World Refugee Day: Employer Champions Investing in Refugee Talent

The Syrian Refugees Jobs Agenda Roundtable brought together representatives from different sectors in the Greater Toronto Area – business, government and non-profit organizations – all focusing on identifying employment opportunities for Syrian newcomers and matching their talent to the needs of employers. On World Refugee Day, employer champions from the Roundtable are sharing their success in recruiting, hiring and benefiting from the Syrian refugee talent on their teams.

BDC Internships: Breaking Down the Barriers to Refugee Employment

The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) created internship opportunities to help former refugees access the labour market, and quickly realized the initiative helped BDC expand its business networks to untapped markets. Delivering on their commitment to diversity as a strategic imperative, BDC has created job opportunities for former refugees and new learning opportunities for staff: recognizing refugees as talent first, and refugees second. Read more

[Interview] Construction Trades Program: Innovative Partnership for Refugee Employment

LiUNA! Local 506 serves a diverse group, and considers itself one of the most multicultural unions in North America. The Syrian refugee population represented an untapped talent pool, and LiUNA! responded to their specific needs through an innovative partnership with ACCES Employment to create a program that would meet labour market demands, while providing a pathway to employment for Syrian refugees. Read more

For RBC, Refugees are an Untapped Talent Pool and Strategic Advantage

Commitment to diversity and inclusion means looking at potential talent and skills of all diverse populations, including refugees. RBC moves from understanding to action and looks to community organizations to build trust with refugee communities to engage in workforce planning and hiring diverse. Read more

Starbucks and the First One Thousand

For the coffee giant joining Hire Immigrants’ Syrian Refugees Jobs Agenda Roundtable is about having an impact on refugees’ lives by helping them succeed in their new homes. Starbucks wants to create opportunities for job ready candidates and will use their tried, tested and true ‘high touch’ approach to have a positive impact. Read more

Scotiabank – Understanding Your Customers from the Inside Out

From on-site language support, to working with community partners to access refugee talent, and leveraging the resources from the Syrian Refugees Jobs Agenda Roundtable, Scotiabank welcomes refugee talent and offers its employees opportunities to build and learn leadership and coaching skills. Working and supporting diverse new clients and employees is part of the banks corporate culture and there is no downside. Read more

Metropolis Conference 2017: Workshop Highlights

Metropolis ConferenceOn March 16-18th 2017, the City of Montreal hosted the 19th National Metropolis Conference, the annual forum for researchers, policy makers, and representatives from community and settlement organizations to share and exchange knowledge and experience in the field of immigration and settlement. This year’s theme, Looking Forward: Migration and Mobility in 2017 and Beyond, included rich and diverse plenaries, workshops and roundtable discussions that delved deep into topics that ranged from Syrian refugees’ employment outcomes to the increasingly important role of international students as a growing immigration category, and much more. The discussions were as much a reflection of the diverse Metropolis attendees as they were of the Canadian immigration landscape.

Our Global Diversity Exchange colleague at Cities of Migration hosted a timely and engaging workshop on Inclusive City Building: Striving to Create a City with Room for Diversity and Inclusion. Focusing on cities as central to the integration and inclusion of immigrants, experts examined local, national and international models and practical strategies designed to help build open, welcoming communities. Human rights experts, immigration specialists and city leaders from Canada, the United Sates, and Australia shared insights, best practices and made a compelling case for inclusive city building.

Session Highlights:

  • Cities matter – Immigration is a matter of national policy but the success or failure of the immigrant experience happens at the local level.
  • Unusual suspects – Multi-stakeholder strategies are needed to build inclusive cities: local government; non-profit organizations; community organizations; and employers.
  • Shared prosperity – The path from integration to inclusion to shared prosperity involves everyone; both newcomer and receiving community.
  • Measure results – When trying to build a culture of inclusion in your city, the old adage holds true: ‘what gets measured, gets done’. Cities can look to creative tools such as standards, benchmarks and programs that have been created by Welcoming America, Welcoming Cities, The City of Toronto, the Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination, The City of Calgary, and the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Hire Immigrants’ workshop, Disrupting the Hiring Bias: The Role of the Private, Public and Nonprofit Sector, focused on immigrant employment as a priority involving three key stakeholders: public sector, private sector, and the nonprofit sector. Dr. Linda Manning, an Intercultural Economist and Founder of Leadership Mosaic., who opts to use ‘unexamined assumptions’ instead of ‘unconscious bias’ to explain employer behavior, explained that employers will not change unless they have to or unless it is in their best interest. Organizations, agencies and advocates that work to create employment pathways for skilled immigrants must build relationships with employers to help them realize why it’s in their best interest to invest in immigrants as a talent pipeline. Dr. Manning believes that to change attitudes, behaviors and practice requires four key principles: Trust and Mutual Benefits; Experience; Practice; and Successful Outcomes.

Continuing the strong focus on employer engagement and behavior, Aamna Ashraf, Director of the Peel Newcomer Strategy Group (PNSG), presented Economic Integration Starts with Employers: Exploring Bias, Behaviours, and Barriers. Sharing findings from a PNSG working group on Economic Inclusion, Aamna explained that employment programs that ensure alignment between funder requirements and newcomers’ needs often lead to favourable employment outcomes for newcomers. But what role do employers have in impacting these outcomes? Findings from a 2015 survey conducted by PNSG highlighted that, for employers, soft skills are very critical, and more and more employers are using this hard-to-define skill set as a determinant of employability.

PNSG’s findings demonstrate a new layer of complexity that newcomer and immigrant job seekers face, and often, soft skills are a requirement that are hard to demonstrate. Soft skills, Ashraf explained, “are an elusive concept referring to unspoken, tacit, and taken-for granted cultural knowledge that is neither easy to acquire or demonstrate on one’s resume…”. Soft skills, then, are often used as a means to screen candidates, impact job retention or lead to unsuccessful interview outcomes, because they are used to assess whether someone is “Canadian enough”.

Our final panelist shared successful examples of public-private partnerships that work, are sustainable, and positively impact both employer and job seeker. Nicole Pereira, Manager, Government Contracts & Training Services at Seneca College, presented on Collaborative Synergies Between the Public, Private and Not for Profit. Seneca’s models of collaboration engage employers from the very beginning of program design, to ensure that programs such as Alternative Career Pathways for IEHPs/IMGs are created with employer needs and skills demand in mind. Web Programming for Priority & Newcomer Youth is another successful initiative that directly involved labour market data to inform the design, training and delivery of the Program. With many more successful examples like these, Nicole explained that Seneca’s partnership model is successful because each partner is given a key role in the overall design, delivery and post-program outcomes. Immigration Serving Organization’s (ISO) help to recruit and provide soft skills and job readiness training. Seneca College provides labour market research, vocational and academic training and co-op placement. Employers are advisors: they customize curricula, provide guest speakers from industry/sector, mentor students, and provide work placement and employment opportunities.

Session Highlights:

  • Building relationships with employers is key to fostering immigrant-friendly behaviors and practices
  • Moving beyond a single hire is always the goal – building trusting relationships between employers and immigrant employment agencies is the first step
  • Engaging SMEs requires relationship building through ISOs/community organizations, understanding employer needs and developing programming and activities that are inclusive of employers and immigrant job seekers.
  • SMEs are more agile and open to change that enhances performance and productivity- to influence change, employer and community partner agencies must invest time and resources.

Magnet, Ryerson University in partnership with Hire Immigrants produced this article. The article is made possible with the funding from the Government of Ontario.

[Interview] World Education Services on Credential Assessment

World Education ServicesCanada welcomes highly-skilled and qualified immigrants each year; to fully realize the benefit of highly-skilled immigrants, employers often require support to appreciate the qualifications that newcomers bring from abroad.

One organization is here to help: World Education Services (WES). Learn more about WES, the services available, and how WES can help employers fully realize newcomer potential through credential assessments.

What are the services that employers can access through WES?

WES offers many tools to help employers realize the value that internationally educated professionals can add to their workplace. In the pre-screening stage, employers can use the free WES Degree equivalency tool to quickly determine the Canadian or American equivalency of an international degree. Once an employer has identified an international candidate they would like to pursue, an official WES evaluation report can provide an accurate and objective representation of the academic history of the candidate. WES has over forty years of experience, and has built our reputation on ensuring the validity and accuracy of all documents used in our credential evaluation reports. WES also has a robust research department, and employers are able to access information about foreign education systems directly through the WES website. So often, employers lose out on top talent because of unfamiliarity with overseas degrees; WES can help employers navigate foreign credentials with confidence and gain access to un-tapped pools of talent.

Why focus on employers as key partners?

In addition to maintaining the highest standards of credential evaluation, WES is also committed to helping skilled immigrants fully utilize their education and international work experience in Canada. By partnering with employers, WES hopes to effect change in the way international credentials are recognized in Canada and the United States. The competitive advantage for employers who hire international talent are clear, especially in sectors with skill shortages. By empowering employers to understand the value of international credentials, WES believes that there will be higher success rates for labour market integration of newcomers and higher outcomes for employers in terms of productivity and quality.

What are WES evaluation reports and how can employers use them when making a hiring decision?

A WES evaluation report verifies and analyzes a candidate’s international education and compares it to a North American education system. Evaluation reports are based on documents that have been issued by the academic institution, examination board, or legal entity authorized to issue academic documents, as well as received from and authenticated by authorized officials. The WES evaluation report is based on authentic verified documents, mitigating the risk for employers and providing a more comprehensive screening of each candidate in the hiring process.

It is also important that an employer asks the job applicant to obtain an evaluation report prior to applying for a job, so that their qualifications can be reviewed fairly at the earliest stage of the process.

What are the costs involved in evaluation reports? Who pays?

A WES evaluation report ranges between CAD $115 to $245, per application. Employers would typically require the document-by-document evaluation which costs approximately CAD $115 and is usually covered by the candidate. The course-by-course ICAP report costs $245 and is recommended for continuing education purposes and for (some) regulatory bodies. It includes a full set of verified transcripts.

Typically, employers require the document-by-document evaluation report at the application pre-screening stage. There are some immigrant serving organizations and Employment Ontario funded programs that help subsidize the credential evaluation fee.

Can you give us an overview of the assessment process for an those interested in a regulated profession, i.e. internationally trained engineer? What are the incentives or benefits to obtain a WES assessment?

WES works with some regulatory bodies which require a WES evaluation to start the licensing process. Some regulatory bodies require a document-by-document evaluation while others prefer a course-by-course. It is always best to contact the regulatory body first to find out their requirements and determine what evaluation service and report is required for the licensure process.

For regulatory bodies that don’t require a WES evaluation, there are still benefits to obtaining the evaluation. WES evaluation can help a client in pursuing other goals; alternative or related careers as well as finding employment. Also, even if they don’t require a WES evaluation, many regulatory bodies will accept the WES verified documents (ICAP service) rather than asking applicants to go back to their university to obtain them again.

Refugees can experience additional difficulty validating their credentials because of the forced nature of their departure. What type of assessment and evaluation services does WES offer to refugees and their prospective employers?

WES continues to complete evaluations for applicants from countries which are currently experiencing unrest and instability, although completed reports are not in high volumes.

Additionally, in 2016 WES began a refugee pilot project to provide Alternative Credential Assessments for those who (due to the abovementioned circumstances) are unable to obtain verified documents as per the requirements for WES’s standard evaluation. This project came out of WES understanding that refugees face significant barriers to credential evaluation, negatively impacting their labour market integration. WES hopes that this alternative assessment will be provide employers, and other end-users such as academic institutions and regulatory bodies, a foundation for understanding a refugee’s educational qualifications. At this time WES is still piloting the project and looking to a thorough evaluation process to assess the viability, acceptance, and impact of the alternative assessment.

What questions should employers ask to evaluate their need for WES services?

WES strongly encourages all employers to review their hiring practices and assess if there is a policy in place for those who apply with international qualifications. Employers should ask their in-house HR professionals and hiring managers, as well as any external recruitment firms they use, if they are aware of how to accurately assess an international candidate’s education and experience. Organizations would also benefit from conducting an analysis of their workforce planning strategies to determine how labour shortages or skill gaps could impact their forecast needs. Especially with the recent changes to Canada’s Express Entry system, projections for the number of skilled immigrants entering Canada remain high. Employers must ensure that they have an international hiring practice in order to stay relevant in an increasingly competitive market.

How does WES market its services to employers? Are their specific sectors or industries that rely on WES assessments more than others?

WES connects with employers through direct outreach, participating in advisory groups, and by partnering with organization like Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) to advocate the importance and value that internationally educated professionals bring to our labour market . WES evaluations are used across a variety sectors and industries.

Visit our website for a list of organizations that recognize WES evaluation reports.

How can employers learn more about WES services?

To learn more about WES and services that can help employers directly, visit our website:, or contact, Kevin Kamal, [email protected]

Success stories from satisfied WES clients:

“WES gave me the confidence to seek positions matching my degree regardless of the fact that it was from overseas” – Theresa Adegoke, WES Customer

“For years, APGO has relied on WES for assessing an international applicant’s transcripts. The efficiency in their process and the clarity and consistency of the reports are qualities we have come to rely on.” – Aftab Khan, P.GEO Registrar, Association of Professional Geoscientist of Ontario (APGO)

Magnet, Ryerson University in partnership with Hire Immigrants produced this article. The article is made possible with the funding from the Government of Ontario.

This Is Why Diversity Is Good For Business

Dr. Steven Murphy in HuffPost Canada

Dean, Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University

HI_Diversity_MattersIn the past few days, business leaders across the U.S. have spoken out against President Trump’s executive order on immigration. From Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google to Ford, Starbucks and Goldman Sachs, CEOs have reinforced that diversity is a strength. The Canadian tech community also wrote an open letter in support of diversity.

Indeed, the business case for diversity is compelling. Having different opinions at the table is critical for innovation in the information age. Research by McKinsey shows that companies with more diverse workforces see greater financial returns. The study found that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity and those in the top quartile for gender diversity are respectively 35 per cent and 15 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. This report is one of many pieces of evidence telling us what we already know: Diversity drives innovation and innovation helps drive bottom-line results.

The world is no longer white and male — and it’s time businesses woke up to this new reality. So how can businesses foster diversity?

  • Let workforce diversity reflect your clients
  • Set the tone at the top
  • Get them while they’re young

For the full story, click here. 

