DEI training delivers double benefits

There is compelling evidence that a strong employment culture supported by diversity training provides dual benefits: it allows employees to be their authentic selves at work, and results in a greater understanding of other viewpoints, hence improving customer service. Both are true for the property management team at Concert Properties.

Concert Properties was founded in 1989 with a mandate to build affordable rental housing. The company has since diversified beyond rental homes into condominiums, commercial property, seniors’ active aging communities (under the Tapestry brand), and infrastructure projects across Canada. Building and managing rental homes remains a core business, and the company now owns and manages more than 5,000 rental homes in Canada, with almost 2,500 in B.C.

Given that Vancouver and Toronto are two of the most diverse cities on the planet, it is not a surprise that our employees and our residents also reflect a wide variety of backgrounds, cultures and genders.

In 2021, Concert’s People Experience team rolled out a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategy as a company priority to ensure that our workforce reflects and represents the communities in which we live and work — and to deliver better customer service.

This strategy included education and training, which has been very helpful to employees for two reasons. One, it helps ensure that the diverse cultures and backgrounds of employees are recognized so they can more comfortably be themselves at work. Two, the training ensures staff are more sensitized to the many differences of the residents that they interact with on a day-to-day basis.

This process has taken time and has not always been easy. It began with unconscious bias training followed by an employment engagement survey to measure the beliefs and experience of DEI culture at Concert, and a DEI review to help understand the opportunities and potential barriers that may impact inclusion throughout the organization.

“We need to be open to different people’s experience; then the strategy follows. After listening to staff, we’ve been delivering training and education to help overcome the biases that we did uncover, and that training has been very positively received at every level across the company,” says Aran Clarke, senior vice president, People Experience.

Concert Properties completed construction of Collingwood Village in East Vancouver in 2004 — a transit-oriented, master-planned community with five buildings. The property management team on site supports more than 1,000 residents who call it home. Libby Krishna, a community manager there, deals with hundreds of residents during her work week. She believes the DEI training that she and her team have received has been invaluable in improving both the team’s comfort level and their level of customer service.

“Collingwood is a very diverse community, with our staff interacting with and working closely with residents on a daily basis to listen to and then address their needs and concerns. This diverse environment informs our team, and supported by the DEI training we’ve received, helps our team build strength in dealing effectively and professionally with our residents, ensuring mutual respect and collaboration.”

Companies that are inclusive of diversity are more creative and innovative, are better able to respond to local and global markets, have higher employee engagement and a stronger financial bottom line.

Patrice Charles is a People Experience advisor based in our Toronto office and has been involved from the start with the launch of the DEI strategy. She is inspired by the positive feedback she has received to date.

“Being a part of the launch and implementation of Concert’s DEI strategy has been inspiring and rewarding because of the continued support from Concert’s leaders and the ongoing engagement and positive feedback from our workforce,” she says. “An upcoming initiative will further enable us to better understand employee perceptions and experiences and empower us to foster human connections in the workplace and with clients, residents, and the community.”

It is one more important step that Concert Properties is taking to build a people-first future.