Representation Matters. Hiring and Promoting of Diverse voices at the decision making tables for the wrong reasons. It is not just about tokenism and face recognition, there must be a shift in how and what organizations seek in leadership roles.
When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.
As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Chandran Fernando.
As the Founder and Managing Partner for Matrix360, Chandran Fernando has built an advisory platform for talent and workplace strategy in the Canadian real estate and development industry over two decades. Chandran’s actions have earned him recognition in the industry for his work, receiving prestigious awards such as the UN Global Compact Canada (GCNC) Network SDG Leadership Award, The Company of Women Donna Messer Award, and RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award. He continues to further build and support several non-profits such as the Women Get on Boards (WGOB) Council, Canadian Association of Urban Financial Professionals (CAUFP) and is an Advisory Partner for hEr_volution. Chandran is a strong champion for diversity and intersectionality- that includes women, people of colour, LGBTQ2S+, indigenous people, newcomers, emerging leaders and seasoned professionals that represent the fabric of Canada.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today.
In kindergarten when I discovered the power of colour. I went to a predominantly White Catholic school in the suburbs of Toronto (Brampton) in the early 1970s. During snack time, when we were sitting in a circle, no kids wanted to sit beside me because they thought they could get “Black” because of the colour of my skin was contagious- like a disease. When I pulled out my favorite snack my dad packed- a double chocolate dipped donut- the kids noticed that my skin was identical to the donut and then began to tease me- that my skin is like chocolate icing and started to rub my skin to see if the colour came off. I was beyond devasted and when I retreated to the teacher for help, she looked at me told me to behave as I am a disturbance to the class. It was beyond devasting and she then demanded that I go to the principal’s office. I learned during my younger years that colour played a huge impact on how people are treated in the world. Also, I learned the power of partnership-friendships too. As there was a young blond, White boy who tried to stop the bullying and the next day sat beside me in the circle and held my hand. He was my first friend until he moved away to Newfoundland.
During the first year of University, a group of friends and I wanted to start a youth group for Black and Brown youth in Detroit and Windsor. We were inspired by Malcolm X, Fannie Lou Hamer, Gandhi, Rosemary Brown, Dr. King and John Lewis. We planned for months and decided to meet with Mr. Lewis. We found out where his office was and decided to drive from Detroit to Atlanta to speak with him.
We took a risk as we did not have an appointment. We wanted to meet him and ask his advice about a youth group we were starting. We begged to see him and we were denied. So we stalked the area.
We were fortunate, that Mr. Lewis went for a walk and we met him. We shared with him our plan and the reasons why. He blessed us and then turned to me and said, remember young man you are part of our family, don’t let anyone tell you don’t belong. We fight together for our human rights, and you hold a great voice so continue to share it. Don’t let anyone diminish your fires…and then he hugged each one of us.
This was the start of my mission to instigate change for the better.
Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?
- I am not about predictions nor do I believe in predicting the future. I am about building towards a better future, together.
- Currently, I think that the world and the workplace continue to be divided based on diverse dimensions. Leaders and Influencers are paying attention to diversity as a way of separating people and not embracing people. The methods on not embracing the power of intersectionality and moving away from implicit bias training are the stumbling blocks for workplaces. There needs to be a conscious shift in the way we think, welcome and embrace differences amongst people.
- There needs to be more conversations specifically about the inequities of colour and race- Specifically in the Western World and how it has shaped the global economies. We need to be Colour Brave.
- There needs to be an increase in the investments of processes and systems that tap into the power of human connectivity and recognizing that our differences actually ADDS values- if thoughts/perspectives are welcomed and encouraged.
- We rely too much on technology to be our answers. Instead, we need to utilize technology as tools to create, collaborate and appreciate the human mind and heart.
- We need to welcome and encourage people to challenge the status quo thinking so it can be expanded.
- If we continue the path that we are on, there will be minimal shifts in diversity and equity within the workplace.