Canadian Companies Still Struggling to Overcome Hiring Bias Against Minorities

Joint Ryerson/University of Toronto study shows discrimination is worst in smaller companies

A new report called ‘Do Larger Employers Treat Racial Minorities More Fairly?’ (Full Report, click here) is being released today at an expert panel discussion moderated by Senator Ratna Omidvar. The report examines whether discrimination varies according to the size of the organization and other topics including whether discrimination is minimized through the use of modern human resource management processes. The report shows that small Canadian companies are more likely than larger companies to discriminate against job applicants with Asian names, regardless of the skills and qualifications of the candidates.Hiring_Bias

In a study of data from a 2011 Canadian employment audit, researchers from Ryerson University and University of Toronto assessed the extent of discrimination experienced by applicants with Asian names (Chinese, Indian or Pakistani) and explored whether it varies according to the size of the hiring organization. Among several insights revealed in a review of nearly 13,000 applications for over 3000 job postings in Toronto and Montreal, researchers found that:

  • For jobs requiring a university degree, Asian-named applicants have a 32.6% lower rate of selection for an interview compared to Anglo-named applicants, even when both groups had equivalent all-Canadian qualifications. These jobs required a university degree.
    • The lower rate of interview selection was observed for jobs at both high and low skill levels.
  • Asian-named applicants with some or all foreign qualifications experienced a 45-60% lower rate of interview selection than Anglo-named applicants.
  • Discrimination against Asian-named applicants is twice as frequent in smaller organizations but still significant in large ones.
    • For large employers (500 or more employees), Asian-named applicants have about a 20 percent lower rate of selection compared to Anglo-named applicants (both with equivalent all-Canadian qualifications).
    • Among smaller employers, the Asian-named rate was found to be nearly 40% lower.
  • Extra qualifications may boost the applicant’s chances, but disparities still exist, especially in smaller organizations.
    • In large organizations, having an extra Canadian Master’s degree gives Asian-named applicants an equal rate of selection compared to Anglo-named applicants without the extra degree.
    • In small organizations, even with the extra Canadian Master’s degree, their rate of selection is still 29% lower than for Anglo-named applicants without any extra degree.

“Small businesses employ more than 70 per cent of private sector employees in Canada. Bias in the hiring process may put these companies at risk of missing out on a highly-qualified talent pool here in Canada,” says Senator Ratna Omidvar, founder of and advisor to Hire Immigrants, a Ryerson University-based organization that provides businesses and policy-makers with leading expertise and analysis on immigrant employment and entrepreneurship. “Confronting bias in hiring will go a long way to enabling Canadian organizations to access the best candidates, regardless of their backgrounds.”

The research team will present the full report on Wednesday, January 25 at a panel discussion hosted by Hire Immigrants and moderated by Senator Omidvar. The “Confronting Hiring Bias” panelists include senior human resources executives and immigration leaders who will discuss the report insights and explore strategies that can help organizations implement less discriminatory hiring practices. See event information, below.

 “Unconscious bias by definition is unintentional which makes it even harder to address,” explains Wendy Cukier, founder of the Diversity Institute and one of the panellists at Wednesday’s event. “Understanding the nature and extent of discrimination in their hiring practices will help organizations tackle the persistent challenge of creating inclusive and productive workplaces. The benefits of doing this well are well documented. Organizations need senior leadership to commit. They need to set benchmarks and track progress. They need to carefully examine their processes.  Training is helpful but not enough to drive what is often culture change. Diversity and inclusion should be embedded across the organization’s strategy.  Its not just about fairness and equity or a matter of avoiding reputational or legal risks but reaping significant rewards – access to diverse talent is a key driver of organizational success.”

The report, authored by researchers Rupa Banerjee of Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management, Jeffrey G. Reitz of University of Toronto’s Faculty of Sociology and Munk School of Global Affairs and Phil Oreopoulos of the Faculty of Economics at University of Toronto, hypothesizes that many large companies have devoted greater resources to the recruitment and hiring process, with a more professionalized human resources function and an existing workforce of greater diversity – all factors which may contribute to reducing, though not eliminating, bias in hiring.

“These findings are important in further understanding employment discrimination, and for taking steps to address it,” said Reitz.

“Companies, big or small, should be auditing their hiring practices regularly,” said Banerjee. The researchers recommend organizations conduct an anonymized resume test to audit their own bias in the hiring process. They also recommend having multiple people or a committee review resumes instead of just one individual. Additional tactics for reducing hiring bias will be discussed at Wednesday’s panel event.

Informed by the full report, Wednesday’s expert panel discussion, Confronting Hiring Bias: An Interactive Discussion at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto will explore such topics as:

  • Effective best-practices for reducing discriminatory hiring practices
  • Key challenges facing employers seeking to improve diversity and inclusion
  • Viable solutions for small- and medium-sized businesses which may have different HR challenges than large organizations
  • How to use the research to prompt meaningful action within Canadian companies
  • Possible roles for government, educational institutions, labour unions and more.

Event participants:

Host: Mark Patterson, Executive Director, Hire Immigrants & Magnet

Moderator: Senator Ratna Omidvar

Panelists/Speakers: Corinne Prince-St-Amand, Director General Integration-Foreign Credentials Referral Office, IRCC; Wendy Cukier, Director & Founder, Diversity Institute; Nicholas Keung, Journalist, Toronto Star; Dianne Salt, Senior Vice President, Communications, RBC

Researchers:  Rupa Banerjee, Ryerson University and Phil Oreopoulos and Jeffrey G. Reitz of University of Toronto.

For full event program details, please click here


White House Launches a Call to Action for Private Sector Engagement on the Global Refugee Crisis

Read the full text of the White House Fact Sheet

Earlier this summer, the White House issued a Call to Action for the private sector to make “measurable and significant commitments” to support refugees who have fled war and other persecution in Syria, Iraq and beyond.

The Call to Action is timely. On September 20, 2016, US President Barack Obama will host a Leaders’ Summit on Refugees at the United Nations, convening companies that have made significant and innovative commitments to supporting refugees.

Private sector call to action

Government effort is not enough to successfully support and integrate refugees- the scale of the crisis cannot be solved without a partnership between public and private institutions working together. The Call to Action focuses on securing commitments in three impact areas. One is employment, namely: Increasing employment opportunities, supporting entrepreneurship and facilitating reentry into the workforce.

“For years, the U.S. private sector has helped refugees all over the world rebuild their lives and contribute to their new communities. Drawing on its unique expertise, resources and entrepreneurial spirit, our private sector has created new ways for students to continue learning, adults to gain skills to reenter the workforce, and families to remain connected with their loved ones.” – Call to Action

Good ideas from the White House for the private sector:

  1. Facilitating refugee children and young adults’ education by ensuring that refugee students can access schools of all levels and creating quality long-distance learning platforms and programs.
  2. Helping refugees enter the workforce by providing, or helping refugees obtain, vocational training and needed language-skills, and developing tools that match refugees’ skills with existing employment opportunities.
  3. Providing, or helping refugees obtain, technical assistance and seed funding to allow them to start new businesses.
  4. Promoting refugee employment by hiring refugees, procuring goods and services from refugee-hiring businesses, making investments in frontline states that will generate jobs for both refugees and their host communities, or facilitating access to jobs.
  5. Helping refugees maintain communications connectivity, including access to wireless services in refugee camps and continuity of mobile services across borders.
  6. Ensuring that refugees can access key financial services, notwithstanding their lack of a permanent residence.
  7. Providing or facilitating refugees’ access to quality, affordable housing.
  8. Helping governments take new or additional steps to support refugees, such as by assisting them in resettling additional refugees or helping them implement policies designed to allow refugees to work and attend school.

Major private sector participants and key contributions to-date

  • Accenture will provide strategic consulting, digital services and program management support.
  • AirBnB will donate travel credits for humanitarian workers to book accommodations on the front-lines.
  • Chobani is committed to providing employment opportunities for refugees and works with local refugee centers to that end. Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya created Tent, an organization dedicated to improving the lives and livelihood of refugees through investing in innovation and providing opportunities for education and employment.
  • Coursera created the Coursera for Refugees that will provide access to recognizable certificates.
  • Goldman Sachs contributed $4.5 million to help alleviate and stabilize the crisis in the Mediterranean region and resettlement of 20,000 refugees to the United Kingdom.
  • Google provides funding to innovative solutions that facilitate connectivity, education and access to information to refugees in camps and transit routes.
  • HP provides funding and technology that facilitate access to quality education.
  • IBM is partnering with regional and international NGOs to provide solution to long-term needs of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe.
  • JPMorgan Chase &Co. provides funding for medical treatment, food, clean water and other critical support services.
  • LinkedIn Sweden launched the Welcome Tent to help newly arrived refugees connect with employers who have committed to hiring them.
  • Mastercard works with its partners to provide essential services at critical points in their journey.
  • Microsoft supports nonprofits driving the Syrian refugee crisis relief efforts by ensuring they have the capacity (funds) to provide refugees with access vital basic necessities.
  • TripAdvisor launched partnerships with global humanitarian organizations to support on-the-ground humanitarian efforts.
  • UPS invests in efforts that strengthen security efforts and provides financial support to organizations at the forefront of relief efforts.
  • Western Union supports humanitarian relief efforts throughout the Middle East and Europe that address short-, medium-and long-term needs identified through hand-on field research.

Read full text of Fact Sheet

Additional Resources

his guide provides a glimpse into their skills and educational background as well as practical tips and easy-to-use resources to help employers engage with Canada’s newest arrivals through meaningful employment.

Employer Guide to Hiring Newcomers: Information and Resources

Tips on workplace accommodation,  and sensitive interviewing

Onboarding Syrian Refugees: A Toolkit for Employers

Diverse recruitment: Tips for Inclusive Recruitment & Interviewing

Content for this article originally appeared in “Recruiting for Success: A Recruiting Firm’s Take on Diversity Recruiting” in JER HR Group August 2016 Newsletter

Establishing inclusive recruitment practices is an important step to reach the broadest talent pool.  Companies can rely too heavily on dated practices that unwittingly limit hiring access to just a segment of the talent pool. For example, hiring strategies that may be limiting the diversity of job candidates could include relying on traditional ways of sourcing talent, or using interviewing techniques that are not sensitive to diverse backgrounds including language backgrounds. Impacts of outdated strategies are felt at both at the sourcing and interviewing stages.

Below are some practical tips from JER HR Group, a human resources consulting firm servicing global clients with offices in New York and North Carolina.

Tips and recommendations from JER HR Group

Data-driven approach equips you with the right information

To recruit effectively know the facts and data about what works in your industry:

  • Strategically decide where to post jobs
  • Determine what content goes into the posting
  • Identify what criteria will attract a target group

Don’t re-invent the information wheel, leverage existing resources

Way to identify and plan how best to leverage existing sources:

  • Job boards
  • Universities
  • Networking groups and social media that are proven to drive influence and impact

Now that you have a plan on how to recruit diverse candidates, it’s time to implement

Focus on:

  • Examine & challenge your own biases before you begin an interview
  • Focus on the actual qualifications needed for the job
  • Evaluate a candidates’ qualification based on merit
  • Select an interview panel that is diverse and respectful of different cultures and characteristics. Diverse interviewers bring diverse viewpoints.

What constitutes a diverse and inclusive interview panel?

  • Interviewers understand and are respectful of different cultures and characteristics.
  • Interviewers understand diversity and cultural competencies for interviewing and hiring
  • Integrate diversity into the interview in a way that allows for valid and critical information to be gathered
  • When hiring, consider how each applicants’ similarities and difference might enhance diversity in the company.

Inclusive workplaces lead to thriving businesses, fostering an inclusive workplace starts with making inclusion a company-wide priority and value.

  • Ask employees how the company is doing in fostering an inclusive workplace.
  • Collect the data you have gathered and determine if there is an inclusivity problem- are employees not fitting in?
  • Develop a plan to address the inclusion issues.

Content for this article originally appeared in “Recruiting for Success: A Recruiting Firm’s Take on Diversity Recruiting” in JER HR Group August 2016 Newsletter

Additional Resources

Understand what it’s like to be an immigrant job seeker                                                              

 3M Managers Walk in the Shoes of Newcomers

Understand your blind spot – Tips from Harvard psychologist Dr. Mahzarin Banaji       “We’d like to believe we are open-minded, fair and without bias, but research shows otherwise. This is an important, even if uncomfortable, realization for most of us.”              Dr. Banaji

Look out for Hidden ‘Mediterranean’ Noses

Set diversity targets for the recruitment and hiring process                                                          

 A Page for Immigrant Diversity from the Gender Diversity Handbook? Lloyds Set           Diversity Rules for Top Job Shortlists

Widen the scope for recruitment and hiring to meet growing international and global market needs                                                                                                                                               

Using a Diversity Lens Helps Scotiabank Succeed

Take an active approach to building diverse teams at no additional cost                                     

Hack the hiring process to reap diversity’s bottom-line benefits

Post a simple job ad that highlights key qualifications and job requirements                                 

Writing a Barrier-Free Job Description

Magnet, Ryerson University in partnership with Hire Immigrants produced this article. The article is made possible with the funding from the Government of Ontario.

Women’s Leadership Matters: The Impact of Women’s Leadership in the Canadian Federal Public Service

Dr. Marika Morris, School of Canadian Studies at Carleton University

Public servants make a difference to the population and the country they serve, and in Canada the federal Public Service (PS) is made up of 55% women, 46% of whom hold executive level management roles and a third at the most senior level (Deputy Minister and equivalent). Dr. Marika Morris’s report answers the question “now that women are in, what difference does it make?”

What is the impact of women’s leadership?

Launched by the Women in Public Service Project, this research study investigates the impact of women’s leadership on policy, programs, administration, and workplace conditions.

Unlike the private sector, where impact can be measured by an increase in the bottom line, it can be more difficult to measure impact in the public sector. But using alternative methods of measurement, Morris finds that women have a significant impact on programs and workplace culture.

Gender diversity changes organizational behavior & culture

Women have had an impact on equity issues, they had a significant role in getting women’s equality rights into the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, on influencing Employment Equity and pay equity, and have significantly transformed workplace culture to being more inclusive. Women have had the most policy impact on family-friendly policies that led to more accommodating workplace conditions and managers; the PS is a more inclusive workplace that does more to accommodate family responsibilities than the private sector.

Morris found that women’s leadership style is generally characterized as open, collaborative, non-hierarchical, empowering, empathetic and facilitating. These factors enable public servants to make a difference and are shared values across the PS by both men and women.

