It was the third day of a seemingly ceaseless workshop, and I was exhausted. We were all exhausted. And yet there was also a sense of exhilaration, of elation in the room. The three Socio-economic Inclusion (SEI) teams were gathered to refine our policy challenges and opportunities, sharing ideas shaped by our diverse individual interests and expertise, and respectfully debating contentious issues, when it occurred to me: Work could be like this. This was work: engaging in deep critical thought, challenging ourselves and each other, questioning the questions, and attempting to find answers.
I went to Winnipeg to dive deep into the future of work, and I ended up experiencing a very clear vision of what I hope my future of work will look like: building connections with deeply inspiring colleagues, openly sharing diverse perspectives, freedom to express dissent, and always space to laugh. We entered the program as individuals from across the Federal Government, varied in life and work experience, and cohered as a team, free of hierarchy or pretense. We approached problems in a way that none of us could have on our own, or working within the silos of our home departments and agencies.
I now recognize what I was seeing. One of the first weak signals shared by a Canada Beyond 150 colleague expressed shifting notions of diversity and inclusion. While baby boomers and Gen X view diversity as equal representation and protections regardless of gender, race, religion, or ethnicity (among other identity factors), for millennials, diversity is the integration of myriad backgrounds, experiences and perspectives, and bringing them all to bear upon a single problem. And where earlier generations understand inclusion as a moral imperative to make space for diverse individuals in a workplace, for millennials, inclusion is a much more active concept. For this generation, inclusion refers to an openly collaborative environment that values different ideas and perspectives, and actively draws them in. Further, millennials know that these forms of diversity and inclusion have strongly positive impacts on an organization.
This may be the greatest insight I have gained from my participation in this program so far. Work can be like this. Work should be like this. What we can accomplish when we truly value diversity and inclusion, when we actively work to draw out multiple perspectives, is not only staggering, it is beautiful.