“To really drive progress, the whole sector needs to come along. That’s now happening more and more with knowledge and resource sharing initiatives.”

An inclusive future is a community effort that starts at home

The strategy consultants at Shift Health strive to help healthcare organizations create a future that is innovative and inclusive. To do that, it must lead by example, intentionally building inclusivity, diversity, equity and accessibility (IDEA) into every aspect of its operations.

Q: What inspired you to start embedding IDEA principles into your organization?

RYAN WILEY, PRESIDENT: Our work has always been focused on ensuring the healthcare future we’re helping our clients create is just. But a few years ago, we realized our own leadership team was not as diverse as it could be. At the same time, the pandemic was starting to blur the lines between personal and work life, and it became increasingly obvious that work is not and cannot be a neutral, apolitical zone that ignores the complexity of individual experience. That meant we needed to start doing things differently and be extremely intentional about how we pursued IDEA.

Q: What benefits have you seen as a result?

RW: Since we started explicitly incorporating IDEA principles throughout our organization, we’ve seen a huge expansion of openness and authenticity from top to bottom. When people are more comfortable expressing themselves, they’re much more creative and innovative. I think it’s also contributed to our success with recruitment and retention. Despite the reported labour shortages, we’ve had no trouble finding, hiring and keeping talent.

Q: What’s a good starting place for organizations that want to implement IDEA?

RW: Being aware of it and talking about it so you can measure and understand the issue is a good start. An early step for us was to redact identifying information from resumes, which immediately produced a more diverse talent pool. That was a humbling lesson, as we saw very quickly how implicit biases were interfering with our appraisals of candidates. But you can’t stop there. Redacting resumes is a great first step, but it prevents you from actively seeking out greater diversity.

Q: What are some keys to long-term IDEA success?

RW: Be OK with not having all the answers. IDEA is extremely nuanced and intersectional, and that complexity means you can’t just jump in and solve the problem. Experts can help you ask the right questions, recognize your own role in the problem and move forward in the right way. They can also help you introduce structure — often missing in small companies without dedicated HR staff — that can clarify expectations and reduce the risk of accidental inequities. Finally, make it a community effort. To really drive progress, the whole sector needs to come along. That’s now happening more and more through knowledge and resource sharing initiatives like the Inclusive Life Sciences Collaboration, which we co-founded.

Q: What’s next for Shift Health in terms of IDEA?

RW: Along with our commitment to IDEA, we’re beginning to focus on the journey toward decolonization and Indigenous reconciliation. IDEA is valuable, but it’s a very Western concept and doesn’t speak to the historical, cultural and nation-to-nation issues related to reconciliation. If we want to be part of reconciliation, we need to be open to changing the methods and models we’re using.


Company profile:
Shift Health

Location: Toronto, ON
Employees: Approx. 30
Sub-sector: Bio-health

Shift Health is a strategic consultancy supporting health research and innovation around the world with a unique science-based approach.

Is your organization a leader in inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility (IDEA)?

The I.D.E.A.L Biosciences Employer Recognition program will recognize organizations in Canada’s bio-economy leading the way in embodying the diverse and inclusive corporate principles needed to promote growth and success in the sector.

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