Diversity of thought is equally important. Policy development and other government work benefits from having individuals from equity groups who bring valuable perspectives that might not otherwise be thought of or represented.

Implications for other forms of diversity
The report provides insights on the impact of other forms of diversity, including cultural and ethnic diversity. The inclusion of individuals from diverse ethno-racial and cultural background brings perspective and insight into policy making and program delivery targeted at specific communities. When individuals from diverse groups are part of the decision making process, they bring an important lens that leads to effective and informed policy making and program delivery.

Non-native English or French speakers, though bilingual and fluent in either or both official languages, face an added barrier because of their “foreign” accents. Although immigrants and linguistic minorities do not form an Employment Equity group, Morris explains that their linguistic difference impacts how they are perceived and that traditional styles of interactions contribute to added barriers for individuals whose mother tongue is not English or French.

Summary of Key Findings:
– Women have a significant impact on programs and culture
– Impact is difficult to measure
– Diversity matters
– Facilitating factors and barriers
– Senior leadership lags

Read the full report.

Resources for Newcomer Entrepreneurs in the GTA

Did you know that many organizations in the GTA provide free services for newcomer entrepreneurs to help them a start business? Below is a list of some key resources that include courses, workshops, mentoring, tips, tools, information, and funding options.



ACCES Employment Entrepreneurship Connections

Program for newcomer entrepreneurs providing individual coaching to start a business.

Alterna Savings Micro-Finance Program

Micro-finance program for new and marginalized Ontarians looking to start a business.

Business Development Bank of Canada Business Loans

Crown corporation that offers business loans and consulting services to SMEs.

Canada Business Ontario Business Guide for Newcomers to Canada

Newcomer Entrepreneurs

Government of Canada resources to help newcomers plan or start a business.

Centennial College Accelerator for Centennial Community Entrepreneurs and Leaders (ACCEL)

Business incubator helping youth aged 18-29 start or grow businesses in the eastern GTA. It provides mentoring and consultations.

Futurpreneur Canada Financing and Mentoring

Financing, mentoring and support tools for newcomer entrepreneurs.

Hire Immigrants Starting a Business

Online resource that provides tips, advice and links to tools on how to start, manage, grow, and exit a business.

Humber College & Richview Library Pop-Up Business Incubator

Workshops and network opportunities with industry professionals and Humber College students.

Immigrant Café Immigrant Entrepreneurs Meet-Up

Meet-up group for newcomer entrepreneurs and small business.

Job Skills Self-Employment Pathways for Newcomers

Workshops delivered across York Region that assists newcomers interested in exploring entrepreneurship.

MaRS Discovery District Entrepreneur’s Toolkit

Online tools and information to help entrepreneurs launch and grow a business.

Meridian & Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE) Road Map

Financial roadmap for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Pro Bono Ontario (PBO) Legal Help for Entrepreneurs

Resources for Entrepreneurs

Provides commercial legal education and assistance to those with viable businesses who are unable to afford legal help.

RBC, Royal Bank of Canada Support for Newcomers

The RBC Newcomer Advantage provides everything a newcomer needs to get started financially in Canada.

Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office Support for Entrepreneurs

Support for budding entrepreneurs.

Toronto French Business Network Accelerator TFBN

Support in funding, management and mentoring for the Francophone business community.

Toronto Public Library Small Business

Programs, seminars, and resources on running your small business; plus space to work and meet.

TRIEC Professional Immigrant Networks (PINs)

Network supporting professional immigrant associations to connect members to meaningful employment.

Ten tips to diversify the supply chain

This article originally appeared at DiverseCity: The Greater Toronto Leadership Project.

The supply chain includes every organization that is involved in bringing a good or service to the consumer. In this chain, companies purchase raw materials, products and professional services from other, often smaller organizations. Supplier diversity means that small and medium-sized organizations, owned or operated by diverse individuals, have equal access to these opportunities, allowing them to grow their businesses and grow the broader economy at the same time.

Getting started

1. Make a commitment to a bias-free supply chain.
The first step to creating a supplier diversity program is to make a commitment, internally and externally, to ensure that purchases are made without bias.

2. Take stock of diversity in the supply chain.
Collect demographic information about your current suppliers. Some people worry this is illegal or discriminatory – it is not. Collecting information on racial and ethnic characteristics is permitted if it is to address the underrepresentation of visible minorities and other historically under-represented groups.

3. Express the value of diversity in the supply chain.
Bringing diversity to the supply chain is not just the right thing to do. It makes good business sense, providing purchasers with more options on products and pricing. And when an organization’s leadership goes on record with a commitment to make change happen, it will.

4. Develop a supplier diversity program by learning from others
There are several organizations in Canada, including RBC, TD and YMCA, with a track record in the field. Good practices can also be found at US-based companies, particularly in the Chicago area. These practices can be studied and emulated to create a strategy.

Climbing the ladder of supplier diversity

5. Train staff on the supplier diversity program.
It is important to train both buyers and managers within organizations on the importance of diversity in the supply chain, as well as any new policies and procedures that are developed as a result of the creation of the supplier diversity program.

6. Award points in the RFP process for minorityowned/ led businesses.
Many of the best supplier programs allot points for organizations that are either owned/led by minorities or that have their own supplier diversity program in place.

7. Engage external partners to reach out to new suppliers.
Proactive efforts to identify minority suppliers are necessary for a successful supplier diversity program. Organizations such as the Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council and the Diversity Business Network can help.

8. Build the capacity of minority suppliers through mentoring.
Some minority-owned/led businesses are not yet ready to compete for large contracts. Organizations can mentor them by, for example, helping to explain the RFP process.

9. Track dollars spent with minority suppliers.
Each year billions of dollars are exchanged between businesses providing goods and services to each other. Organizations can track how much of their dollars are spent with minority suppliers to gauge the success of their supplier diversity program.

10. Report on the results of the supplier diversity program.
Publicly reporting the progress of your supplier diversity efforts, in an annual report for example, can ensure that your organization continues to progress in its efforts to meet its targets.

The Next Frontier for Diversity – Supplier Diversity in the GTA: Business Case and Best Practices

Supplier Diversity in the GTA

The latest DiverseCity Counts research, by Dr. Paul D. Larson, CN Professor of Supply Chain Management at the University of Manitoba, examines whether, why and how organizations have embraced diversity in their purchasing and supply chain strategies, policies and practices.

The research focused on organizations that buy goods and services from other organizations that are at least 50% owned and operated by visible minorities. It conducted an electronic survey of more than 165 organizations and a web scan of more than 138 in the Greater Toronto Area that together account for over $100 billion of dollars spent in the region, or approximately 33% of the region’s economic activity.

The research found that while most organizations have employee diversity policies, significantly fewer have supplier diversity programs.

Organizations that do have a supplier diversity program credit much of their success to top management commitment and efforts to work closely with current or future suppliers. Some organizations report difficulty finding qualified minority suppliers or determining which organizations are led by visible minorities. Of those organizations with a supplier diversity program, 29% do not track how much they spend on goods and services provided by visible minority owned companies.

Read the full report, Supplier Diversity in the GTA: Business Case and Best Practices (PDF), or download the summary of the research (PDF).

Getting Started: Investing in Refugee Talent (Canada)

Canada is currently welcoming an influx of Syrian refugees on top of the many refugees that make Canada their home each year. While health and well-being is of primary importance, ultimately, refugees, like all other immigrants, need employment that is commensurate with their skills and experience in order to settle well. This is important for their well-being, for their families’ well-being, and it is critical for the economic well-being of our communities and our country.

Like other newcomers, refugees have skills, experience and competencies that position them for success in the labour market. Businesses are looking to tap this growing talent pool and improve ways to source, hire, onboard and train refugees.

The following list of information and resources is designed for business looking for refugee talent:

Resources to support you find refugee talent

  • Start by contacting local agencies working directly with refugees. A list of local resources at Hire Immigrants provides connections to immigrant talent and related programs, including immigrant employment councils. Or use a database by the Government of Canada.
  • Post jobs online. The national job-matching platform Magnet, based at Ryerson University, helps employers source talent while meeting skills and other requirements (Magnet is updating its platform to add a refugee portal for targeted matching). A general platform to source all talent types is available through the Government of Canada’s Job Bank.

Resources to support you assess and select refugee talent

  • Start by evaluating your process. Hire Immigrants offers resources to help you more effectively assess and select candidates, integrate newcomers into your organization and foster long-term relationships.
  • Hold flexible interviews. Interview in the candidate’s first language, especially if English or French fluency can be gained on the job (see how Thales does it). Or, train hiring staff to better understand the experiences of candidates who speak English or French as a second language (see how 3M does it).

Resources to support you onboard and train refugee talent

  • Offer on-the-job training. If resources are available, consider providing on-the-job training and upskilling (see how Palliser does it). You can also connect newcomer staff to external services, like provincially-funded language training.
  • Start a mentoring program. You can become an employer partner with The Mentoring Partnership, a TRIEC initiative, which pairs newcomers and mentors with a similar professional background in order to help them reconnect with their career here in Canada. TRIEC offers many resources to get started.

Resources to support you prepare your company

Apart from provide employment, employers can make significant contributions in other ways. Here are a few ideas:

  • Sponsor a refugee family. Follow the examples of Goldblatt Partners LLP, KPMG, Ryerson University, and others. Learn about refugee sponsorship.
  • Make a financial or in-kind donation. Companies like CN Rail, PwC, Wind Mobile, TD, RBC, Danby, and others are supporting refugees and service providers. A Government of Canada listing offers ideas for donations and recipient organizations.
  • Tailor products and services. Among companies leading the way to tailor products and services to Syrian refugee clients and customers are Canada’s banks, including RBC, Scotiabank, TD, and CIBC.
  • Incentivize staff volunteerism. Find organizations in need of volunteers through a Government of Canada listing.

German Companies Ready to Hire Refugees, Survey Says

Far from viewing the influx of some 1.1 million refugees and migrants in 2015 with trepidation, Ernst & Young survey results published on Tuesday show that over half of the 3,000 SMEs polled see the new arrivals as one way to alleviate the country’s shortage of skilled labor. 85 percent of companies say they would happily employ someone who came to Germany as a refugee.

Over half of SMEs say that a shortage of qualified workers is hitting their balance books hard: companies calculate that a shortage of some 326,000 workers has directly resulted in an annual revenue shortfall to the tune of 45.9 billion euros ($50 billion). Indeed, experts have long warned that Germany is likely to lose economic steam, as its population ages, the birth rate stays low, with fewer, qualified workers to replace them.

Read more.

“The World Needs to See Leadership” says Guelph CEO and Refugee Champion

Jim Estill, CEO of Danby

Jim Estill, CEO of Danby

You may have already heard about Jim Estill. He’s the CEO of an appliance company who is footing the bill to sponsor 50 Syrian refugee families to his home community of Guelph, a growing city in Ontario, Canada.

What you may not know is that his efforts extend well beyond corporate philanthropy. He’s not interested in stopping at the personal donation of over $1 million. It’s more of an investment, and Estill is coordinating a whole-of-community effort to nurture it.

A business leader and entrepreneur, he brings a unique set of skills to preparing for the resettlement of 50 families. Estill approached the enormous task as he would any business problem.

“I am a business person who happens to think business is always more efficient than government. Private sector tends to know how to organize and execute. This requires superior execution.”

He took his private sector expertise and created a volunteer organizational structure to ensure that the families arriving in Guelph settle successfully. Community service agencies are welcome partners, especially in their areas of specialization. Just one of the organization’s goals is to ensure every refugee family is paired with an Arabic speaking mentor, which is possible with Guelph’s increasing diversity including on its university campus.

Tapping his entrepreneurial background, Estill is organizing volunteers with an agile “scrum” approach, where small teams are given freedom to collaborate outside of tightly scripted and usually linear direction. When it comes to resettling refugees, it means maximize the organization’s ability to deliver quickly, respond to emerging requirements and adapt to evolving issues and changes in family conditions.

Each family has a settlement checklist and a scorecard. The progress of families will be reviewed, triaged and acted on every two weeks. Priority items will be brought to the attention of the director of that issue to solve. Estill explained, “every week you set your goals, and you ask what’s getting in the way of accomplishing those goals. We may have a family which is not adjusting. You don’t know what you’re going to run into. You just have to make sure it’s on your scorecard and it’s not lost.”

Measuring, he thinks, will mean higher performance by the community. “The goal is to resettle people well, not just to bring them in, put them in an apartment, and pay their rent for a year.”

Part of settling well is finding employment. Good employment.

Employment can be a tricky part of resettlement, but not because refugees are unqualified or unfit for work. They are often educated, of all skill types, and eager to get back to work after leaving careers in their home country out of fear for safety. Just like other immigrant groups, however, refugees too often end up in jobs well below their skill level.

Supporting refugees in finding meaningful employment is an important piece of long-term newcomer success, requiring not just finding any jobs, but jobs that suit the individual. This is where Estill thinks Guelph will excel.

Finding jobs of all skill levels won’t be a problem. Guelph’s diverse economy needs workers.

The city straddles more than one link between old and new. With deep roots in farming, today Guelph is known for excellence in agriculture, bolstered by flagship programs at the University of Guelph and an innovative business community leading the region to its current rank as the province’s top agricultural biotechnology cluster. Guelph is home to several high growth sectors including advanced manufacturing and environmental management and technology. Quality of life is high, with a picturesque stone-plated downtown core, and commuter and industrial rail links to the nearby Greater Toronto Area.

Local business is ready for refugee talent.

The demand for workers began organically. When Estill and his volunteers called Best Western and Days Inn to ask for rooms for temporary housing, the hotel chains responded with a request for staff. Other opportunities abound in the service industry, but do not stop there.

Workers are needed in light assembly and in more advanced manufacturing firms, as machinists and machine operators, as well as in programming. Construction is another industry with high demand for skilled trades like mechanics, electricians, drywallers, and other contractors.

Because speaking the language is key to a lot of the work and especially to success over time, Estill is working with local educational institutions to be ready to offer language and other training opportunities.

In addition to employment-focused learning, education for the entire family is a priority. Every school age child will be assigned a tutor. Estill’s organization will run summer classes to provide further support. Adults will have access to beginner, intermediate, advanced ESL courses. They also plan to provide ESL training to seniors, to ensure they are not socially isolated, now and in the future.

Why hire?

