Career Advancement in Corporate Canada:
A Focus on Visible Minorities
President & Chief Executive Officer
Royal Bank of Canada
Catalyst Research Results Media Event
June 28, 2007
Thank you and good morning everyone. It's a real pleasure
for me to be here.
Some of you might recall that Zabeen spoke at an event back
in February when Catalyst and Ryerson released the preliminary
findings of this research project. Zabeen, you were right
on the money when you predicted that the report would have
important implications for visible minorities, as well as
for businesses right across Canada.
In my mind, this impressive piece of research completes a
compelling body of evidence that we cannot afford to ignore:
corporate Canada must step up to the plate in order to help
advance and develop visible minorities. It's key to our country's
Before I address some of the recommendations outlined in
the report, I'd like to provide some context on why this is
a critical issue.
In a recent speech to the St. John's Board of Trade, Bank
of Canada Governor David Dodge made a strong case that Canada
should concentrate on increasing productivity, so that we
can have sustainable economic growth and rising standards
of living in the future.
I could not agree more. If Canadians want an excellent standard
of living -- and of course we all do -- we must become one
of the world's most competitive nations to pay for it.
And one important way we can do that is to ensure we develop
and support a rich and diverse workforce -- a workforce that
reflects the makeup of our towns and cities. This isn't just
a social imperative, but a business opportunity as well.
It's equally important that we leverage the talents and skills
of the people who are already in our workforces. People are
the most important asset of any company or organization. And
it's simply bad business not to maximize the return on our
most important assets.
I would not be exaggerating to say that leveraging the diversity
of our current workforce is critical to the success of each
of our businesses, and by extension, to the success of our
cities, provinces and country.
Let me add one more fact. Canada's workforce is aging and
our birth rate has hit a record-low. We are facing a serious
situation. If we do nothing, our labour force will stop growing
in about 10 years. Clearly, increased immigration will help
us fill the pipeline and fuel economic growth. In fact, one
of the recommendations coming from an RBC diversity study
was to gradually increase immigration rates to the 300 to
400,000 range per year from the current rate of about 260,000.
But just as clearly, we must also optimize the talents of
our existing workforce and that is what this study is about.
In 2005, I asked our Economics department to put a dollar
figure on what it actually cost the Canadian economy when
employers fail to realize the potential of immigrants as well
as other under-utilized groups such as women and seniors.
While today's Catalyst report focuses on visible minorities
who are already in the workforce, the RBC report focused primarily
on newcomers to Canada, the majority of whom are visible minorities
in the workforce. We found that if all new Canadians were
fully employed, at their level of education and experience,
earning equal pay to someone born in Canada, personal income
would increase by $13 billion a year. While it may be impossible
to eliminate this gap - it does highlight the magnitude of
If we could fully leverage the talent sitting in our own
backyard, it would represent the equivalent of 400,000 more
So, let me quickly connect the dots:
- We're not fully leveraging the skills of our current
workforce. There are significant financial and human costs
to not doing so.
- Today, we've got one more piece of research to add to
the mix: we've now heard directly from our visible minority
employees that they can contribute much more to our productivity
challenge if we give them an equal opportunity.
- And finally, Canada is facing a serious demographic dilemma.
Today's report contains six important action steps. I would
like to go on the record, saying that I support every one
I should mention a couple things about the study. It's important
to know that this survey incorporates feedback from non-visible
minorities in the workplace. In addition, the findings and
related recommendations are meaningful for all employees in
the workplace and will enable all of us to be more successful.
As well, you'll see that while the recommendations are very
broad, they can be customized to apply to particular organizational
Now, here are the action steps.
One, assess your environment. Business needs to get better
at understanding the challenges and aspirations of visible
minority employees. This means having a greater focus on learning
and sharing, soliciting feedback, re-visiting your talent
management practices, and influencing the right organizational
Two, integrate diversity as a strategic priority. Organizations
need to strengthen the diversity business case, tailoring
the case to their overall strategic plan and then establishing
a comprehensive communications approach.
The third recommendation is to make sure that top management
is committed to diversity. And I'm not just talking about
the CEO here, although that is critical as well.
Senior executives and employees throughout your organization
should be designated to champion diversity initiatives. And
remember to make sure that your employees know about your
commitment and efforts.
Fourth, implement talent management practices and career
development approaches that are equitable and transparent.
Businesses need to clearly communicate performance evaluation
criteria, systematically identify and develop top talent,
and leverage the diverse skills of our highly capable workforces.
The fifth recommendation is to develop a robust accountability
framework around diversity. This one sounds like it came from
a bank or a chartered accountant, but it's true that what
gets measured gets improved. Business must effectively track
and monitor recruitment, promotion, succession and turnover
from a diversity vantage point. It's imperative to report
back on progress to all employees.
The sixth and final recommendation is that organizations
should provide internal mechanisms that support their diversity
efforts. Businesses must do more to develop, facilitate and
advocate programs so that visible minority employees can readily
adapt to organizational cultures. For example, we need mentoring
programs that help visible minority employees gain valuable
insights, and forums where they can gain exposure to senior
executives. And we need visible minority employees to take
greater advantage of these opportunities so that they have
more power over their own career development.
I am confident that these action steps will help businesses
and organizations turbo-charge the talents of their workforce
- and in effect all members of their workforce. They will
help organizations walk the talk, and help prove that we are
not just paying lip service to diversity, but taking tangible,
credible steps to make a real difference.
It is important that large companies, small companies, government
and the non-profit sector listen to and learn from the voices
of the employees of corporate Canada, because their experiences
are shared by your employees as well.
Now in case you think that I'm just making this challenge
to other companies, I am also making it to my own colleagues
at RBC. Some of the survey's respondents were from RBC, and
I can tell you that we intend to listen and respond to what
they've told us.
And we have three employees here today. After our formal
presentations, they are prepared to tell you about their personal
journeys at RBC. I am proud that they chose RBC as their employer
and I'd like to thank
- Chinyere Eni,
- Natasha Kassim and
- John Man for being with us today.
And now, I'll turn it back over to Zabeen so that we can
take your questions.