Employee Survey Helps Mount Sinai Target Diversity Initiatives

Diversity has long been an integral principle and driving force at Mount Sinai Hospital. In 2007, The Toronto-based hospital undertook a workforce survey to measure whether its diversity efforts had been successful, and to inform future diversity initiatives and succession planning.

Seven years earlier, MSH established a diversity and human rights office was with a mandate to create organizational change by:

  • Addressing harassment and discrimination complaints.
  • Providing training on human rights and related issues.
  • Developing policies to ensure equity in the workplace.

Responsibilities include:

  • Resolving complaints according to the hospital’s harassment policy.
  • Reviewing or contributing to any policy initiatives to ensure compliance with human rights standards.
  • Providing training on human rights and diversity, conflict resolution and mediation.
  • Consulting with any member of the hospital community on any issue or question related to human rights.

The office focuses on a few main areas:

  • education and training
  • complaint resolution
  • diversity and human rights
  • related human resource functions (i.e., bias free hiring and performance management)
  • patient centered care/equitable access to services
  • development and review of policy and procedures
  • development of diversity plans
  • rights and responsibilities

Once the office was established, it focused on ensuring fair opportunities in employment existed for all members of the community and all hospital employees. It appeared that while the MSH workforce is diverse, that diversity was not moving all the way up the ranks.

The office and hospital management realized in order to provide culturally competent and equitable health care services to the diverse Toronto community, all levels of the workforce must represent the community at large.

The survey objectives:

  • Understand the demographic characteristics of the MSH workforce and compare them to the census area.
  • Better understand the needs of the existing workforce.
  • Address the needs of the broader community and develop the MSH workforce through the recruitment of new employees and succession planning.

The office also organized a survey committee with representation from key groups including staff, management, communications, HR and the union. The committee knew there would be fear of privacy implications as all health care workers worry about data privacy, the sexual orientation question, and logistics barriers because of shift work and the fact that most hospital staff are on their feet all day, instead of working at a desk in front of a computer.

A huge key to success was obtaining and leveraging leadership buy-in, which included buy-in from union and physician leaders. The committee ensured key people were onboard and then used them in a communications plan that featured posters of these leaders endorsing the plan. Each workforce survey poster boasted the large tagline, “Include Me!” along with leadership testimonials that clearly identified the benefits to completing the survey.

MSH now has data that will inform more targeted diversity initiatives and succession planning. Considerations and implications include:

  • How well is MSH representing various communities?
  • What languages and cultural knowledge do staff possess that can be better utilized?
  • Is MSH addressing equitable representation gaps for gender, race, culture, age, sexual orientation, and across departments and ranks?
  • What is the educational mix of MSH workforce and how can their skills be better utilized?

Some initial findings:

Languages spoken at the hospital

  • 57% of the MSH workforce can speak in a language other than English
  • 21% of respondents have provided informal interpretation assistance on the job


  • One-third of MSH employees from abroad entered Canada within the last ten years
  • People who immigrated to Canada or were educated abroad were less likely to be using their credentials in their jobs (21 per cent) than those educated or born here (34 per cent).

“As some people working at Mount Sinai have encountered barriers to having their credentials and qualifications recognized, we will look at ways to help our volunteers and staff have these acknowledged,” says Marylin Kanee, Mount Sinai’s Diversity and Human Rights Advisor.

Tips for Employers:

  • Comprehensive employee surveys help organizations create targeted diversity initiatives and succession planning.
  • To overcome employees’ reluctance to share personal information on a survey, obtain and leverage leadership buy-in and involve them in communications to employees.

Hear more about Mount Sinai’s workforce survey.

Mount Sinai Hospital (MSH) is a large teaching and research hospital. In 2007 and 2008, MSH was named one of Greater Toronto’s Top 50 Employers by Mediacorp Canada., organizers of Canada’s Top 100 Employers competition.

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