Like employers in Calgary and Halifax, Estill sees the value of hiring refugees. His company, Danby, will be among those looking to hire the newcomers for warehouse and assembly work. Although, because of his role in bringing the refugees to Guelph, Estill said he wants to give other employers the first chance to hire.

He’s been busy approaching other businesses about the opportunity to hire, as well as encouraging other ways to support new employees.

Recognizing that displaced people often start out underemployed and work their way up, he wants local employers to give refugees opportunities and to be flexible. Many newcomers may not be able to take a full time job in the short term. Initially, employers may need to offer part time jobs, even temporary jobs.

Estill is making effective use of his business network. He knows that, above all, they’re looking for good, loyal, hardworking and long-term workers. And that is what he is offering them.

“I’m a business guy, and I just ask my business friends. To some extent, I’m asking for charity, but I’m looking them in the eye and saying this is good for them as well. It will be symbiotic. It will be good.”

Estill has a simple message for other employers across Canada about creating a win-win community with Syrian refugees: “This is a way they can get contribute to the cause and help. A business could donate $2,000. I’d rather they hire someone and pay them $2,000 and get them comfortable working. That’s win-win. Hard working people trying to make a better life make good employees.”

Tips for Employers

  • Hiring: Contact local immigrant or employment service providers, who could connect you to job seekers. The local economic development or employment service is another good resource. (See the experience of Maple Trade Finance).
  • Diversity and inclusion: Match new employees with a mentor in the workplace. Mentoring supports the integration of the newcomer into the unique culture of your business, and helps develop the leadership skills of the mentors. Another benefit of a mentoring relationship is the language practice it offers, especially the nuances of the workplace (often technical) language.
  • Diversity and inclusion: Integrate cultural training into other employee training days or programs. There are simple, easy ways to increase empathy and understanding across cultures. (See a simple language game pioneered by 3M).
  • Upskilling: Promote professional development of newcomer employees through lunch and learns, workshops and conferences, and participation in projects.

Hire Immigrants Report: Immigrant Entrepreneurship in Canada


“The changing profile
of immigrants to
Canada may require
changes to the
support services now
offered to facilitate
business start-up and

This scan on immigrant entrepreneurship discusses the general climate of immigrant entrepreneurship within Canada, touching on successes and challenges faced in previous decades and today. The report provides an overview of immigrant entrepreneurship in Canada, identifies programs requiring increased attention for the improvement of immigrant experiences, and highlights key programs in Canada, Sweden, Germany, Finland, and the United States focused on facilitating immigrant entrepreneurship.

By examining the ways that government and government-funded actors are creating pathways to entrepreneurship for immigrants, the analysis aims to provide strategic intelligence on the interventions that may facilitate or inhibit immigrant entrepreneurship. The goal is to further policy work to enhance pathways to entrepreneurship for immigrants to Canada.

Key findings include:

  • Immigrants to Canada continue to encounter challenges and barriers to opening a business. Among the most common challenges faced by immigrant entrepreneurs are language, knowledge of the business culture and practices, and securing financing. These challenges are often related.
  • Not all immigrants with entrepreneurial goals end up exploring
    business pursuits in a desired industry.
  • Links back home can positively contribute to the successes of export/import businesses.
  • Among owners of exporting businesses, recent immigrants outperform all others including non-recent immigrants and non-immigrants.
  • The Canadian government has shifted its immigration policy objectives over the past decades. The changing profile of immigrants to Canada may require changes to the support services now offered to facilitate business start-up and growth.
  • Comparing services for immigrant entrepreneurs in various countries, one-stop hubs show promising signs of success. Connecting immigrant-oriented services with the greater community can assist in integration and also in the development of businesses.

Read the full report (PDF).

Find resources for immigrant entrepreneurs. 

“Diversity and Entrepreneurship” Keynote Speech (transcript) by Kirk Dudtschak, RBC Royal Bank

Kirk Dudtschak, Executive Vice President, Personal & Commercial Banking, RBC Royal Bank

Canada’s largest employer, RBC Royal Bank, sees diversity and inclusion as a business imperative. Why? Kirk Dudtschak, Executive Vice President, Personal & Commercial Banking, RBC Royal Bank, explained why in a keynote speech at the 8th Annual Conference for the Academy of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Ryerson University. The following are excerpts from his speech:

Click here to watch the video of Mr. Dudtschak’s remarks.

I want to talk to you about how we think about newcomers and diversity as an organization. We have a saying: “Having diversity is interesting, doing something with it is powerful.” And that’s why I referenced earlier our value of diversity and inclusion for growth and innovation. It is about innovation, it is about growth for your business, that diversity creates. It is our core value, it is integrated into everything we do, we’ve been working hard at it for many years. I want to share with you more about the “what” and the “how” behind our values as we think about learnings for our Canadian-owned businesses.

Firstly, the client perspective. Given the population and the demographics, newcomers and immigrant entrepreneurs are a critical market for us as a business. That goes without saying.

When someone comes to this country, it is one of the most traumatic and formative life events in that individual’s experience. Being there when people need you the most can be one of the most important foundational activities in building a long-term, lasting relationship. Getting that right is important.

Over the years, we’ve built up a team of individuals – employees – that speak over 200 languages. So you need to be able to speak the language and you need to be able to relate to the culture. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s also about being relevant in terms of the service and the advice that you offer, and continuing to raise the bar to make sure that you understand and that you’re competitive.

“You need to be able to speak the language and you need to be able to relate to the culture. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s also about being relevant in terms of the service and the advice that you offer.”

One of the most challenging things as a newcomer is to get access to credit. Think about getting a car loan or a mortgage, or equally challenging, think about getting a credit card. The learning here may sound pretty basic, but it’s profound, and I think it’s an example that many of us can use as businesses. Lending money to somebody for a credit card without a permanent job – maybe precarious work, part-time work, without a permanent job or any credit history whatsoever, how do you do that when you’re a bank? Banks have struggled to issue credit cards, car loans, and mortgages to newcomers.

But if you look beyond that, and if you take many of your own individual circumstances, or you take my parents’ example. I think of my parents, and how on the one hand they had anticipation about this country and on the other hand they had huge fear that they couldn’t succeed. A credit loss for newcomers without permanent jobs or without credit history, who get a credit card, is very low, we found. And why that is, is because the last thing you want to do in a new country is put your credit history at risk. Because you can’t get a cell phone, you can’t pay utilities, you can’t live.

If you take a different perspective and a different view about the motivation of the newcomer, or your business practices, it opens up new possibilities.

So now a newcomer in this country within that first year, can get a credit card without credit history or job security, with a limit of up to $2,000. Within the first two to three years, that individual, with good history, can get a car loan. And within five years, those individuals can qualify for mortgages if they’ve saved enough money and have enough equity to put into that home. All founded on the premise that it’s a new beginning and individuals are going to work tirelessly to create a life for themselves and for their family and make success. And not put at risk that fundamental opportunity to be in this country and establish that credit history.

“It’s a new beginning and individuals are going to work tirelessly to create a life for themselves and for their family and make success.”

We continue to learn through examples like this, how we can build products and services for our newcomer clients.

I want to talk about suppliers. Like Ryerson and like other organizations, one of our priorities is to make sure our supplier set is also diverse. Ultimately to make sure we’re accessing the best services from the best organizations over time. And we’ve been involved with organization like WBE and CAMSC and others. What we’ve found and stumbled across was that we had many suppliers struggling to compete effectively in the procurement process. So we created a supplier diversity mentorship program, that pairs procurement category experts with newcomer entrepreneurs to mentor them on best practices, insights, and help them to better compete in the procurement process. And we’ve had success from that.

The third learning area I want to talk about is our learning from a talent management and employee perspective. We could talk all day about this. Building a diverse workforce that mirrors the markets and the clients that you serve is the first part. But building that inclusive workforce, and leveraging that workforce for innovation and growth is the ultimate. And we are on a path to doing so. We’ve had success, we’ve been named one of the top employers and workplaces in Canada, and we’re proud of the Best Diversity Employer award, and awards we’ve won in the past.

But one of the things we continue to find is creating that inclusive environment is harder than one thinks. Creating that inclusive environment goes much beyond recruitment and promotion policies, it’s about culture, it’s about awareness. Not just about newcomers, but about all employees. And one of the things that we brought in under Zabeen Hirji, our head of Human Resources, was thought leader Dr. Mahzarin Banaji, from Harvard University, who has done a tremendous amount of research on unconscious biases. And how unconscious biases hold human beings back in general. It’s not one-sided – it’s human beings in general.

Last year, Dr. Banaji held sessions with over 300 RBC leaders. More than 1,700 employees after that have benefited from some of the discussions and tools that have emanated out of Dr. Banaji’s work and dialogue with us. In 2016, we have a priority to take this conversation of unconscious bias to all of our employees across the organization.

Back to the theme of entrepreneurship. I want to share some perspective that I’ve observed about key success factors for immigrant entrepreneurs.

Angel investors and venture capitalists and access to capital – for entrepreneurs in general – is an issue, but I don’t believe it is the key success factor. There are common threads in these individuals that have made them so successful.

There’s a newcomer or immigrant entrepreneur who you may know of, Alice Chung. Alive Health Centres is a very successful Canadian business. Alice is an entrepreneur who started with one wellness boutique back in 1983. A business that happened accidentally, or she says “incidentally,” because she couldn’t find work in her own field. We heard that from Salima Virani earlier – the ability to pivot or the ability to survive. Salima used the word “survive.” Alice couldn’t find work in her field, so she set up a wellness boutique in 1983. Over two decades, she’s built Alive into a successful chain of 29 stores across the country, and in June last year, she became the first recipient of the Top 25 Canadian Immigrant – RBC Entrepreneur Award. Tremendous success.

When we talk to Alice about what brought her to this country, and what made her successful, Alice quickly goes to – and you see in Alice – her tenacity and work ethic. It’s one of the first things that Alice will talk about, is that determination and that need to survive, as what has allowed her to get to where she is. It’s another reason that reinforces why newcomers, and newcomer entrepreneurs, are so critical to the success of this country.

All entrepreneurs should have a business plan. Back to being new to a country, and that need to survive and find ways to be successful, doing it with a plan from a business perspective and a personal perspective is critical. But it’s not a plan that is an immovable object, it’s a plan to direct your energies to so you can learn, and then adapt, and then adjust, and pivot, as Salima talked about. It is important to have a blueprint for success and then be able to rewrite that blueprint as you learn and as you grow.

“Building a support network is critical … that support network of friends, of mentors, of sponsors, of advisors, who are different than you, who have access to information and advice that you can leverage to learn and strengthen your business.”

The last thought I’d like to share from Alice’s perspective around integration is that newcomer entrepreneurs do and will need many things to grow their business, and building a support network is critical. A support network that is beyond our cultural backgrounds or beyond what we’re comfortable with. It is that unconscious bias that might very easily cause us to hang out in the German community or the Indian community. But it is building that support network of friends, of mentors, of sponsors, of advisors, who are different than you, who have access to information and advice that you can leverage to learn and strengthen your business. Industry associations are just one way to tap into that advice and expertise, and build those friendships, and find those entrepreneurs. Surrounding ourselves with those industry experts is key to our success.


As Executive Vice President, Kirk Dudtschak leads RBC’s eight personal and business regions in Canada and its Caribbean Banking business. He is also President & CEO of Royal Mutual Funds Inc., a member of the Greater Toronto United Way and past board member of the Toronto Regional Immigrant Employment Council.

New Migration Council with corporate heavyweights to fight for a bigger Australia

By Andrew Jakubowicz, University of Technology Sydney

The announcement of the formation of a Migration Council of Australia and its launch by the Governor General on August 1, confirmed by Department of Immigration and Citizenship official Gary Fleming at the Settlement Council of Australia conference in Adelaide in late June, marks a critical juncture in population and immigration policy.

The Council will operate as a non-government organisation, with its own board, and look more like the Settlement Council of Australia or the Australian Multicultural Foundation, than the government’s own and somewhat tame Australian Multicultural Council. Hopefully it will not be confused with the migration agents’ lobby, the Migration Institute of Australia. While it is independent of the Government, it is likely that the new body will fit snugly with the pro-migration wings of the both the major poltiical parties.

The MCA wants to find a new space to assert the importance of migration and effective settlement, and has brought together some heavy hitters to make this happen. Headed by Peter Scanlon (ex Patricks Chair) – and bringing together Business Council of Australia chair Tony Shepherd, Australia Post head Ahmed Fahour, Ethnic Communities Federation chair Pino Migliorino, Adult Migrant Education Victoria head Catherine Scarth and a number of others – the organisation seeks to build a bridge between those with an economic interest in a big Australia, and those with a social interest in a fair Australia.

Scanlon has been a key figure in building an information base about immigration and settlement through his Foundation’s financial support for the Monash study of social attitudes to immigration, diversity and levels of social cohesion. His leadership support, both political and financial, is seen to be critical for the effectiveness of the MCA. Scanlon has history as a strong advocate for his causes: in the Elders IXL struggle for BHP in the 1980s, with Patricks, and now with the Garvin Institute and the Scanlon Foundation. He is also a major real estate developer and will come under scrutiny for how this new lobby group might create benefits for his commercial interests.

The board has appointed Multicultural Minister Kate Lundy’s former advisor – the well connected and politically astute Carla Wilshire – to the CEO role, a challenging post which confronts the opportunities and pitfalls of the current immigration scene.

Queensland Multicultural Festival, Wenxiong Zhang

Queensland Multicultural Festival, Wenxiong Zhang

Immigration vs small Australia

There is growing community acceptance that a moderately bigger Australia is beneficial for the economy. Nevertheless, hostilities are also evident, and there is enormous distress over refugee and asylum seeker policy.

Meanwhile, the environmental sustainability debate has frozen over since the hysteria of 2010 gave way to the astonishment of 2011, with the immigration curve’s steep rise suddenly levelling out and then coasting down again.

Even so, the small Australia lobby (led by Foreign Minister Bob Carr and his mate Dick Smith) has not let up its push, and the Greens and the environmental lobby are still hammering away at reducing population growth. In the shadows behind them can be seen a collection of anti-immigrant and nativist activists.

Into the mix step Gina Rinehart and her Western Australian mining mates, whose deal with Immigration Minister Chris Bowen over 8,000 new jobs including nearly 2,000 457 visa recruits, hit a stumbling block with the unions. The unions, of course, are worried at the rapid destruction of industrial jobs in the east, and have opted for a tried and true anti-immigration reaction.

