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Diversity & Inclusivity Report

Our Goal: We want to drive meaningful action at Northstar when it comes to increasing diversity and inclusivity not only across our growing company, but across the Canadian construction industry. We want to be viewed as leaders within Canada’s construction industry when it comes to this important topic.

Our First Steps: Earlier this year we launched our inaugural “Northstar Employee Satisfaction and Diversity Survey” to better understand our current workforce, and how our employee’s satisfaction and experiences differ based on their respective backgrounds. We have also been working hard behind the scenes to implement change and improvements based on these survey results, and employment feedback in general.

Why Are We Sharing This Report? Accountability! My hope as Northstar’s CEO is that by sharing this report, we will drive other companies within the construction industry, and across Canada in general, to do the same. I share the skepticism of many Canadians who read general assertions from business leaders and politicians claiming good intentions, while at the same time providing little substance behind their actual efforts. I know that releasing this report will open us up to criticism and scrutiny, but at the same time, I see no other way to hold myself accountable, or to encourage other leaders to do the same. Silence is no longer an option.

About Our Results: Despite some encouraging themes, like all companies we have significant work to do. I don’t hold our results up to be either positive or negative – just a true representation of where we are in 2021. Note that we have used Canadian Census Data1 and OCS’s 2019 Construction Demographics & Diversity Report2 as our primary external benchmarks. We are hopeful that in the coming years there will be additional benchmarks against which we can gauge our success and areas for further improvement.

Chart from 2021 showcasing Northstar Access Employee Demographics

Highlights Part 1: Many Encouraging Themes To Build Upon

  • Employee Engagement: 95% of our employees completed this anonymous survey openly, honestly, and with a lot of enthusiasm. When we first launched the survey, there were a lot of internal discussion regarding how/if we should launch this survey given how rare these currently are within Canada’s construction industry. But there is no doubt that this survey will become part of our company’s DNA going forward.
  • Racial minorities represent 36.4% of our workforce (See Chart A). Even more impressive, 52.2% of new Northstar employees (individuals who joined the company in the last 2 years) are from racial minority groups. We are really excited about our diverse pipeline of new talent and associated recruiting efforts here at Northstar. These figures are significantly higher than our external benchmarks of 22.3%1 and 11%2. See Appendix A, Chart D for a more detailed breakdown.
  • Indigenous employees represent 13.3% of our workforce (See Chart D). This is significantly higher than our available external benchmarks of 4.9%1 and 3%2.
  • LGBTQ+ employees represent at least 7.7% of our workforce. This is significantly higher our available external benchmark of 4%1.
  • Equal Opportunity & Inclusivity: 85.1% of our employees believe Northstar “provides equal opportunities to all employees”, and 83% believe “We have an inclusive culture” at Northstar (See Chart B and Chart C). More impressive, the averages responses were higher for employees from racial minority groups, LGBTQ+, woman, female employees, and employees without formal university and/or college education.
  • Overall Employees Satisfaction & Experiences: In addition to understanding diversity within the company, our annual survey also gauges employee views on topics such as work enjoyment, excitement about a long-term career at Northstar, health & safety, management, accountability, communication,
    and compensation (over a dozen questions in total). When we reviewed these results vs employee backgrounds and demographics, it was incredibly encouraging to see that the average scores/satisfaction for these questions from minority groups was equal to, and in most cases higher, than our overall average scores. Please see Appendix A, Chart E for one example.
Northstar Access Construction Team
Chart showing 85% of Northstar Access Employees believe we provide equal opportunities
Chart showcasing that 83% of Northstar Access Employees believe we have an inclusive work environment

Highlights Part 2: Where We Need To Do Better

  • Racial minorities: Only 28.9% of employees in management/supervisory roles identified as racial minorities. This is above our overall bechmarks1,2 for overall population and workforce in the construction industry, which is encouraging. However, given racial minorities represent 36.4% of our overall employee base at Northstar (Chart A), this is an area for improvement, as our goal should clearly be equal representation of minority groups at all levels of the company.
  • Discrimination: 5.9% of our employees have experienced discrimination in some form while working at Northstar. This is lower than the level of discrimination experienced at prior employers (16.9%), but it goes without saying that anything >0% is disappointing and unacceptable. Woman and/or Female employees reported the highest amount of discrimination in the workplace (9.5% in Woman and/or Female had experienced discrimination in some form while employed at Northstar).
  • Women & Females: Only 11% of our employees identified as Women (an identical number identified as Female). See Chart A. Although this is well above the best available construction industry benchmark that we have of 4%2, we still have a lot of work to do to get anywhere close to a fair representation of women and females in our workplace.
  • LGBTQ+: 47% of our employees choose not to disclose their sexual orientation. We respect our employees right to privacy but were disappointed by the response rate for this question and lack of open discussion and disclosure regarding sexual orientation. On a positive note, the 7.7% of employees who did identify as LGBTQ+ held better-than-average views on equal opportunities and inclusivity at Northstar.
  • Age: Only 8.2% of our employees identified as being over the age of 55. In Canada, individuals >55 years old are believed to represent 21.6% of the overall workforce3. This could be a sign that we are unintentionally or intentionally excluding employees from our workforce based on their age.
  • Physical & Mental Disabilities: Only 1% and 3% of employees identified as having a physical and mental disability. This could be a sign that we are unintentionally or intentionally excluding employees from our workforce based on differing abilities.

