragmatic sense that it improves the operations and business outcomes of any organization and strengthens our economy. Embracing diversity will make us stronger and better able to meet the challenges we face as a provider of those services and as an employer....the societies that succeed will be the ones that are most inclusive because they draw on the benefits of a wealth of different perspectives to drive innovation and advancement. 11 Reflecting Our Communities 2012

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