Government challenges

The creation of the Council also highlights two key failures of the government:

  1. There will clearly not be a statutory migration council, which would place migration and settlement planning at the heart of government, rather than palmed off to a civil society lobby group. The immigration councils of the post-war period did much to cement support for the immigration program among potentially conflicting interests; and
  2. There will not be a government migration research institute (the Bureau of Immigration, Multicultural and Population Research, abolished by John Howard, played a crucial role in providing research-based information for the policy debates of the 1980s and early 1990s, a major hole in current policy).

The decision to take the issue to the NGO sector provides an insight to the problem within government in handling migration issues.

Minister Bowen has very little purchase with Gillard, and seems unable or unwilling to communicate with her on wider issues, as the foreign workers issue in the mining industry reveals.

At the same time Lundy, who’s from a very different faction, seems to have limited purchase with Bowen. She has been unable to increase the funding of her settlement and multicultural responsibilities, one of the reasons the settlement sector fears the creation of the Migration Council (which is rumoured will be funded from money now allocated to the Settlement Council).

Meanwhile, Department of Immigration and Citizenship head Andrew Metcalfe (currently on leave but also prospectively on the board of the MCA), warned last year that the current immigration mess would produce major social unrest in Australia’s cities in coming years, a key problem for settlement. Governments have demonstrated their incapacity to resolve the many impasses that immigration highlights. At least two state governments, not consulted in the MCA development, remain wary about the potential impact of a new lobby.

On the sidelines, a joint federal parliamentary committee on migration will be reporting in August. It will be faced with reconciling the mass of public submissions (more than 500) that range from Anders Breivik-type White Power mania, to arguments from academics and others that the current policy environment is a logic- and information-free zone that requires major re-vitalisation, and a reassertion of social justice and human rights goals.

Migration Council’s first steps

The MCA has pulled some resources with it, but it will need a great deal of money and a fine feel for building community relations, if it’s not to alienate existing organisations or dry up its sources of meagre government support.

The Council will need to build a cross-party and community consensus on the need for continuing immigration and an expansion of its 457 component. But it needs to be wary that a rise in 457 visas sought by the mining lobby and other pro-growth advocates could increase already well-identified social problems of exploitation and isolation.

When you consider the inept and confused way the federal government has announced new immigration strategies, including the enterprise agreements with Rinehart, it seems that a broadly-based and responsive group concerned with ensuring rational, evidence-based policy, will have a critical role to play.

Even so, the MCA will have its work cut out to navigate the tensions and produce outcomes that work both for its economic and social backers.

Andrew Jakubowicz, Professor of Sociology and Codirector of Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Centre, University of Technology Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

A Migration Agenda for the Private Sector

By Khalid Koser

This article is reprinted with permission from Project Syndicate.

Khalid Koser speaking at the Cities of Migration Conference in Berlin

Khalid Koser speaking at the Cities of Migration Conference in Berlin

As Europe’s refugee crisis continues to evolve, offers of assistance have come from some unexpected places. Interventions by governments, civil-society groups, and aid organizations have been complemented by a broad-based response from the business community. This mobilization highlights not only the role that the private sector can play in managing migration, but also the importance of extending this engagement beyond the response to the immediate crisis.

Contributions have been made by companies large and small. Shop owners have provided refugees with free food and clothing, and local transport firms have helped people move across borders. On the corporate level, FedEx, JPMorgan Chase, and Google have all made direct contributions of more than $1 million to humanitarian organizations. American Express and Daimler are matching their employees’ donations, Western Union is offering ten cents per transaction made by consumers in the European Union, and Norwegian Air has raised money through inflight collections.

Meanwhile, the Bayern Munich Football Club has opened a training camp for refugees, and Siemens has launched a traineeship program in Germany for asylum-seekers.

On the web, Facebook is connecting asylum-seekers with members of their diaspora, as well as citizens who want to help, and a program called “Refugees Welcome” is helping refugees find vacant rooms in Germany, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Poland, Greece, Sweden, and the Netherlands. In France, an Amazon wish list has been established to allow people to purchase goods for refugees (portable fuel packs and warm boots are the items most in demand).

The private sector’s response to the refugee crisis has helped efforts to address it in three important ways. For starters, the business community has generally proved faster and more flexible than governments. On the whole, the private sector is not encumbered by political constraints or bureaucracy that can impede government action. And many companies are organized to move quickly in response to market opportunities – or in this case a humanitarian emergency.

Second, the business community has filled a gap in the response that the public sector risked overlooking. The international community has been focused on immediate humanitarian relief –rightly so. But the current crisis also has an economic component: in many cases, it represents a business opportunity, as new arrivals offer their talents and knowledge to forward-thinking firms. As a result, it is not just corporate social-responsibility departments that are driving companies’ response.

Finally, the business community’s reaction has underscored the long-term advantages of migration, something that politicians in fear of (or in thrall to) xenophobic currents have struggled to accomplish. The private sector’s enthusiastic involvement helps make the case for the bright side of the refugee influx: it can help close Europe’s demographic deficit, plug gaps in its labor market, and supply a cohort of young workers and taxpayers for the future.

But while the private sector’s involvement is to be applauded, its impact will be limited if it is not extended beyond the current emergency. Like governments, the business community rallied in a meaningful fashion only after large numbers of refugees began arriving on European shores. The private sector must not overlook the role it can play in helping to stabilize and support economic growth in the countries from which refugees flee.

Furthermore, there are far more Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey than in Europe, and many of the innovative responses now emerging in Europe would have a greater impact (and larger returns on investment) if they were concentrated where most refugees reside.

Above all, businesses must ensure that their current efforts are sustained into the future. The programs companies have put in place will bear long-term fruit only if they are seen through to the end. Firms must prepare for the decline in public goodwill that is likely to occur as efforts to integrate the newcomers hit inevitable obstacles. Local spikes in unemployment, temporary pressure on education and health services, incidents of criminality, and hints of radicalization could spark a backlash in the media and among shareholders. Business leaders must help keep a clear, public focus on the long-term benefits of immigration through statements, media engagement, and direct lobbying of government officials.

The lesson from Europe’s refugee crisis is clear: all aspects of migration are better managed when businesses, civil society, and governments work together. As the crisis continues to unfold, sustaining and deepening this cooperation – in Europe and elsewhere – will be both a challenge and an historic opportunity.

The South Pacific Secret to Breaking the Poverty Cycle

By Michael Clemens in the Huffington Post

Let me tell you a secret about the World Bank. One of the most effective things it ever did to help people break out of poverty is to help them migrate, temporarily, to pick fruit overseas.

Migration to pick fruit is probably not the first thing you think of when you think of the World Bank’s work, or the broader global effort to eliminate poverty after 2015. That’s understandable, and it helps explain why this remarkable project is so little-known.

It started in the South Pacific in 2006. Tonga is a poor country, with few good jobs and at least a third of the population in poverty. New Zealand is a rich producer of wine-grapes and other fruits, where farm labor is hard to find. World Bank economist Manjula Luthria and many colleagues helped the two countries strike a deal, together with other poor countries in the region: Tonga and others would provide the labor New Zealand needed, for jobs that were the opportunity of a lifetime for Tongan workers.

Read more.

Transnational Entrepreneurship: Q&A with Howard Lin

The movement of people back to home countries is typically associated with “brain drain.” It’s considered a loss of talent. But Howard Lin, co-director of the Canada-China Institute for Business Development at Ryerson’s Ted Rogers School of Management, thinks otherwise. He argues that when skilled workers move back but maintain trade or other business ties, it contributes to a “brain circulation” and gains for the countries involved. Cross-border activities increase the circulation of knowledge.

For countries like Canada that see relatively poor performance on innovation, and particularly on commercialization, transnational entrepreneurs present an opportunity. The challenge for policy makers and industry is how to sustain and better leverage the innovation happening in global value chains.Howard Lin

Hire Immigrants: Who is a transnational entrepreneur?

Howard Lin: Transnational entrepreneurs (TEs) are immigrants who conduct business across national borders, normally involving host and origin country. The business could be trade, investment, and innovative business ventures.

What problem can transnational entrepreneurship fix?

For host countries such as Canada, TEs help overcome geographic, institutional, and cultural distances as well as market and resources limitations, thereby capturing economic opportunities in the international space because they have privileged access to information and resources at multiple locations, usable border-crossing experience, and often greater risk tolerance than locals do.

What are the requirements of a good environment for transnational entrepreneurship?

A key requirement is a change in mind-sets. At the societal level, TEs need appreciation for their contributions to our economy and society. Government should recognize transnational entrepreneurship as a viable and positive mode of immigrant economic adaptation.

What one or two key policy changes are needed to create this environment?

As I have proposed over the years, Canada needs to build some kind of transnational incubators to facilitate transnational entrepreneurship. One option would be adding a transnational component to existing incubators.

What is the role of business or investors in boosting transnational entrepreneurship? 

While Canadian businesses may form partnerships with TEs when entering international markets, TEs are likely to be more effective when they have non-immigrant partners in their founding team with enhanced access to local and professional networks, resources, and credibility.

Read more about transnational entrepreneurs:

Canada’s Start-Up Visa: Build-Measure-Learn

Can a government work like and with the private start-up sector to jump-start immigrant entrepreneurship, attract the “best and brightest” international entrepreneurs, and create local and national economic benefits?

In 2010, three Canadian entrepreneurs looked at a proposed Start-Up Visa in the United States and realized this new approach to attract talented immigrant entrepreneurs could work in Canada. Boris Wertz, Danny Robinson and Maura Rodgers launched the Start-up Visa Initiative to encourage the government to create a Canadian Start-up Visa.

Already in the midst of controversy with Canada’s Immigrant Investor and Entrepreneur Programs, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) implemented a temporary moratorium on new applications to the program in 2011. Shortly after, the federal government consulted with industry to determine if a new and specialized program to attract immigrant entrepreneurs should be created, and in 2013, the Start-Up Visa Program pilot project began taking applications.

According to CIC, the Start-Up Visa ensures that:

  • Immigrant entrepreneurs will successfully launch innovative companies that will create jobs in Canada, and eventually, compete globally,
  • Entrepreneurs will have the assistance necessary to navigate the Canadian business environment, which can sometimes prove challenging for newcomers, and
  • Private sector firms will have access to a broader range of entrepreneurs, including the best and the brightest minds from around the world.

Another important piece for entrepreneurs is the stability of their immigration status. Canada’s Start-Up Visa program gives entrepreneurs Permanent Resident status when they’re accepted into the program.

A unique policy approach

A five-year pilot, the Start-Up Visa program seeks to “attract the best and brightest entrepreneurs from around the world, with ideas for new business ventures.” The Canadian government re-focused its policy, understanding that “a more globalized economy requires a shift towards innovation, productivity and creating better jobs and stronger businesses that can compete on a global scale.”

Part of this shift included the central and primary participation of the private sector. To be eligible for the Start-Up Visa program, a start-up first needs to be supported by a designated organization, either a venture capital fund, angel investor group, or business incubator/accelerator within Canada.

Gaining the support of one of these organization types is considered key for any start-up to succeed. It may be more important for immigrant start-ups that do not yet have a foothold or deep knowledge of the Canadian market. Most of the designated organizations already work internationally, in particular in the United States, so part of their attraction for an international start-up is access to the North American marketplace.

The government partnership with private sector organizations in Canada that have experience working with and supporting start-ups is a new immigration policy approach. One of the original industry lobbyists, Boris Wertz, praised the government for taking an approach that actually resembles how start-ups get going: having an idea (or minimum viable product), measuring performance in the market, and revising. In short, it’s a loop of build-measure-learn.

In its first 20 months, the Start-Up Visa program saw just five visas issued. There are concerns from some in the technology and start-up community that the pilot approach is flawed. Others suggest that the current problem is the calibre of entrepreneurs who have applied so far.

While the program envisioned 2,750 applications per year, industry advocates expected a more likely number would be in the hundreds. Entering the third year of the pilot project, known application numbers are in the dozens.


The Canadian Start-Up Visa began ambitiously. According to Wertz, Canada has not yet positioned itself as a destination of choice for technology start-ups. Both the Canadian government and its private sector partners (venture capital funds, angel investor groups, and business incubators) need to do a better job marketing Canada as a place to build great tech companies.

Already, there are some key lessons from the pilot phase:

  • It is generally hard to attract and entice a start-up that has already started to build and has some employees to move to a different country. Focusing on start-ups still in their early stages may offer the best chance of openness to relocation.
  • It is important for private sector partners to travel abroad to market Canada, their programs, and the visa program.

Eventual case studies on immigrant business creation and successful growth will provide an important assessment tool of the Start-Up Visa program.

Policy in practice: The draw of incubators

Business incubators or accelerators are the best pipeline to attract foreign start-ups for this program, according to Wertz. They represent a key differentiator and therefore competitive edge over other country’s visa programs.

The Accelerator Centre in Waterloo Region and Stratford is a designated business incubator for Canada’s Start-up Visa Program. Successful applicants to the tech program receive help starting and growing their business. Start-ups are offered tailored programming, in-house mentorship, and access to funding, office space, education, and networking opportunities to grow their business.

The Accelerator Centre is now reviewing candidates for the Start-Up Visa program, to see if they are a fit for the centre’s programming.

A representative for the Accelerator Centre said the program is “very competitive … for both domestic and international applicants, as we are focused on offering incubation to emerging technology companies that are the best of the best.”

On the value of the partnership with government, the representative said “the Start-up Visa Program is helping us continually deliver the next generation of technology companies coming out of Canada and now Internationally.”

While there are not yet case studies on immigrant entrepreneurs at the Accelerator Centre, the program, one of many like it in Canada, has a history of success with native entrepreneurs. They become part of an entrepreneurial hub and region rich with resources, essential for start-ups to thrive.

As part of a start-up policy approach, in particular the “build-measure-learn” loop, the Canadian government will need to continue to assess the pilot project, iterating more rapidly than perhaps usual in government, to ensure the benefits outlined for Canada and its newest immigrant entrepreneurs.

Did you know?

Canada is not the only country that wants to make it easier for high-tech start-ups to set up shop. These countries have created similar initiatives:

Start-up Chile

Italia Startup Visa – Italy

La French Tech – France

Start-up Ireland

StartupDelta – Netherlands

Why wait for government? Unshackling immigrant entrepreneurs

UnShackledImmigrant entrepreneurs have long been vital to the success of the American economy.

According to the Immigration Policy Center, in 2010, “more than 40 percent of the Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants (90 companies) or children of immigrants (114 companies).” Together, these employ over 3.6 million people.