- We have to transform what tradition is and start learning to embrace innovation and humanity.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
- Tap into the power of people- all people.
- Lead Colour Brave conversations that instigate deep discussions and narratives to move away from assumptions and stereotypes that perpetuate bigotry, ignorance, and hate.
- Stop classifying and viewing people as commodities that can be replaced- the human resources syndrome that exists in workplaces.
- It is time to dismantle HR and Diversity departments and focus on People and Business Strategy departments, where people are seen and valued for their competencies and skills.
- Two: start having more direct conversations with all levels within the business- and have people lead who actually believe in the power of people and not the power of jobs aka pay cheques.
What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?
- A majority of leaders are relying on archaic ways of thinking (traditional ways) and relying on human resources departments to do the work. When it is not only about processes but how these processes are implemented, transformed and changed that matters.
- Leaders and HR departments (including the recent wave of Diversity experts popping up) are not in-touch with people and the evolution of people’s needs.
- Leaders need to recognize that each organization is unique and must go through a full audit to uncover gaps, blind spots and the victories that exists in the business.
- Leaders need to tie business performance (profits) with people management and community engagement.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
- If leaders do not create better policies and processes to look at people/employees at the centre of work there will an increase in the gaps between the haves and the have-nots.
- There will be greater inequities in the workplaces- where people will be overworked, underpaid and undervalued.
- People who choose to return FT to the workplace, will have an increase burnout rate if proper tools are not adapted and mental and emotional health are not prioritized.
We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?
- Leaders (business leaders) need to step up and step out and lead. They have the power to influence how governments and society operates.
- They need to speak more openly and transparently with centering mental, emotional and economic well-being for all employees.
- The first step is to recognize that there are inequities that perpetuate the great divide and build collectively to addressing them in more meaningful ways.
- Moving away from Allyships to Partnerships as Allyships are one-sided and not focused on communities.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
- I believe in the power of people and the value of people. BUT people need to see and understand their internal power and the connection to each other…
Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?
- Better support systems internally and externally.
- Open conversations to socialize the importance of mental and emotional wellbeing.
- Better policies that support time off and time away.
- Hiring, training and advancing more people so there isn’t a shortage of employees carrying the weight for organizations- better and more manageable department structures.
It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?
- The focus should be on the Great Opportunities — it is about the opportunities to transform workplaces and center people.
- The value of people is integral to the success of organizations.
- Recruiting, Advancing, Growing people from within through rewards and opportunities should be the focus.
- Diversity is the fuel to growing and sustaining organizations of the future.
- Tapping into collaboration between all voices.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
- Colour Brave and Colour Voices: Having difficult and much needed conversations on how race, ethnicity and colour influence how we live, learn, play and work. How the system that we all have inherited is built on a foundation of colour.
- Representation Matters. Hiring and Promoting of Diverse voices at the decision making tables for the wrong reasons. It is not just about tokenism and face recognition, there must be a shift in how and what organizations seek in leadership roles.
- Chia Pet Syndrome: the hiring of diversity experts who are not connected to the power of people but there to divide and alienate people.
- The Brain Drain: The mental and emotional triggers within workplaces.
- The Silent Majority: the White male voice is awakening and feeling the brunt of performative diversity measures that are further dividing people.
I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?
- In complete darkness we are all the same, it is only our knowledge and wisdom that separate us, don’t let your eyes deceive you. Janet Jackson.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.
Janet Jackson: she is a key influencer in society at all levels. She speaks about humanity in her songs and the work she supports and still addresses the power of diversity in music, business and everyday life… this is where we need to move towards…she connects heart with business-in all facets. Plus she is a hero to me.
Mellody Hobson: a highly influential and strong business leader. She understand business from the ground up. She speaks openly about the inequities within corporate America and that leadership tables need to address diversity- specifically race, colour and gender in more meaningful ways. She is a powerbroker (as I call it). She is business savvy and more importantly connect heart and business.
Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.