No need for incentives or legislation, the advantages of human diversity are being pursued by Mississauga’s best companies out of enlightened self interest. Words by Steve Pecar

Diversity. Mississauga. Business.

It’s a love triangle that is working out quite well, thank you. As Canada begins to flex its technological muscle, Mississauga’s role as an IT hub is being built on its ability to pull in expertise from all corners of the globe and every segment of society.

Mississauga companies are not only making a case for diversity, they are living it. By practicing the theory that a workforce of both men and women, people of all ages and those from different ethnic, cultural and racial backgrounds provide more insight into the marketplace, business is finding that it can now better meet the needs of customers. Indeed, things have changed.

Because of this progressive outlook, major players such as Pitney Bowes, Hewlett-Packard and Xerox are not only able to attract a skilled workforce from abroad, they also look no further than their own backyard to find a diverse array of expertise that can provide new insight into expanding a business.

More and more companies are finding that a diverse workplace can provide a competitive edge as employees bring their own social and unique experiences, as well as the teachings and different cultural viewpoints of their native countries, into the mix.

“We are seeing a whole range of skills that we have never seen before,” says Larry Petovello, Director of Economic Development for the City of Mississauga. “These skills can have huge benefits as companies look to new and international markets.” Indeed, Mississauga’s recognition of a diverse workplace has become a key component of its official business strategy.

The City of Mississauga’s Economic Development Strategy, a report released last year and described elsewhere in this magazine, recognizes the opportunity created by diversity in the workplace. Specifically, it points out that a wide-range of ethnic or cultural backgrounds can generate access to new economic opportunities that may otherwise be hidden. These opportunities can include the leveraging of business networks and link export markets and client bases.

Further, the report not only acknowledges the broadbased skills a diverse community provides but the research also indicates how diversity becomes a selling point to businesses looking to start up or relocate. Pitney Bowes, a company established in 1920, has seen its business grow from that of being a supplier of postage meters to one where it makes a global impact on office, document and communication management.

It is also a company that utilizes diversity to give it a competitive business advantage. In 2010, Pitney Bowes was the recipient of the RBC Immigrant Advantage Award, one that recognizes innovation and leadership in integrating skilled immigrants into the Toronto-area labour market.

Guilherme Dias, Director, Strategic Talent Management of Pitney Bowes Canada sees it as a natural state of affairs and how the company has been built. The competitive edge is real. For example, Dias points out that a culturally diverse sales force can tap into markets that may not have existed before and develop new revenue streams.

“When you have a salesperson that can speak the same language as the client, it helps,” explains Dias. But a workplace doesn’t just thrive by the sheer number of insightful or expertly-trained professionals it hires. It has to be evident when decisions are made. Dias says diversity has to become part of the entire operation.

“There has to be diversity of thought; thought and experience,” he explains. At Pitney Bowes, Dias continues, a diverse workplace also means a diverse viewpoint at the management and executive level. For Rola Hodeib, this type of vision fits in with her career plans.

Originally from Lebanon, Hodeib says even though Pitney Bowes hired her, she believes it was a two-way street in that she chose them because of what they had to offer. “I wanted to work for a company like this,” the business analyst explains. “Once I got there, and saw how things are done, I knew that I was right.”

Hodeib says because of the diverse way of thinking at the company, various viewpoints matter and when those viewpoints are put into place, it makes for a satisfying work experience. As a result, Hodeib sees a career at Pitney Bowes, one where advancement is a realistic goal.

Not to overstate the diversity card in attracting new talent, Xerox has brought some of the top minds in their field from around the globe to Mississauga in its quest to be the best. Giuseppa DiPaola-Baranyi, Laboratory Manager for Materials Integration at the Xerox Research Centre of Canada, says the company needs to access the best scientists and engineers and will look wherever they can be found.

“We not only hire from the Mississauga area of course, but we hire our scientists world-wide,” she explains. In fact, over 30 per cent of the staff at Xerox has been trained outside of Canada. In the competitive world of business processes and document technology and management, innovation is what the business is all about, explains DiPaola-Baranyi, and innovation is very dependent on diversity. “We believe diversity drives innovation; that is critical,” she says. “This diversity of thought is what we attribute to our success.”