But the continuing success seen in the past is not inevitable.

A new start-up for start-ups, UnShackled, wants to make sure immigrant entrepreneurs keep succeeding.

The Start-Up Visa was meant to help retain top talent in the United States, creating a temporary immigrant visa which converts to a permanent residency after two years if certain conditions are met. Originally introduced in March 2011, the Start-Up Visa has stalled. In November 2014, UnShackled founders Manan Mehta and Nitin Pachisia stepped in to fill the void.

“The funding and immigration scenario have become more challenging for early stage immigrant founders since 2007,” Pachisia said. “On the immigration front, for instance, it takes much longer to reach permanent residency. Similarly, the funding environment has shifted towards a seed round following the product, which means a lot has to be accomplished before you can secure a seed round.”

Typically, funding for a business idea must be found from friends, family and angel investors, but it’s often not enough.

The result is that fewer companies are founded by immigrants, said Pachisia. “These factors are forcing visa-holding entrepreneurs to stay in day jobs, and bury their ideas or build their companies in another country.”

“Unshackled is in a great position to help highly-skilled immigrant entrepreneurs who are already in the US with a work authorization to innovate on a full time basis and build a seed fundable product. Effectively, we are providing the same solution that the Start-Up Visa was expected to provide.”

A new model to support immigrant entrepreneurs

Simply put, UnShackled is a $4 million angel investment fund. But it is more than that.

VentureBeat outlined UnShackled’s unique approach:

“In addition to funding, Unshackled will sponsor these entrepreneurs’ visa applications, so they can leave their current employer — or graduate from college — without being deported… many entrepreneurs [are] unable to afford to leave their current jobs or situations to pursue their ideas because of immigration or financial limitations. Employer-sponsored visas (known as H1-B visas) are only valid as long as the person is working for the sponsoring company; leaving to start a company means losing the visa, unless the new employer can sponsor the visa. Leaving would also mean no more employer benefits, and so on.

So that’s where Unshackled comes in. Under the fund’s model, these entrepreneurs become employees of Unshackled, which then takes over sponsoring their visas. Unshackled also provides benefits and disburses the startup’s funding through payroll for them and their employees.”

In a VentureBeat interview, Mehta explained, “we’re funded as a fund but we operate as a tech startup.” TechCrunch went a step further, calling UnShackled a “startup studio, a hybrid between a [venture capital] fund and a coworking space and an accelerator.”

UnShackled takes a wide-ranging approach to providing support. Start-ups get:

  • Legal support
  • Network of actively involved investors and business accelerators
  • Design consulting
  • A working space
  • Fundraising, access to investors
  • Marketing, branding and PR consulting
  • Corporate and investment banking services
  • Mentors and advisors made up of founders, entrepreneurs, and investors who have built billion dollar companies

It’s an approach that Pachisia said is necessary “to regain the competitive edge the US had as the most entrepreneurial place on earth.”

In a way, immigrants are naturally entrepreneurial. They come with a fresh set of ideas and thoughts because they come from a different country and working environment. “This is a huge advantage that often enables them to think out of the norm, which is the fuel behind disruption,” said Pachisia. “Certain things that are taken for granted by someone growing in a particular system or culture, are not so certain for a person new to that system.”

The UnShackled team also found that immigrant entrepreneurs have a high degree of passion and drive. “It’s almost like they have a chip on their shoulder and a point to prove. After all, they are giving up the comfort of their home country, family and support system to pursue their dreams in the US.” Himself an immigrant entrepreneur, Pachisia added, “this makes us desperate to succeed.”

At the same time, many immigrant entrepreneurs lack deep networks, the kind people build through school and jobs. There might also be communication and management style gaps, but these are “coachable” skills.

Unshackled is designed to step in as a support system. It provides a network of investors and entrepreneurs as well as coaching on various skills including communication, story telling, and management styles.


It is early to talk about success stories. Pachisia pointed out that start-up success can take five to seven years.

As of April 2015, UnShackled had made four investments in teams working on technology-focused businesses. Names are not yet being disclosed, but according to Pachisia, “companies include a [software as a service] company that is reinventing eCommerce search, a team that is disrupting the executive search business, a mobile app to make shopping at fashion stores a much more efficient experience for women, and a mobile app for sales professionals to close deals anywhere, anytime.”

The teams represent a mix of visa-holding immigrants and US citizens or permanent residents, with diverse US and international education and work experience.

“All founders are extremely passionate about their missions,” said Pachisia.

For some immigrant entrepreneurs, UnShackled may be the funding and stabilizing bridge they need to bring their ideas to life in the United States.

Did you know?

  • Across half the OECD in 2012, around 70 per cent of start-ups were born because of opportunity or taking over a family business, as opposed to necessity (OECD 2014).
  • In the US, immigrants are nearly twice as likely to start a business as native-born (Kauffman Foundation).
  • More than 40 per cent of Fortune 500 companies in 2010 were founded by immigrants (Partnership for a New American Economy).
  • In 2011, 76 per cent of patents going to the top ten patent-producing US universities had at least one foreign-born inventor (Partnership for a New American Economy).
  • In the US as of June 2013, immigrant-founded venture-backed companies had a total market capitalization of $900 billion. If these companies were a country, its stock exchange value would rank sixteenth, above Russia and South Africa (National Venture Capital Association).

Estate Planning

According to Connect Legal, you need to ask yourself an important question: Who should inherit your business? Your lawyer will ensure that your business interests are distributed according to your wishes in a timely and cost-effective manner. If a business has multiple owners, all owners need to plan how the business can survive.

Connect Legal suggests you ask yourself:

  • What will happen to your business if something happens to you or your partner?
  • How will your family pay the bills?

Get a lawyer’s help to draft or revise your will. There are special requirements in law that must be satisfied for a will to be valid. Make business arrangements in the event something happens to you to ensure your wishes are carried out.

Consider seeking advice from an estate planner. Your estate planner will help you put in place a comprehensive estate plan that contemplates not only the distribution of assets in the event of death, but also which individuals or organizations would make decisions on your behalf, from both a personal and financial perspective if you ever became incapacitated. The plan also includes having a Will in place and designating a Power of Attorney. Learn more at RBC Estate and Trust Services.

This is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal or other professional advice.

Succession Planning

Succession planning can be complex, especially if it is left too late. The CFIB recommends you “begin the process as soon as possible, if you have not already. If done properly, succession planning is not a one-time exercise, but should be an ongoing process that is regularly updated and amended as circumstances change.”

The CFIB succession planning guide is available online. It has useful and practical information for entrepreneurs from any jurisdiction.

Selling your business has tax implications. There may be opportunities available to you, depending on your situation. According to RBC, “after speaking to a professional advisor, you may want to revise your succession options, timelines, or business structure in order to maximize your tax benefit.”

To help you with succession planning, you can access the RBC Business Succession Planning: Your Essential Road Map. This guide will help you learn about:

  • Creating your Team of Advisors
  • Exploring Your Exit Options
  • Determining and Maximizing the Value of Your Business
  • Planning Your Retirement
  • Tax Strategies

This is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal or other professional advice.

Financial Planning

Exiting Your Business

In Canada, only 10 per cent of small business owners have a formal plan to sell, transfer or wind down their business in the future, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB). More than half have no plan at all. The same is likely in many other jurisdictions around the world. Just like any other part of business development and growth, having an exit strategy is essential for the success of the final stage of your business.

Financial planning

Exiting your business may involve a management buy-out, family succession or the sale of the business. Regardless, financing of the change of ownership correctly is crucial. In Canada, according to the CFIB, having an adequate financial plan is the main obstacle to succession planning, for both the existing and new owner.

Seek help from your Financial Planner, who can make sure you have a sufficient and recurring stream of income or assets to fund your retirement, and see that any plan you have in place continues to reflect your changing needs. Learn more at RBC Financial Planning.

Your lawyer or professional associations are also important resources who can offer guidance about any regulatory requirements you must adhere to. And be sure to contact your accountant for direction on how to reduce your tax exposure.

This is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal or other professional advice.

Expanding Your Network

Developing new business contacts and connections can help entrepreneurs open doors. Networking is about creating a community of support where people can learn from each other.

Telling potential customers that you are offering products and services is vital to the growth of your business. According to RBC, you need to create a picture of your ideal customer, including demographics, and the way the customer thinks. This is often referred to as creating a “marketing persona.” It’s very helpful in your marketing and other decisions such as pricing, distribution and so on.

To find customers, Connect Legal suggests you consider who your target customers are and what type of advertising they will be most impacted by (Google ads, newspaper ads, radio, etc.). You may also consider building a website to help you advertise your business online. Websites establish credibility and help you to market your business. Experiment with new media. Your website, e-commerce, web advertising, email marketing, etc. are all new ways of building awareness, relationships and sales.

As you move into marketing and using new media for your business, create a privacy policy and use customer information accordingly.


Consider joining a business network:

This is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal or other professional advice.

Importing and Exporting

For immigrant entrepreneurs with international connections, the idea of moving into importing and exporting may seem natural. Importing/exporting is one way to increase sales and grow your business. The rewards can be great, but it is not without risks and you must also become aware of the laws and regulations governing international trade.

Here are some resources to guide you:

  • Canada Border Service Agency’s Step-by-Step Guide to Importing Commercial Goods into Canada. Tailored to meet the border and trade information needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), these resources will help SMEs comply with CBSA requirements.
  • Export Development Canada. Export Development Canada provides insurance packages and financing for exporters.
  • Government of Canada’s Canada Business Network. Discover the basics of doing business in other countries. Whether you’re exporting, importing, or investing abroad, learn how to take part in these international trade activities.
  • Government of Canada’s Canadian Intellectual Property Office. A step-by-step guide to protecting intellectual property (IP) assets.

This is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal or other professional advice.

Raising Capital for Expansion

Most often, the decision to expand is followed by the need for access to capital which can be obtained from financing or liquidating assets. Both options favour sound business operations.

According to RBC‘s Starting a Business Guide, when you developed your business plan, you likely created cash flow projections and financial statements which helped you to think about the amount of cash needed to cover the monthly operating expenses of running the business. As you get ready to expand, it is important to update projections to include the expected change in cash in and out. Successful business owners know that having an accurate financial snapshot of how the company is doing today, what it will look like following an expansion and how targets will be met, is necessary preparation for raising capital.

Other ways to prepare include the use of basic management tools or accounting software (the fundamental building blocks to keeping you informed of your company’s financial status) to keep track of cash flow. This will help to ensure your company has sufficient funds to meet current and new obligations, and still make a profit. Also, make sure you have a solid credit rating and ask for credit when things are going well. Ask for credit when you don’t need it, so it is there when you do.

Connect Legal suggests you ask yourself:

  • What is the true cost of each type of financing? Credit cards and loans can be very expensive. Check the interest rate: is it fixed or can it be raised? If borrowing money from family and friends, when do you need to pay them back and will you owe interest?
  • Do you have a business plan? Some lenders and investors will require it.
  • If you sell part of your business to an investor, what rights will the investor have in the business?

Connect Legal also recommends you have a clearly written agreement with lenders or investors (even if they are family) outlining the terms attached to the money. Talk to your bank or local micro-lender to learn how you can become a borrower. This may be a good time to attend a financial literacy class.

This is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal or other professional advice.

Updating Business Plans

Growing Your Business

The decision to grow your business will typically follow a consecutive number of successful or profitable years, proving there is demand for your product or service. To ensure your readiness for expansion, you will  need to update your original Business Plan.

According to RBC, your Business Plan could include these parts:

  • Business summary
  • Support team
  • Business environment
  • Marketing plan
  • Operations
  • Finances
  • Risks

Updating Business Plans

Managing and running your business requires goal setting, following the money as you pay suppliers and collect payment from customers on time, staying ahead of the competition, motivating staff, clear communication – both internally and externally through network and marketing channels, financial analysis, and leadership. These priorities become even more critical with the decision to grow the business.

Updating your Business Plan will ensure you have taken into consideration all influencing factors including customer expectations, especially given the impact technology may be having on the purchasing behaviours of your target clients. Incorporate market research into your Plan using online channels, seminars and industry events. All these sources will provide a wealth of knowledge and expose you to helpful experiences and insights to inform your approach.

Think of your Business Plan as a living document, keeping it current and up to date as new information becomes available. This will help you to remain better prepared to respond quickly to the needs of the business including access to financing.

This is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal or other professional advice.

Board and Governance

An important task is finding the right people to lead. RBC recommends that “you feel that there’s a fit with the professionals you consider. You will need to build a good business relationship with the advisors you choose to work with. They should understand your industry and be knowledgeable about small business. For the sake of good communication, it helps if you get along personally with your advisors as well.”

According to RBC, core advisors may be:

  • Accountants
  • Lawyers
  • Business advisors
  • Management consultants

When is the right time to create a board? MaRS recommends creating a board before the end of the start-up phase. Your board should contribute to oversight, risk analysis, and value creation. MaRS gives this checklist for some expertise you could look for in your board directors:

  • Incorporation
  • Bylaws
  • Banking
  • Patents, intellectual property
  • FDA approval
  • Accreditation
  • Product testing and approval
  • Market research
  • Taxation
  • Shareholders’ agreements
  • Importing/exporting
  • Health and safety requirements
  • Packaging
  • Technology
  • Licensing

Keep in mind the diversity of the advisors and board members you select. The best team of advisors will be made up of people with a diversity of perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds. According to DiverseCity onBoard, you will be better able to achieve modern, effective governance through diverse leadership.

Finance and Taxation

Connect Legal suggests you “contact your local city government office to find out the kind of business that is permitted at your location and whether there are any restrictions. Understand the taxes (e.g. sales taxes, employee-related taxes, such as payroll deductions and remittances) you must collect and send to the government.”

Familiarize yourself with the government agency that deals with taxation. In Canada, this is the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). On the CRA website, you can find information on obtaining your business registration number, GST/HST, corporation income tax, payroll, and a payroll calculator.

An accountant can help with tax planning.

Although it can be difficult, RBC suggests you separate your business and personal finances. “Separating your business expenses from your personal spending can actually make your life easier. Even if you’re just starting out, it’s smart to split up both sides of your financial life right from the beginning.”

Here are some tips:

  • Open a bank account for your business – This will save you accounting time during tax season.
  • Use a business credit card – Easily track your expenses to simplify budgeting, forecasting, and tax flow management.

This is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal or other professional advice.

