Dreaming of Diversity

 

New Canadians have a lot to offer a workplace; now it’s just a case of making them feel welcome with these tips you can implement in your company. This article was orginally published in the May/June 2013 edition of HR Professional

By Suzanne Bowness, HR Professional

The scene begins in an anonymous boardroom, as five co-workers gather for their first team meeting on a new project.  Three have clearly been with the company for a while and ad they enter the room where the other two are waiting, they make small talk about their weekends. As the scene progresses, their admirable ease turns somewhat exclusionary as they fail to include their co-workers already sitting across the table. Unsure about whether to break in, these new Canadians begin to talk amongst themselves about the same topics as the small talkers, making the divide even sharper.  When they finally get down to business one of the small-talkers offers his spare baseball tickets to his coworker, aiming the suggestion at his fellow small talkers and working to conceal his surprise when the woman in the hijab across the table speaks up to accept them.  After an awkward pause, the team finally settles down to work.

Although variations may play out regularly in offices across Canada, this particular scene plays out more literally on the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) e-learning platform, as a part of their Understanding Cultural Competence module.  Unlike in real life, after watching the group, the viewer is privy to individual reactions by team members, who convey them in full confession-cam manner: the team leader worries over the group’s dynamics, the new Chinese hire expresses concerns about the delay in starting the meeting, and the guy with the baseball tickets expresses surprise when they are snapped up by the woman in the hi ab.

By the end of the video, another bubbl appeared: mine. Like most Canadians I was skeptical that I’d witnessed any workplace friction, and yet a scenario liket his prompts me to realize it’s more than the often the uncomfortable silence than the overt commentary that reveals a need for cultural acculturation.  In spite of our self-perception as welcoming multicultural Canadians, ingrained assumptions and cultural friction present a challenge for employees and HR manager alike, to try to over differences.  The good news is that with all that new Canadian workers have to offer in terms of experience and expertise, it seems that embracing diversity  is definitely worth the effort.

Read the full article

Tips from our Experts on Making New Canadians Feel Welcome at Every Stage

At the job posting stage

  • Widen your talent pool by advertising where new Canadians will see your postings: possibilities include community newspapers, ethnic media, professional associations, job fairs, email lists, word of mouth.
  • Ask yourself whether “Canadian experience” is really required for the job or if you can simply outline relevant qualifications.
  • Include a diversity statement directly on job postings to spell out your policy

At the resume stage

  • Different cultures have different norms for resumes: in some countries marital status, photos, and religious affiliations might be standard so don’t let your discomfort with these inclusions deter your focus form the candidates’ actual qualifications
  • Decide on the competencies you are looking for and search through the resume for those directly.
  • Don’t discount volunteer work; often new Canadians seek this out as real experience

At the interview stage

  • If you’ve asked for particular competencies, determine objective tests to assess them.
  • Get interactive with candidates: try encouraging case studies to investigate their mindset/analytical skills rather than just relying on questions.
  • Remember certain cultures do not self-promote, so reword questions to prompt a more thorough discussion of interviewee achievements.
  • Beware of other differing cultural norms; for instance, in certain cultures a handshake or too much eye contact is not appropriate, also in some cultures silence is intended as a sign of thoughtful preparation , not disinterest.

At the onboarding stage

  • Put together a company factsheet for newcomers with frequently asked questions about the company, industry and region.
  • Consider setting up a new hire with a mentor or buddy to help them acclimatize to the workplace.
  • Provide regular feedback and communication often, not just after the three month probation.
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