By Laura Stovel
Collette Poirier knows the benefits of having diverse staff. As the human resources person at Selkirk Tangiers Heli-Skiing, she is proud that staff members speak 11 languages between them, including Japanese, Latvian and Swahili – and she would welcome more. This way, Selkirk Tangiers is able to serve guests from around the world and deliver important safety information to them in their own languages.
Selkirk Tangiers also has its waivers translated into 12 European languages so that guests can fully understand what they are signing, Poirier said. It is all part of making guests and staff members feel comfortable.
As open to diversity as Poirier is, she knows that Selkirk Tangiers can still do more. She was one of three people who attended the first half of an eight-hour workshop on ‘Embracing a diverse workforce for all employers’ held at Okanagan College on Wednesday.
The course was taught by Karen Maeers of WCG, a Victoria-based human resources consulting firm. It discussed the many kinds of diversity in society and the work place – from religious, ethnic and linguistic diversity to diversity of age and physical and mental ability. The course touched on the ways in which people can be, or feel, marginalized and showed that an inclusive and diverse workplace can be a creative and positive place to work.
“There’s a skill shortage coming and there are a lot of marginalized groups,” Meyers said. “How can we get employers to leverage the existing talent in Revelstoke?” If employers learn to work with a range of workers, outside their norm, “everybody wins. The employer wins, the job seeker wins and society wins.”
The class discussed the challenges of serving a diverse clientele. It’s always useful to anticipate needs – such a wheelchair ramp for people in wheelchairs or multi-lingual literature – but, in the end, the client knows best what they need. The best thing to do is to ask them.
This rang true to Garry Pendergast, a former principal who also attended the class. “This made me revisit my time as a principal. It all gets back to the customers – in my case, the students.” If there is a problem, the first course of action is to ask the clients and workers what they need.
Pendergast attended the class because he and his colleague, Janet Lemieux, are conducting a work force study for the City of Revelstoke. “We are looking to see what we can do to give Revelstoke a way forward in terms of work-force planning,” he said. Preparing for a diverse work force is definitely part of that.
Part two of the “Embracing a diverse workforce for all employers” course at Okanagan College will be held on Wednesday, November 5th from 8:00 a.m. until noon. Although the course is half over, Maeer welcomes all interested employers to join this session. The college is also hosting courses on ‘The Canadian Workplace for Immigrant Employers’ and ‘The Canadian Workplace for New Canadian Employees.’ For more information about these free workshops, please click this link.