First Steps: What We Are Doing To Drive Improvement And Change at Northstar?

  1. Annual Employee Satisfaction & Diversity Survey: The only way we can ensure that we are creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace at Northstar is to track our progress. By implementing a regular and robust survey, we can not only understand if and how the diversity of our workforce is changing (and hopefully improving), but also understand if/how the experiences of our employees from different groups differ.
  2. Diversity Committee: In November 2020, we launched Northstar’s Diversity Committee. This committee includes non-management employees across locations and job functions. The goal of this committee is to solicit ideas and thoughts from across our workforce, and identify and promote new ideas, as well as “blind spots”, to our management team. The committee has already driven meaningful change in its first 9 months, and many of the actions listed on this page directly stem from this committee’s ideas and efforts.
  3. Training: As mentioned under #2, we have implemented standard “Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Training” for all management/supervisory staff and are looking to extend this and other training to all staff in 2022. Thank you to HRDownloads for driving quality and interactive diversity training programs in Canada.
  4. Recruiting/Hiring & Promotion: In conjunction with the recent hiring of our new HR Director, we are implementing required training for all staff in management/supervisory positions to help them become more aware of regulations, and more importantly, any potential known and unknown biases when it comes to hiring and promotional processes. We are also reviewing our existing hiring and promotion processes to determine how, outside of training, we can improve in these areas.
  5. Maternity Leave Support: In October 2021, Northstar formally launched a maternity leave program to better support our employees during this important phase of their life and career. This is one of many basic steps we are taking to grow and support women in our workplace.
  6. Diversity Day: We’ve added a paid diversity “floater” day to recognize the importance of important cultural and holidays not recognized by provincial and federal governments. This new paid day-off has been extended to all employees who fall outside of existing collective bargaining agreements.
  7. Associations: We recently joined the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) in order to stay abreast of the latest thought leadership when it comes to driving more participation and growth at Northstar for indigenous employees.

Closing Message

Thank you! I would like to thank the 95% of Northstar employees who openly and honestly completed our 1st Employee Satisfaction & Diversity Survey in Q1 2021. I would also like to thank Northstar’s Diversity Committee for helping to drive greater dialogue since its inception 11 months ago. Finally, a big thank you to our labour partners at the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) for working with us to drive greater diversity within our workforce, specifically Hamish Stewart in B.C., Sean Ramsay in Winnipeg, Rod Thompson in Ottawa, and Mike York, Rory Smith, and Chris Campbell in Toronto. We are especially excited about the work Chris Campbell is doing in his role as Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Representative at the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario and are hopefully that this role is replicated across Canada, both at UBC, and other unions across Canada.

Construction Crew - Group Photo

Your Feedback is Welcome! We would welcome input, suggestions, criticism about our inaugural Diversity & Inclusivity Report. We have attempted to use inclusive language throughout this report, but if we have fallen short please call-us-out and we will do better in our 2022 Report/Update. We would also welcome any additional information on external benchmarks that we can/should be using (which is currently lacking in Canada).

How Can You Help? Make Diversity A Part of the Contractor/Supplier Selection Process! In Canada’s construction industry, the easiest way to drive change across the industry is to make diversity a key topic and prerequisite in the contractor selection process. For example, the majority of the largest construction contractors in Canada (https://www.on-sitemag.com/features/top-40-contractors-by-revenue/) rarely ask or require information from subcontractors and trades from Northstar Access or its competitors regarding workforce diversity and/or associated initiatives. This needs to be part of “supplier scorecards”. Likewise, construction projects that we have bid on for Federal, Provincial, or Municipal governments of Canada rarely ask about, or require disclosure on employee diversity or company diversity/inclusivity initiatives in tender packages. If we tie diversity to “winning work”, other companies will quickly fall in line, and we can accelerate the much needed change across Canada.

Thank you for reading this report.


Paul Zvonar | President & CEO

Appendix A: Additional Information & Sources

Chart showcasing Racial Diversity at Northstar Access
Chart showing Employee Satisfaction/Experience by Background for Northstar Access

Benchmarking Data: Sources

1. 2016 CANADIAN CENSUS, STATISTICS CANADA, https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/dp-pd/index-eng.cfm
3. LABOUR FORCE CHARACTERISTICS, STATISTICS CANADA, Labour force characteristics by age group, monthly, seasonally adjusted (statcan.gc.ca)

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