Remarks to the Seventeenth Luncheon for
Canadian Disability Hall of Fame Inductees
President & Chief Executive Officer
Royal Bank of Canada
Toronto, November 10, 2010
Thank you Rob. I'm honoured to be here today to participate
in this celebration of the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame
Inductees. To Colette, Alan, David, and Jeffrey, my congratulations
for receiving this well-deserved recognition.
I want to applaud the Canadian Foundation for Physically
Disabled Persons, which is helping to change the way Canadians
think about physical disability. One of the biggest obstacles
for people with disabilities has always been other people's
perceptions - creating a Hall of Fame is a landmark project
that drives awareness and understanding.
At RBC we are strongly committed to creating a more inclusive
workplace for all our employees, including those with
RBC is a values-led company, and diversity for growth and
innovation is one of our five core values. It is a key pillar
of our culture for several reasons:
- it helps to ensure a rewarding and enriching work environment
for our employees
- it is critical to achieving superior business results.
Our view is that, to serve our markets well, we must reflect
our markets well. So, for us, diversity is not a stand-alone
agenda, but an integral part of our business strategies
and embedded in what we do and who we are
- and because it's not just the smart thing to do, it's
the right thing to do. It's in keeping with our Canadian
values of respect and fairness and our belief in the importance
of building civil societies.
Attracting, developing and retaining the best talent is essential
to the success of any business. And for businesses to achieve
our full potential, we need to create environments where everyone
can reach their full potential and where the only limitations
to career success are an individual's abilities and drive.
Yet, we know there are still barriers for persons with disabilities
that can detract from our ability to create a truly diverse
and inclusive workplace. Just like today's event helps to
raise awareness, RBC too is working hard to raise awareness
and create a better understanding of disability.
One thing is clear: there needs to be more dialogue around
the contribution and value employees with disabilities bring
to the workplace. With one in five Canadians projected to
acquire a disability in their lifetime, we need to be innovative
in how we serve and support the full participation and inclusion
of persons with disabilities. Technology and medical advances
and an aging Canadian population are only heightening this
need - and the opportunity.
We have some proof that our work to build a more inclusive
environment at RBC is making progress. In our 2010 Employee
Survey, people with disabilities were just as positive as
their colleagues without disabilities on the statement "all
employees are treated with respect here," and are just
as positive about achieving their long-term career objectives
at RBC. One indication of that is in 2009, the number one
reason employees with disabilities left RBC was retirement.
In most people's minds, that is one of the best reasons to
leave a company. This fact makes it clear that, at RBC, People
with Disabilities are developing winning careers. If they
experience barriers, we are working to overcome them with
the support of their colleagues and the bank.
I would like to briefly share our approach to Diversity -
specifically Persons With Disabilities - to build awareness
about what we have done at RBC and what is possible when you
work at it.
Our Diversity strategy is based on three key pillars: Talent
and Workplace, Clients, and Communities. We set ambitious
goals. We want to be a recognized leader in workforce diversity;
to be the financial institution of choice for diverse clients;
and, to help build healthy communities, which are increasingly
diverse. This approach drives our thinking about the employees
we hire and develop - our clients and how best to serve them
- and the communities we support.
By using this approach, we have become increasingly diverse
at all levels of the company and across many different groups
such as Persons With Disabilities but also with women, visible
minorities, Newcomers to Canada, Aboriginals, lesbian, gay,
bisexual, transgendered individuals and many others.
We have made progress in including Persons With Disabilities,
but we have much further to go.
In the workplace, we have focused on recruitment - we offer
dedicated staff to candidates who are disabled to increase
their chances of success in the application process. We work
with organizations like Career Edge; its Ability Edge internship
program helps recent graduates with disabilities to obtain
meaningful work experience. Since 1996, RBC has hired 150
Ability Edge interns as employees.
We also know that training managers in creating an inclusive
environment is an important part of building a company where
People With Disabilities can be successful.
We are also a leader in providing workplace accommodation,
through partnerships with organizations like the Canadian
Council on Rehabilitation and Work. We have done over 1,000
workplace assessments over the past eight and a half years.
This is more than providing accommodations - this is about
enabling employee performance. Working together, we are enabling
employees with disabilities by providing them with the tools
and support they need to succeed and grow within the organization.
And when they grow, our businesses grow as well.
Let me share an example of the impact our program has on
the lives of employees and our business performance. We have
an employee who has been with us since 1969. Due to a progressive
disability, she has been the recipient of 13 assessments,
including a number of renovations to her work space and surrounding
areas. She has excelled as an employee and has far exceeded
the requirements of the role. She has been an annual RBC performance
winner - which is only for our top performers, and continues
to be an outstanding contributor to RBC today.
