In Conversation with MCIS: Recruiting through DiverseCity onBoard
MCIS Language Services is a comprehensive non-profit language solutions hub providing high quality, responsive, and cost-effective services in over 200 languages. MCIS’s enduring vision is to create a world without language barriers and inspire societal change by providing widespread access to affordable professional language solutions. Over the past 25 years MCIS has evolved into a social enterprise model committed to a triple bottom line: strategic commitment to sound finances, diversity, and provision of first “Canadian” experience for newcomers to Canada. These goals have been the direct result of the leadership of its Board of Directors, competent staff and language professionals, volunteers, and interns. MCIS takes pride in its commitment to recruit locally – increasing Toronto’s and Canada’s visibility as a world-class multilingual hub – in order to provide services globally.
MCIS recently appointed DiverseCity onBoard candidate Rick Gill to their Board’s Governance and Marketing Committee and will soon have all board members and staff starting the DiverseCity onBoard online Governance Training. We caught up with MCIS to learn more about their board recruitment process and what diversity in governance brings to the work they do.
How was MCIS Language Services introduced to DiverseCity onBoard, and why did you choose to get involved?
We were familiar with previous incarnation of the Board matching program launched by Maytree, and our account was transferred over. As our workforce is very diverse, with 98% born outside of Canada, we found parallels between DiverseCity onBoard’s mission and our internal commitment to diversity. We also appreciate the Board training modules that, we believe, will help with our on-boarding.
What has your experience been with DiverseCity onBoard?
Our experience has been immensely positive. We were able to identify suitable candidates within a week thanks to the matching algorithm that provides a match percentage based on our keywords. At the same time, this did not limit our choices. As a member, access to the database meant that we could extend an invite to anyone we find suitable. We appointed one candidate, are interviewing another next week, and have one more that we are currently following up with.
Another thing that worked very well and we appreciate is the timely support we received when we were setting up our account. It is great to have somebody on the other side responding promptly and showing great amount of flexibility to customize the service. This was a very good customer service experience.
You recently appointed a DiverseCity onBoard candidate to your Committee. What made this individual the ‘right’ candidate for the position?
While we identified the candidate through DiverseCity onBoard’s matching service, the match was only 37%. However, we were impressed by his resume and expressed interest in him. Following a telephone interview and face-to-face interview we found him to be a great match for our board. These encounters helped us to identify synergies between the candidate’s objectives and our organizational needs. We were happy that Rick was interested and that he applied. We recruited him to the Board’s Marketing and Operations’ Committee.
What is your recruitment process? Will it change now that you have joined DiverseCity onBoard?
We have a four-step recruitment process. First, we post the call for candidates on multiple online platforms announcing that there is a vacancy we would like to fill. Our members also share the opportunity with their colleagues and networks.
Second, as applications come in they are forwarded to the Chair of Nomination and Governance Committee, the Chair of the respective Committee, and our Executive Director. We arrange an interview with suitable candidates. In-person interviews at our location are the most effective because candidates can meet with our ED in person, see the office and parts of our operation, and make an informed decision. While desirable, if an in-person is not possible, we arrange an interview by teleconference.
The third step has the Nomination and Governance Chair collect the evaluations of the candidates and provide recommendations to the Chair of the respective Committee.
Finally, we officially invite the selected candidate to officially accept the position. Depending on the season, the process may take 4-8 weeks. Access to DiverseCity onBoard’s database expands the pool of potential candidates and shortens the process.
It is important to add that we rarely expedite candidates to the Board level. We have a highly committed, mature Board with very little turnover. Our Committees are an important tool for prospective candidates. Serving on committees help candidates become familiar with our organizational culture and understand our unique challenges as a social enterprise, the conversations they may contribute to, and the time commitment required before they are given the larger responsibilities that are expected from Board members. Our Board is committed to proper development to ensure a balanced and consistent Board quality. DiverseCity onBoard helps us to identify candidates with potential.
Were there any challenges you faced in finding suitable board members to join your board? What advice would you give to others who are looking to expand their recruitment process and locate new board members?
It is a challenge to meet our skills gap and recruit committed candidates of a higher calibre. We successfully addressed this challenge in the following ways:
We use our Board Skills Gap Matrix. This is updated after each AGM or any major change in composition of committees. It is based on members’ self-evaluation and is summarized with a positive or negative numerical value across our Board and Committee network. The Matrix informs our needs and triggers recruitment. We tend to diversify so we source people from various platforms, networking events, and personal contacts. Ideally, if we keep diversity in mind this component will be built into selection process.
A timely approach and clear communication are of utmost importance in order for our network to thrive. Everybody in the network must have a shared understanding of our processes and whether they have what it takes to successfully contribute to our next steps. In return, the networks must help individuals to thrive.
Finally, we have a designated person who connects the dots and keeps everybody in the loop. Our model is part complex network and part backbone with an administrator as a central node. We connect members who are involved in their own communities and professional networks. Linkages between our members provide an unprecedented access to new networks that we would not normally gravitate toward, increasing value for all parties involved. This is why diversity is important.
Why do you think diversity on boards is important?
Without diversity there is no innovation. Numerous research studies completed over the past 20 years provide a clear evidence of how the two are mutually connected and beneficial (e.g. How Diversity Can Drive Innovation or Kristian Ribberstrom at TEDxSpringfield). This applies to industry, Boards, profit and not-for-profits, and in private and social networks. Diversity contributes to new and fresh perspectives by bringing together different skills, cultural backgrounds, and personalities. This choice, normally seen as risky, if united under a common goal will encourage proactive thinking and help with anticipating challenges before they are encountered. Diversity not only innovates but ensures resilience.
Most importantly, as a nonprofit operating in one of the most diverse cities in the world, it is very important that we represent the perspectives of its population.
Is there anything you would like to add about your experience or the importance of diversity in governance that we haven’t asked?
We are currently experimenting with a new component, however, we are early in the process and no final conclusions have been reached yet. We are refining our definition of how we are contributing to the world by applying the principles of Theory of Change. Thanks to the grant we received from McConnell Foundation and two fantastic coaches assigned to us, Lisa Watson and Sally Fazal, we are reviewing our assumptions about who we are while reaffirming our core values. The intensity of this process and our weekly discussions have helped us realize that our staff might need access to comprehensive governance education to be able to see the organization from the Board’s perspective. We hope that an inclusive approach will provide additional perspectives on the nature and purpose of our organization and the social dynamic of our present and future networks.