The reward for building an inclusive workplace that is committed to equity is diversity of talent. 

This statement has been made before, but perhaps bears repeating. Before we rush to fill open roles by hiring people with different backgrounds, it’s important to pause and ask ourselves a few honest questions. Have we done the work to ensure that new talent — especially those who are different from the majority — feels fully included, empowered to be themselves and brings forth ideas and, most important, issues, without fear of repercussion? 

We are in the early stages of reassessing what success, safety and support should look like at the organizational level. We are actively evolving the ways in which we hire and work as professional communicators. My own experience as a woman of color working in a leadership role in PR — and as co-host of ABCDEI, the podcast focused on all topics related to inclusion, equity and diversity — has given me some wisdom. Some learnings:

  1. Be realistic about the job. Job descriptions should be succinct and accurate. Think about the three to five critical things someone needs to do well, and leave the rest of the criteria by the wayside. The peripheries of the wish list for a role are what often create bias in hiring. 
  2. Hiring differently isn’t charitable. Hiring people from historically underrepresented groups doesn’t make you a hero. It just opens your eyes to a large group of perfectly qualified people who have dealt with systemic hurdles in the way of their visibility and advancement. 
  3. Reward promise. Resist the urge to hire someone who’s done the same job at a different organization. Instead, choose people based on their potential to bring new thinking that will add unique value to the team, rather than just replacing what was there before. 
  4. Evaluate differently. This brings us full circle to the opening sentence. There is no point in hiring people with different backgrounds if you’re using antiquated evaluation criteria for success. Think about what success looks like for a new role, and build your criteria for talent from there. Don’t resort to your old performance review forms just because they’ve worked thus far. 

It’s a new era for workplaces and an exciting time to be in communications. If you’re a leader, this is the time to build your team with intentionality. Bring together the best minds that represent a diversity of lived experiences, life stages and identities to represent the world we live in today. 

Rohini Mukherji, Vice President at Narrative PR, is a seasoned integrated communications expert with 16 years of experience in Canada and a short stint in China. She has led award-winning 360 campaigns for clients in the B2B and B2C space, across sectors including financial services, technology, real estate, health care, lifestyle and packaged goods.

Struck by the absence of people who look like her among senior PR agency leadership in Canada, Rohini has become an advocate for more inclusive and equitable workplaces in Canada. Outside work, Rohini is the co-creator and co-host of the ABCDEI podcast.