At Magnet, we’re committed to initiatives that address diversity, skills, and talent in today’s modern workforce. Using intelligent job-matching technology, the Magnet platform promotes inclusive hiring by supporting bias-free recruitment practices.
We partner with like-minded businesses and community organizations in Canada to work towards a shared goal: addressing unemployment and underemployment of marginalized populations across the country.
Magnet is proud to be aligned with the BC Presidents Group, a network of change-driven leaders in British Columbia who are championing the inclusive employment movement.
We spoke with Kirsten Sutton, Co-Chair of the Presidents Group and VP & Managing Director at SAP Labs Canada, to learn about both organizations’ involvement in diversity and inclusion initiatives. Kirsten responds to questions about hiring that employers can learn from, get inspired by, and implement to contribute to an inclusive workforce.
I’ll start with SAP Labs Canada. We’re about 3000 strong across Canada, and globally, SAP has 20 labs around the world, all focused on research and development for SAP’s leading-edge products. Here in Canada we have developers in four locations: Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto and Waterloo. Our job is to oversee operations, make sure that we have an engaged workforce, and to look at ways of making SAP Labs a great place to work. Lastly, we manage SAP’s external activities: including our corporate social responsibility and the activities we do to promote SAP Labs as a thought leader.
We are the fourth largest Lab in all of SAP, which is quite something for Canada, and we’re very proud of it! Last year we won 13 Top Employer awards, including recognition for an inclusive workplace, for our green activities, and for our Glassdoor reviews. I believe being a member of the Presidents Group and our Autism at Work program are a big part of why we see so much engagement.
In 2013, the B.C. Government supported creating a Presidents Group. Business leaders got together to change the outcomes for people with disabilities in B.C. It’s a network of change-driven B.C. businesses, large and small, who are committed to employing people with disabilities. In 2018, we extended the Group from the core members to a community of accessible employers and invited all businesses in B.C. to join us. Right now, we’re full steam ahead on growing the community and really looking at how we can move the needle with the 25 businesses in the Group.
We know that competition for talent is fierce. And, technology is transforming the world every day. As a technology company, our customers really expect innovation that’s game-changing for them. Digital transformation is upon everybody, and in order to innovate in this environment, you really need diversity. You need people to think differently. You need people to bring different ideas to the mix or to look at a problem from a new angle.
SAP launched the Autism at Work program in 2014 to increase the diversity of thought within our company. We also had a lot of jobs open quickly and not enough pipeline to fill them. Canada was one of the first early adopters of Autism at Work thanks to our great social programs. Now, we’re well on our path and it’s now into year five! That’s the program in a nutshell; it’s been very successful and Canada has been on the leading edge of that throughout the duration of the program.
The Presidents Group website, Accessible Employers (accessibleemployers.ca), has some really great, hard data on the business case for hiring for diversity. Research shows that diverse and inclusive workplaces are twice as likely to meet financial targets, six times more likely to be innovative, and six times more likely to effectively anticipate change.
We’ve seen that at SAP. The more inclusive we are, the more energized our employees are, and the more interested they are in the business. When they’re interested, they’re more innovative and more productive. Certainly, people have barriers and they vary – wildly. There is a litany of things that can stop people from being fully productive at work. And that’s what we stopped focusing on! Ultimately, in both SAP and the Presidents Group, we encourage everyone to focus on what people are able to do. Focus on the talent.
Think about this: hiding yourself and not getting a chance to really feel like you can contribute to a team is exhausting, right? A lot of employees don’t share if they have any barriers or challenges because they’re really worried about acceptance. They think, “Will this be okay? Will people see me as less than?”. If you have an environment where everyone feels that they can be themselves, all the energy that they were using to hide their barriers can be put into being productive and innovative! At SAP, we’re seeing that in spades!
You have to check all of your bias at the door. To start, you have to look at your process for recruiting and say, how do we interview people, how do we bring them into the business? Am I filtering people out unconsciously, or even sometimes consciously, through that process?
Businesses have roles, and they have people with expertise. When you’re looking to fill a role, your rules have to be different. You need to think about the person and the talent, not necessarily the role.
There are lots of things that are done in business that have created barriers unconsciously. If you don’t have a person with disabilities in your organization, you may have been filtering them out unconsciously. Step back, check all your biases, and rethink what you’re doing.
Another thing is to consider within your team structure is job sharing. The Presidents Group has a lot of great case studies at AccessibleEmployers.ca that showcase businesses who have done this right. It isn’t changing how you sell or make your new product. This is asking, “how can I make room for everyone, and have them all be engaged and productive?”
The Autism at Work program has taught us a lot.
By focusing on this community of great talents, we have moved the needle on hiring that great talent. What we’re learning over time, of course, is that people with disabilities is a very broad category.
Within SAP’s diversity and inclusion strategy, we have a pillar dedicated to hiring differently-abled people, and we want to extend it past Autism at Work and through to the entire spectrum of people with disabilities. That’s really our next step. We are going to make sure that we’re ready for everybody to be working at SAP!
About Kirsten Sutton
Kirsten Sutton is an unconventional tech leader. From a professionally trained chef, Kirsten navigated a significant career pivot to become one of Vancouver’s most celebrated tech execs. As Vice President and Managing Director of SAP Labs Canada, Kirsten is one of only two female Managing Directors within the worldwide SAP Labs Network. Kirsten was recognized in 2018 as one of Business in Vancouver’s Influential Women in Business and a YWCA Woman of Distinction.
An advocate for girls in tech, she supports education initiatives like Templeton STEM and GIRLsmarts4tech and has led the way for SAP Canada’s adoption of Autism at Work, an initiative to hire 650 individuals on the autism spectrum globally. Kirsten proudly gives her time as co-chair of the President’s Group, a network of British Columbia business leaders who champion accessible, inclusive workplaces and as board chair of Minerva BC. She also serves as director of the board of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade and Science World British Columbia and as governor on the Honorary Governor’s Council of the Vancouver Foundation.