Best Diversity Employer 2024 – Reducing systemic recruitment barriers at UVic

Two Ukrainian women face the camera and smile in a UVic building hallway.
Bodhana Hrymaliuk and Maryna Baranova joined the UVic Custodial Services team after fleeing the war in Ukraine.

The University of Victoria is committed to building a campus where everyone feels a sense of belonging. Our institutional plans include a focus on equity, diversity and inclusion, and we strive to bring this lens to the work we do locally, nationally and globally.

A new approach to hiring

When the Facilities Management team at UVic was recruiting new employees in March 2023, they expanded their applicant pool to include people with limited English-language skills, specifically Ukrainian newcomers fleeing war.

Custodial Services attended a job fair focused on Ukrainian newcomers to speak with interested applicants, often with the support of friends or family who helped with translation. The team decided to reassess whether the long-standing job requirements were needed or whether using an equity lens would benefit both UVic and the community by providing opportunities to people who face language barriers to employment. The team was then faced with the challenge of conducting follow-up interviews, and through the support of an interpreter, they were able to achieve a fair and thorough selection process.

“This was definitely new territory for us,” said Lawrence Lu, Custodial Services Manager. “Even with a department as culturally diverse as ours, we had not navigated situations where basic communication was our most significant barrier.” 

Developing new skills

In addition to having an interpreter who was also a Ukrainian newcomer attend initial training sessions and translate orientation materials, Custodial Services needed to develop skills in a very short time for ongoing communication. During training week with Custodial Services Supervisors Brian Gauthier and James Mason, the team systematically transitioned from relying on the interpreter to implementing tools, such as phone translation apps, communicating through body language and gestures, and physical demonstrations, to accelerate information exchange. 

“It was very slow and difficult at first, but our team learned to adapt to these other methods of communication and soon our new Ukrainian team members began to pick up language skills through this full immersion. By the end of the week, we were communicating without an interpreter,” remarked Lawrence Lu. “There is so much to gain when we strive to remove barriers to inclusion.”

“So much can be gained when we strive to remove barriers to inclusion. In Facilities Management, we have taken steps to make it easier to hire, train and engage staff who are non-English speakers. As a result, we’ve recruited an even more diverse and talented group of people onto our Custodial Services team than ever before. And because they have other transferrable skills that are yet to be discovered, they have the potential to go on and succeed in other areas of our campus.”

— Lawrence Lu, Manager, UVic Custodial Services

Best Diversity Employer for 13 years running

The University of Victoria has been recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers for the 13th consecutive year. Winners of the 2024 competition, announced March 5, listed UVic as one of only two BC universities to be honoured.

The national competition, which has been running for 17 years, recognized employers that are leading the way in creating inclusive workplaces for employees from five diverse groups: women, members of visible minorities, persons with disabilities, Indigenous peoples and 2SLGBTQIA+ peoples. This year’s honorees stood out, according to MediaCorp, by creating a workplace where everyone can thrive.

UVic was selected for a range of leading diversity initiatives, including:

  • In 2022, establishing the role of Vice-President Indigenous, who has the responsibility of furthering the university’s commitment to truth, respect and reconciliation. Central to the role's responsibilities is the development of a strategy that integrates Indigenous cultures, histories, beliefs and ways of being and knowing across all aspects of the university’s mission. Read the university’s Indigenous Plan, released in 2023.
  • UVic’s annual Five Days of Action: 365 Days of Commitment event to highlight its commitment to ending discrimination, harassment and sexualized violence. Participants are invited to attend events and workshops focused on a different call to action (listen, reflect, dialogue, engage, take action) on each day of the week.

UVic has been recognized as one of BC’s Top 100 Employers for 2022, 2023 and 2024, and as one of Canada’s Greenest Employers seven times.


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Keywords: administrative, faculty, staff, student life, community, equity diversity inclusion, employer, best diversity employer, rankings

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