Another employee, Jennison Asuncion, who has visual impairment,
helps develop accessible solutions for RBC's employees and
clients alike. He earned one of the top recognition spots
in our company for his innovative work. At the same time,
he was also recognized by the CNIB for his community work
at a summer camp for people with vision loss.
Jennison epitomizes our belief that employees, clients and
the community are all connected and approaching all three
can be a powerful way to accelerate change.
RBC has an employee resource group called RBC REACH. The
group's mandate is to raise awareness of PWD issues so that
RBC can take positive steps for change and provide support
to PWD for inclusion and engagement at RBC. This group provides
a great forum for individuals with disabilities to share experiences
and best practices, and provide and receive mentoring and
support. In fact this resource group has grown from 20 to
140 employees this year - that's momentum. A member of our
senior management team, Al Tinney, who is with us today, is
the executive champion of this group.
We also partner on important research to identify ways to
help employees with disabilities be successful in the corporate
For clients - we have a comprehensive Accessibility website;
Braille statements and audio ATMs. And in the community we
sponsor events such as the Paralympics and today's luncheon.
At RBC, we believe Diversity is a journey. We are proud of
our Persons With Disabilities representation. At RBC, the
number of employees with disabilities has gone up 68 per cent
from 2003, and more than doubled since 1987. All because together
we are creating an environment where all employees can succeed.
While representation is necessary, it isn't sufficient; it
must go hand in hand with inclusion. Inclusion is being valued,
respected and supported - and being enabled to fully participate
in the workplace - where every individual can achieve her
or his full potential. Inclusion needs to be reflected in
an organization's culture, practices and relationships. You
could say that diversity is the mix; inclusion is getting
the mix to work well together, and turning it into value for
clients, employees and the organization.
Much of the discussion about Diversity focuses on differences.
At RBC, we think about it in a slightly different way. We
believe that to ensure diversity is a strength, we must first
focus on the similarities that bind us, that unify us around
common purpose and goals and make us proud to be part of our
organization. We are committed to our client-focused vision
and our values, and, we expect everyone to live our values
in their everyday actions and decisions.
With that as the foundation, we can then put our diversity
to work. We do this by embracing the differences our employees
bring through their experiences, their knowledge and their
perspectives - including those based on their abilities, gender,
ethnicity, sexual orientation and so on. We also value the
different cultures across our many businesses and geographies.
Our strength and success comes from how we work together,
how we collaborate, how we use that mix to generate innovative
At the core of Diversity is the idea that we can all be valued
- indeed should be valued for who we are and the experiences
and insights we bring to the table that are uniquely ours.
In the simplest terms it is what we can accomplish together
when we are free to be ourselves and others accept us as so.
I believe that corporations must start to see diversity as
not just an add-on or a business opportunity, but a
path to excellence
. that embedding it in your culture
will help you get the most out of the mix and that the benefits
will flow when you get it right.
At RBC, we have learned that when diversity and inclusion
are part of decision-making, we are better positioned to connect
with our customers and provide more meaningful products and
services, driving customer loyalty and an enhanced bottom
line in return.
Meanwhile, ensuring that each and every promising employee
has an opportunity to contribute can pay off exponentially
by driving innovation and growth; strengthening our workforce
and enhancing our profile with potential recruits - not to
mention inspiring other employees to give their best.
And through in-kind support, mentoring, internship opportunities
and financial donations, corporations have a strong role to
play in supporting community-based initiatives that drive
change. We can do this, and we will do this.
Let me suggest some other ways in which we can all drive
- Many of you are leaders in your organization. CEOs, Business
Heads, HR Heads. Be a visible leader in establishing a strategy
for Persons With Disabilities, one that aligns with your
business objectives. Then set goals and monitor progress
and reward the right leadership behaviours and outcomes.
I have been the Chair of RBC's Diversity Leadership Council
since its inception, and I see it as one of the most important
roles I play at RBC.
- And, if you aren't in a formal leadership position -
you can be a visible leader and champion. Persons With Disabilities.
Talk about it within your organization and in your community.
Get involved. Take small steps.
- Formally or informally mentor a Person With Disability.
Listen to their stories and challenges. Share your experiences
and insights. Your genuine interest and support will build
their spirit and optimism. It will give them the confidence
to take that next step.
- And finally, foster inclusiveness in your workplace.
Encourage colleagues to share their ideas and their unique
perspectives, and leverage the value in them.
On behalf of RBC I thank you for the important work you are
doing to ensure that Persons With Disabilities are included
in our workplaces, our marketplaces and our communities. We
look forward to continuing our work to make RBC, and our society,
a place where people with disabilities can feel valued, add
value, and demonstrate their - and our - abilities.