Managing Cash Flow

Managing cash flow is challenging but it’s an important element of running a business successfully.

Businesses that fail early often do so because of cash flow shortages, not because they were not profitable business ideas.

Here are some tips RBC suggests you keep in mind to avoid a cash flow shortfall:

  • Make sure customers pay you before the date you need to pay suppliers
  • Negotiate supplier discounts to help reduce costs
  • Offer customers an incentive to pay early and follow up closely on overdue payments
  • Offer credit only to your best customers
  • Ask your customers for deposits on large sales
  • Keep track of your operating expenses like supplies, utilities and lease payments
  • Make sure you accurately track your inventory by identifying which items are staying on the shelf and for how long; this helps in making timely turnover decisions and in managing the carrying costs
  • Set prices that will cover your costs and generate a profit
  • Obtain a loan or a lease to help finance large capital purchases, such as equipment; you will then use only a small amount of your cash monthly rather than all of it at once

Knowing the drivers (Sales, Account Receivable, Account Payable, Inventory, Operating Expenses, Cost of Sales, Capital Expenditures) that impact cash flow will help to minimize cash concerns before they happen.

This is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal or other professional advice.

Hiring Employees

Once you’ve successfully launched your business, you will be focused on running and growing your business.

Hiring Employees

Connect Legal gives you some important things to think about: What is the true cost of hiring each employee: are you ready to commit to an employee including all wages, training costs, mandatory payroll taxes and remittances and potential severance costs?

They recommend you take the time to build a good relationship with your employees while protecting your business. Get to know all the laws that protect employee rights, getting legal advice as necessary. Draft good job descriptions so that both you and your employee can evaluate whether the employee is doing a good job. Use an employment contract that complies with existing laws. Make deductions and file government documents and returns. Make employee decisions based on job performance. Keep detailed records of all employee matters e.g., vacation, sick days, performance evaluations, problems and jobs well done.

This is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal or other professional advice.

Government and Organizational Support

There’s a lot of support available to new business start-ups. According to a Maytree and Metcalf Foundation report, “there are a range of supports available to individuals who wish to start their own businesses including information and referral, training, financing, individualized supports, business incubation, and professional networks. These supports are targeted to a general population but available to newcomers. While immigrants can and do access these services, they have not been developed with immigrants in mind. However, they will be very useful for you.”

According to RBC, “Many new entrepreneurs make the mistake of waiting to talk to or even find professional advisors until after they start their business. Talk to advisors early in the process of starting your business and get their advice.” In many cases, these supports are a mix of government, business, and community (non-profit) organization programs. Look for the programs in your city.

RBC Newcomer Advantage:

Royal Bank of Canada, Canada’s largest bank and leading financial institution has been helping newcomers get established in Canada for more than 145 years. With the RBC Newcomer Advantage™ you will receive a complete banking solution to address both your Businessand Personal Banking needs. Learn more

Canadian Resources:

International Resources:

This is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal or other professional advice.

Protecting You, Your Business and Products

Connect Legal recommends that you protect your business name and reputation. Begin by searching online for similar names before you register your name with the government. Your name receives limited protection where you do business, but consider paying for a trademark for enhanced protection. As your business grows, speak to a lawyer about more ways to protect your business name and products.

RBC also recommends that you consider business insurance: “Making sure you have the right business insurance coverage in place is a vital part of protecting your business, you and your family and your employees, while preserving your personal insurance for what it was intended for.”

This is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal or other professional advice.

Raising Capital

According to RBC, “Financing is the big question for many people who want to start a business. Good business planning will help your chances of getting financing. Later, your business plan gives you something to measure yourself against, to see how well you have stuck to your plan and exactly where you may need to make changes.”

Connect Legal outlines some key ways to raise money for your business:

  • Borrowing money from family and friends
  • Taking a loan or using credit from a bank or lender
  • Selling a part of your business to an investor
  • Making sure that your customers pay on time

Be realistic about financing. RBC suggests trying a number of different scenarios in case things don’t turned out as you planned. This will help you to prepare and to act quickly.

In order to figure out how much money you will need to start your business, RBC breaks down the process into three main parts:

  • Part 1: Calculating your start-up costs.
  • Part 2: Calculating your cash flow needs — add how much you need to cover shortfalls in your cash flow.
  • Part 3: Achieving break-even — subtract your initial investment (money from you, your family or partners). This will give you the dollar amount you need to start your business.

This is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal or other professional advice.

Getting Started

Are you an immigrant and an entrepreneur? There are many steps to take, rules and regulations to follow, and supports available to help you start your business.

Getting started

Reach out to people in the industry to get started.

As a newcomer you may be entering a sector that’s new to you. The RBC Starting a Business Guide offers advice on many issues, including on how to build a network of alliances from scratch. To do this, RBC recommends: “Contact people in similar businesses. Speak to potential clients and get feedback on your ideas. Join industry associations, LinkedIn groups, attend conferences and networking events. The important goal is to identify key people who can provide you with market intelligence, contacts and ongoing feedback.”

A similar approach is important even if you are not new to the industry. You may be starting out in the same industry where you worked as an employee. If so, the RBC Guide explains, “You will probably know several key players and customers whose opinions you respect. Get their advice. Try to meet with them. As you get to know them, ask whether you can call on them periodically to share information about your progress and get their input and guidance.”

Business planning

You can set up your business in a way that brings you the greatest advantages. For example, as RBC points out, you can or may:

  • Save money at tax time
  • Make it easier (and cheaper) to pay yourself
  • Avoid potential personal legal liability
  • Be allowed to bring revenue earned on foreign sales back to Canada
  • Make it possible to sell your business or pass it on to heirs

For entrepreneurs in Canada, another good resource is the non-profit organization named Connect Legal. It outlines the different business types or structures that are possible in Canada:

  • Sole proprietorship, where you are the business and any profits and losses arising out of the business are personal. As a sole proprietor, your personal wealth is exposed to business liability.
  • Corporation, where the business is legally separate from you and your personal wealth. Any profits or losses arising out of the business belong to the corporation.
  • Partnership, where the business profits and losses are shared between you and one or more owners. Partnerships can be individuals or corporations.
  • Cooperative (co-op), where the members who use the services jointly pool resources and share ownership of the business.

Connect Legal recommends that you research whether any licenses and permits will be needed to run your business. Governments and business partners often require these documents. You will also need to determine the legal business structures in your jurisdiction, and be aware that Canadian laws differ by city and province.

This is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal or other professional advice.

Hack the hiring process to reap diversity’s bottom-line benefits

By Ratna Omidvar, Executive Director, Global Diversity Exchange

For a long time, Google didn’t release data on employee diversity. Last year, it did, with the admission the company is “miles from where we want to be.” Google is now pursuing an aggressive corporate diversity program. Why?

The answer is in the numbers. Companies with racially and ethnically diverse employees are 35-per-cent more likely to financially outperform non-diverse companies, according to a recent study by management consultants McKinsey & Co. Diverse teams lead to better group performance, reputation, customer connections, market share and innovation.

The Googles of the world increasingly understand diversity is an asset with bottom-line impact. The shift in thinking is happening at a faster pace in cities with a high share of immigrants, such as Toronto, where more than 45 per cent of the population is foreign-born.

But while the evidence is in front of us, where we still get stuck as employers is finding immigrants to hire. We get the why, but not necessarily the how.

A new study conducted by market-research firm R.A. Malatest & Associates for Toronto-based Maytree, a charitable foundation that focuses on reducing poverty, found that, while half of the employers surveyed had some degree of difficulty finding suitable candidates of any background to fill positions, the majority of employers – nearly 70 per cent – reported that they do not actively seek out immigrants as a potential talent pool.

There’s also a mismatch in where and how employers and newcomers try to connect. Newcomers frequent job fairs and immigrant-serving agencies. Employers use sector and professional associations and, of course, rely on word of mouth.

Confirming what we know from other research, 72 per cent of immigrants say it’s very or somewhat challenging to find employment opportunities in their field. This costs. A 2011 Royal Bank of Canada study put the cost of immigrant underemployment to the Canadian economy at $30.7-billion.

It’s clear that companies don’t build diverse teams by accident. Instead, they need to be
deliberate about hiring immigrants, or at least about stripping bias from the process.

But there are creative ways to hack the hiring process, and some don’t cost a thing.

Search Somewhere New

Some companies have trouble reaching diverse candidates. It’s not a problem of bias or barriers – there’s simply a lack of applicants from different backgrounds. For companies with a budget to advertise or send out recruiters, a solution lies in these tools. Think about where job posts are appearing, and who is likely to see them. If you’re unsure that diverse candidates will see a posting, that’s a sign that more can be done. Consider advertising in ethnic media, through professional immigrant networks and in diverse neighbourhoods.

The same goes for recruitment. Interviewing based on word-of-mouth referrals is easy and effective. Good contacts recommend good people. But we tend to trust people who look and think like we do, and that means the referred candidates might not be very diverse. Get recruiters back to places where they encounter strangers. Remember that immigrant job seekers rely on job fairs and immigrant-serving agencies more than employers do – to the benefit of employers who do target these venues.

Set an Interview Target

A commonly upheld practice to ensure women are in the applicant and interview pool is to set a target – a mental anchor. Why not extend this practice to immigrants and visible minorities? Targets are not quotas, but they do help us to stay accountable because what gets measured, gets done. The target that’s right for you will depend on demographics. What works in Montreal will not be realistic in Guelph. In Toronto, employers could set a target of 2/5. If five candidates are interviewed, two should be ethnically diverse.

Make CVs Anonymous

Research by Phil Oreopoulos at the University of Toronto showed that Canadian employers are 40-per-cent less likely to hire Samir than Matthew, even if their skills are identical. In addition to being equally qualified, Samir could have perfect English, be born in Canada, even have a surname like Davidson or Crosbie, and still be cut at that critical first screening. All because of his first name.

The small German town of Celle piloted anonymous CVs for civil-service positions, precisely to solve hiring bias, and it greatly increased the diversity of new hires. A few decades earlier, the New York Philharmonic saw similar results when it stuck auditioning candidates behind a curtain and suddenly found itself hiring a lot more women. Why not make applications anonymous? Strip out personal information like a person’s name or place of education, and let the first screening hinge on skills and talents.

Use New Language

What we hear anecdotally and in research is that “Canadian work experience” remains a significant barrier for immigrants. Human-rights legislation has moved the dial toward removing this criteria, but behaviour takes longer to change. Whether it’s official or unofficial criteria, Canadian experience is still more desirable than experience in India, Singapore or the Netherlands. In some industries, there is good reason for this. In others, international experience may well be equally or more competitive.

It might just take new language to change internal minds. I still hear immigrants described as having “foreign work experience” when we should be calling it “international work experience.” The latter sounds like an asset. This may seem like a small thing, but language can change workplace culture and signal to managers that international education and experience is an advantage.

This last example is especially good because it shows that solutions to immigrant hiring are not only embedded in structures, but in individual and personal change, too. This change can be incremental and still go a long way.

This article was originally published in The Globe and Mail, May 22, 2015

[UPDATE] Business Case: What We Know

  • Companies in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity management are 35% more likely to have financial returns above industry mean
  • Improved and more accurate group thinking: breaking up workplace homogeneity allows employees to become more aware of their own potential biases.
  • Focus on facts: workplace diversity changes how information is processed and leads to better decision making. People from diverse backgrounds alter the behavior of a group’s social majority in ways that lead to improved and more accurate group thinking
  • Innovation: to stay competitive, businesses need to innovate. By hiring culturally diverse employees, businesses boost their capacity to transform themselves and their products.

Source: Why Diverse Teams are Smarter

Magnet, Ryerson University in partnership with Hire Immigrants produced this article. The article is made possible with the funding from the Government of Ontario.

Participatory Planning Moves from Shut-Downs to Start-Ups


Natural entrepreneurs can be found in informal and marginalized communities. Recognizing and working with them, instead of penalizing them for entrepreneurial activities can revitalize a community.

Participatory planning leads to market success and integrated neighbourhoods. In the search for successful settlement, many newcomers turn to enterprise, just to make ends meet. In some cases, zoning, bylaws or other barriers exist that can impede their innovation. In many cases, these barriers exist for good reason, such as health and safety.

However, in many cases, the activity simply continues unmonitored or goes underground. Which means the barriers that existed for good reason simply lead to the outcomes policy makers may have been seeking to avoid. Community and partners and city government actors that take the time to work with immigrant communities where this activity is happening can find a middle ground, that can pay even greater dividends for all involved.

The case studies below show what can happen to a community when the effort is made to include – not shut down. Community revitalization, increased employment, overall positive impacts on a neighbourhood or city’s economic development, and a greater sense of welcoming and integrating for newcomers.

The following good ideas in immigrant entrepreneur integration and support come from our sister site, Cities of Migration.

Porta Palazzo and the Balon Flea Market

With over one thousand merchants and 700 street vendors, Porta Palazzo is a commercial hub whose opportunities have always attracted newcomers to the city. This regular influx of new cultural communities also makes the market an urban lab for cultural integration. In 2000 nearly 20 per cent of those living and working in the market were foreign born, compared to the city average of 4 per cent. Today, over 45 nationalities live in this densely populated inner-city neighborhood.

Unique to Porta Palazzo is the Balon flea market and its mix of registered, formal and informal vendors. Since 1935, irregular migrants have had the right to ‘exchange’ goods on the market by a special city statute. However, in 2001, that right was temporarily withdrawn, and the relative stability and security of the area rapidly declined and threatened the commercial vitality of the market and the whole neighbourhood.

The Porta Palazzo project identified the quality of urban space as an incentive to economic development, as well as the means to resolve high levels of local unemployment and crime. Unemployment in the neighborhood stood at 12.8 per cent, compared to about 6 per cent in the city as a whole, and barriers to formal entry into the labor force pushed many immigrants into illegal or informal work, often in the neighborhood’s daily market. In 2002, the project evolved into a Local Development Agency project and involved both public institutions and private partners, and broad community representation. Using a participatory community model, the project included the participation and empowerment of the irregular or unlicensed merchants. This decision was the result of an assessment which showed that while tensions between the licensed and unlicensed vendors were at the root of many of the other social, security and space issues, this group of 300 vendors was a vital part of the local economy.

Through a deliberate process and the engagement of informal and formal leaders (including the Deputy Mayor on Economic Development and the Municipal Police), the Porta Palazzo, Living Not Leaving project succeeded in having irregular vendors recognised in the new legal category of “non professionals.” The vendors were given a dedicated space in the market. Read more.

