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2. When collecting data is a good idea

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In the human rights context, both quantitative data (numbers, for example) and qualitative data (stories, for example) is collected on Code and non-Code grounds. An organization may decide to collect both kinds of data for many reasons.

Some organizations may collect data to:

  • promote human rights equality for employees, taxpayers, customers, tenants, patients, students, union members, communities, boards of directors, shareholders and other audiences
  • prevent or address systemic barriers to access and opportunity
  • plan a special program
  • improve equitable service delivery and programs
  • promote equity and diversity initiatives
  • increase workforce productivity
  • attract new demographic markets.

Organizations that collect such data recognize that to effectively thrive in an increasingly globalized, competitive business environment, they must promote an inclusive and equitable work culture throughout the organization, take steps to attract and retain the best and brightest people available, and find innovative ways to improve service delivery and programming to meet the needs and wants of an increasingly diverse population base. Collecting data on Code and non-Code grounds can help meet such goals.

Other organizations may have a contract or be mandated to collect data because of federal employment equity legislation. The need to collect data may also arise in response to:

  • persistent allegations of systemic barriers
  • a widespread public perception of systemic discrimination
  • evidence from other organizations or jurisdictions that a similar policy, program or practice has had a positive or disproportionate effect on Code-protected persons
  • an observed unequal distribution of Code-protected groups in an organization
  • objective data or research studies showing that discrimination or systemic barriers do or do not exist.

The decision to collect data may be based on all or some of these factors, depending on each organization’s mandate, goals, resources, needs and circumstances. The main consideration is to make sure that any data collected is done in a way that follows accepted data collection techniques, privacy and other applicable legislation, and is collected for a purpose that is consistent with the Code, such as to:

  • monitor and evaluate discrimination
  • identify and remove systemic barriers
  • lessen or prevent disadvantage
  • promote substantive equality for people identified by Code grounds.

Organizations have a duty to take corrective action to make sure that the Code is not being breached, and will not be breached in the future. Collecting and analyzing data can be an effective and often essential tool for assessing whether rights under the Code are being or might potentially be infringed. Gathering and analyzing data may also result in a number of other benefits that can improve an organization’s productivity and performance. The examples below show how two very different organizations have benefited from collecting data.

The Mount Sinai Hospital experience

Mount Sinai Hospital (MSH) seeks to be a national leader in all of its diversity and human rights programs. The hospital decided to conduct a comprehensive workforce census on Code and non-Code grounds, becoming one of the first health care institutions in Ontario to do a workforce census of this breadth. One of the factors behind this decision was a recognition that while the hospital has a highly diverse workforce, certain groups, particularly racialized persons, are under-represented in upper managerial positions, and people with visible disabilities are under-represented throughout the hospital workforce.

The information collected through the workforce census confirmed this finding and is being used to help the hospital identify barriers and develop policies like a Fair Employment Opportunity Policy on how to conduct fair recruitment and hiring, and start initiatives like the anti-homophobia/transphobia communication campaign, to promote respectful treatment of “gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, Two-spirited and questioning” (GLBTTQ) hospital community members.

The KPMG experience

KPMG Canada (KPMG) has made diversity a strategic business priority. As part of its overall corporate strategy to promote a diverse and inclusive work environment, KPMG has been collecting and tracking workforce survey data to help it design and pilot innovative initiatives like the Reciprocal Mentoring Program. This program connects the firm’s senior leaders with employees of diverse backgrounds and varying levels. Through one-on-one, face-to-face interactions, employees receive invaluable professional development advice, while leaders gain perspective on diversity issues and experiences in the workplace that differ from their own.

Participants also help to develop strategies for creating a more inclusive work environment, enhancing communication and building relationships among staff. The program will continue to expand to engage individuals from a variety of diverse backgrounds, including women, visible minorities, new Canadians, LGBT people, Aboriginal people, people with disabilities and people from different faith and religious orientations.

KPMG has found that creating a welcoming, inclusive work environment helps employees bring more of themselves to work, resulting in higher productivity and increased loyalty to the firm. In many cases, KPMG’s programs were created in response to employee feedback such as the annual employee engagement survey results.

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