Naan in the Park: Re-imagining Public Space

A local women’s group re-imagines their neighbourhood. From reclaiming public space for community participation to exploring new economic opportunities, the Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee (TPWC) in Toronto has facilitated an active role for women and local residents in community life in every sense of the word. Early on, the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office (TNO), a community-based non-profit agency, was quick to notice the initiative and enthusiasm of the women’s group and helped TPWC with an initial grant of $1,000. Jehad Aliweiwi, the former TNO executive director, sees these women as social entrepreneurs and their projects as good models for micro-economic development.

The TPWC is credited with opening North America’s first tandoor oven in a park. “The idea came when we were discussing types of cooking fires within the community members from Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. The most common thing was the tandoor. As other parks have pizza ovens, we thought being a predominantly South Asian community, it would be good to have a tandoor that others in the city could learn about,” says Sabina Ali, a founder of the TPWC.

But it has not always been easy for this pioneering group of women. The weekly summer bazaar, for example, has presented repeated challenges. “Every season I have to convince the City that these are not businesses. We have to tell them that we are building communities and supporting local enterprise.  If we don’t give them opportunities, how will these newcomers feel confident and integrate?” says Ali. The market provides a platform for women to participate in public life.

“At the next level I take them to other markets in the GTA [Greater Toronto Area] so they can gain exposure to the broader community. It’s a different experience for them. It’s one step at a time to self-employment and being part of the local business community,” says Ali. The TPWC also runs a catering group made of local women that has gained business through the different connections and partners it has made in the city. Read more.

More Than Money: Competitions and Awards Boost Immigrant Entrepreneurs


Recognize immigrant entrepreneurs, and support them, with a high profile competition or award ceremony.

Despite language barriers, immigrant entrepreneurs in cities world-wide are posting big dividends for local economies. In many cities around the world, immigrant entrepreneurs account for a far higher percentage of entrepreneurs than their share of the population would suggest. Modern local economic development initiatives recognize how immigrants are an increasingly vital source of city growth.

Building a competition or awards ceremony to recognize immigrant entrepreneur achievements and contributions also serves to highlight their important place in local economies. Partnerships with local industry leaders and important institutions provide expertise, influence and incentives for winners. Not only does that continue to build on the innovation and efforts of immigrant entrepreneurs, it also signals to others that they are valued and can find similar support for their efforts.

The following good ideas in immigrant entrepreneur integration and support come from our sister site, Cities of Migration.

Competition THRIVE: Making the City Stronger

Recognizing the contribution of immigrant entrepreneurs helps promote small business success and build a network of business leaders. Competition To Help Reach Immigrant Ventures and Entrepreneurs (THRIVE) is an immigrant entrepreneur support competition. Launched by the city of New York’s Economic Development Corporation in 2011 as part of its mission to “make the city stronger,” the project generates financially sustainable business plans that can address the challenges faced by immigrant entrepreneurs in New York City.

Rather than award individual entrepreneurs, Competition THRIVE invites established non-profit organizations to develop proposals for scalable programs that promote growth opportunities for the city’s immigrant businesses. The plans must address the challenges they face, such as access to credit, financial management, language barriers, and access to business networks and are judged according to feasibility, applicability, scalability, and sustainability. Learn more.

Reaching out to Immigrant Entrepreneurs in Munich

A business plan competition to help immigrant entrepreneurs with small business ventures. Since 2010, the City of Munich has handed out the Phoenix Prize at an annual gala at City Hall, awarding €1,000 to each of three winners who exemplify “outstanding economic achievements and social responsibility efforts of migrant enterprises.” These exemplary individuals may be successful entrepreneurs. They may have hired or created opportunities for young trainees or apprentices from migrant backgrounds, supported diversity within their workforce, or invested within the city.

The Phoenix Prize is one of four components of the Migrant Entrepreneurs in Munich (MEM) program, run by the city’s Department of Labour and Economic Development, Local Employment and Qualification Policy. It’s part of the Munich Employment and Qualification Program (MBQ), through which the City of Munich pursues its primary labour market strategy. Currently sponsoring more than 110 projects and activities, the program seeks to improve the employment prospects of disadvantaged persons in Munich’s labour market. Migrant entrepreneurs are one of the key target groups. Learn more.

Micro Loans as Start-up Finance for Immigrant Entrepreneurs


Micro loans are both popular and successful in many immigrant source countries. Relatively nascent in the West, models in place have already shown success with a value-added approach.

Finding capital is a common challenge faced by immigrant entrepreneurs. While some business owners rely on informal lending circles for the finance they need, working outside the formal economy can also limit further growth.

Innovative cities and community partners, that recognize the challenges around raising capital for immigrant entrepreneurs, are experimenting with micro loans as part of the solution.

From the experience of a few seasoned models, it’s clear successful loan programs don’t stop at the money. A value-added approach sees immigrant entrepreneurs as part of a community and recognizes they may have other systems to navigate. Building other supports into a credit or loan program, working with other community supports to help them integrate, explore pathways to success and provide guidance that complements financial institution expertise helps ensure that immigrant entrepreneurs have the support they need.

The following good ideas in immigrant entrepreneur integration and support come from our sister site, Cities of Migration.

Economic Integration through Integrated Services

Access to capital and business counselling promotes entrepreneurial success and helps revitalize city neighbourhoods. The City of Philadelphia quickly recognized the role of immigrant entrepreneurs in revitalizing communities, providing goods and services to neighborhood residents, and developing the local economy. To help immigrant entrepreneurs navigate the system, the Department of Commerce recruited multilingual and multicultural staff and introduced language services. However, technical assistance programs and language training were not the only issues standing in the way of immigrant business success. Immigrant entrepreneurs needed access to credit to grow their businesses and confidence in the financial institutions that could help them develop sustainable investment practices.

Rotating Savings and Credit Association (ROSCA) was launched in 2010 when the city invited two of its community partners, micro-lenders FINANTA and Entrepreneur Works, to design and coordinate a lending circle program for low income business owners. ROSCA lending circles typically are made up of 14 entrepreneurs who receive a $1,400 loan and must pay back $100 per week during a 15 week period. Participants gain credit history while developing professional networks and relationships with lenders (who report back to credit bureaus). Business counseling workshops help entrepreneurs improve their business processes as well as appreciate the importance of credit and on-going investment in their businesses. Learn more.

Investing in Potential

A micro loan model prepares newcomers for employment and invests in their long-term success. Alberta’s Immigrant Access Fund (IAF) Loan Program provides internationally trained newcomers, regardless of occupation or training, with loans of up to $10,000 to help cover costs to get back to work in their field in Canada. Most loans cover training, professional fees, exam expenses, assessments and books, but an IAF loan is for whatever will lead to employment success.

A lending program that is flexible and community focused is part of IAF’s niche success. When starting the program, the option of partnering with a bank or formal lending institution was excluded in favour of a flexible community-based approach that allowed IAF to lend to whomever they want, be flexible in renegotiating loan terms should a newcomer experience difficulty and ensure that their loan work is connected to the local community. “IAF invests in people who the banks would turn away – people who have skills and abilities our society needs…. IAF loans are made to people who are trustworthy and are of good character. We lend to people not based on where they are today, but where we believe they will be in the future.”

Each IAF loan is rooted in the place where the newcomer lives and is based on trust. If someone is having trouble, IAF’s loan managers are available and ready to refer them to community supports for help. Pre-loan, if they decide a loan applicant’s learning plan isn’t going to be successful, the applicant is referred to a community partner for help refining the plan. Learn more.

Cities Help Deliver the Immigrant Entrepreneur Value Proposition


Helping immigrant and immigrant-owned businesses results in better social and economic integration, and international market opportunities for cities.

How do cities re-charge their economic engines and stay competitive in a globalized economy? Embracing immigrant entrepreneurs and immigrant-owned small businesses leads to better outcomes not only for newcomers, but for cities themselves.

Are immigrants natural entrepreneurs? Or, do the labour market barriers that many professionals face lead them to a path of entrepreneurship or small business? Regardless of the reasons, the reality is that thriving newcomer entrepreneurs and businesses create a variety of positive spin-offs for local economies. Ranging from local employment to accelerating settlement all the way to creating international business opportunities, supporting immigrant entrepreneurs leads to success for many others as well.

In the following examples, from our sister site, Cities of Migration, local government and voluntary sector actors have embarked on diverse initiatives to support immigrant entrepreneurs. From starting, managing and growing a business, to ensuring that immigrant-led businesses adhere to legal and regulatory practices, these good ideas involve practices that can be replicated in other regions and cities.

Relying on Immigrant Networks: Business Network Aachen

The city establishes a local immigrant network to develop international economic opportunities. One in twelve companies in Aachen, Germany, is foreign-owned. The city is also seeing the emergence of a significant rise in the number of “transnational entrepreneurs.” The city wanted to tap into networks already in place where immigrant entrepreneurs have access to two or more sets of networks, in Aachen and other cities in Germany and in the country or city of their birth. Immigrant-run companies in knowledge-intensive sectors have an edge in promoting the city to networks in their executives’ country of origin.

Officially launched in April 2011, the Business Network Aachen holds regular networking events as well as workshops to discuss strategies, plans and goals to develop existing and new contacts for building business opportunities. Since the emphasis is on inclusion, not all members need to have an immigrant background. They only need to be interested in strengthening Aachen as an international business location to become a member of the voluntary network. To ensure success, other prominent organizations are also involved, such as the Aachen Chamber of Commerce and the RWTH Aachen University. Learn more.

Better Business: Integrating the Chinese Business Community into the Mainstream

Helping immigrant-owned businesses conform to legal and regulatory practice results in better social and economic integration. According to 2005 data from the Italian Chamber of Commerce, Bologna, Italy, includes 1,100 Chinese-owned craft workshops, representing 20 per cent of the companies in the area. These companies employ approximately 9,000 Chinese migrant workers. Efforts to bring the business practices of the Chinese bosses in line with the Italian labour laws hasn’t been easy and in the interim the perception that Chinese-owned businesses were not complying with Italian laws on working hours, and health and safety conditions have led to allegations of unfair competition that have divided the communities.

In 2000, the Consorzio Spinner, a local consortium of research and economic development groups, was formed to connect with the Chinese community and encourage Chinese entrepreneurs to regularize their businesses by adhering to Italian labour standards. The intervention focused equally on reforming business practices inside the Chinese workshop and the problem of local hostility between the Italian community and Chinese workers. The long term goal of the Spinner intervention was to transform these immigrant workers into active members of a vibrant local economy and to create greater social cohesion. Learn more.

Immigrant Businesses get a Helping Hand

Supporting immigrant entrepreneurs before problems arise. Supporting immigrant entrepreneurs has risen on city agendas around the world as studies show that immigrants start businesses at a higher rate than native-born citizens. EnterpriseHelsinki, a free business counselling service for the city’s entrepreneurs, has the proof. Thirty-five per cent of their clients are immigrants, triple their share of their population. Another reason to support immigrant entrepreneurs? A City of Helsinki report states these businesses have longer ‘lifespans’ than those started by the native-born population.

One of the aims of EnterpriseHelsinki is to help immigrant entrepreneurs before they encounter problems within Finnish business culture which is known for its bureaucratic nature. Although they start more businesses than native-born Finns, immigrants are seen to seek help only once they have encountered problems. And EnterpriseHelsinki is able to cater beyond the aging stereotype of immigrant businesses – the ‘pizza and kebab’ entrepreneurs. “Immigrants just don’t establish restaurants or cleaning companies,” says Elie El-Khouri, Project Manager of Enterprise Helsinki. “Now they start up IT companies just like Finns.” Learn more.

Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Immigrants

What’s good for business is good for new immigrants and entrepreneurs. Immigrants to Barcelona, Spain, already have the entrepreneurial spirit: nearly a third of all participants in the activities of boosting entrepreneurship are immigrants, despite making up only 18 per cent of the overall population. Barcelona Activa was able to respond quickly with programs and an advice centre that could harness this new source of entrepreneurial energy and investment. Training and employment activities that had been established to reach young people and women, as well as the traditionally business-minded, were adapted to meet the needs of new immigrants.

Barcelona Activa operates 30 programs for entrepreneur incubation and has become one of the main motors for employment and innovation in the city of Barcelona, annually coaching upwards of 1,000 business projects, resulting in the consolidation and establishment of more than 300 recently created businesses. Each year more than 40,000 participants pass through its Glories Entrepreneurship Centre, for business plan coaching, training activities for entrepreneurs, e-resources, or for networking and marketing activities. Learn more.

Business Law for Immigrant Entrepreneurs

Improving business outcomes by connecting immigrant entrepreneurs to pro bono legal services. Starting a small business is a challenge anywhere, in any economy, whatever the tax or legal system. It is one thing to come up with the great idea, it is another to navigate the risks and pitfalls of a business start-up. The average immigrant entrepreneur has the initiative, drive and appetite for hard work that’s required for success. But managing risk and understanding the legal structures of a new country? That really is like speaking a new language.

Connect Legal fosters entrepreneurship in the immigrant community by providing legal education workshops and pro bono (free) commercial legal assistance to low-resource immigrant entrepreneurs. Many immigrants are accidental entrepreneurs. A 2010 Statistics Canada study found that 33 per cent of self-employed immigrants became self-employed due to a lack of job opportunities in the paid labour market, compared to just 20 per cent of those self-employed who were non-immigrants. But, they’re not always prepared for the legal and regulatory knowledge needed to be successful. Connect Legal provides a free Lawyer Matching Program, connecting immigrant entrepreneurs with volunteer lawyers from Connect Legal’s well-established professional network. Each lawyer works one-on-one with the client/entrepreneur to address specific legal needs related to the growth of his or her business. This includes drafting contracts, obtaining permits and negotiating agreements that are essential to starting and building their business. Learn more.

Entrepreneurship Starts at Home: How Research Can Inform Policy

By Jason Wiens, Policy Director, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

Reprinted from the 2015 Kauffman Thoughtbook with permission from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

If states are our nation’s laboratories of democracy, we can think of America’s cities as the petri dishes.

Diverse in size, location, assets, and governance, U.S. cities are perfect proving grounds for policy innovations that can spur entrepreneurship and economic growth.

At the Kauffman Foundation, our research is increasingly pointing to the importance of location to entrepreneurship. Even in a digital and hyper-connected world, entrepreneurs are locally embedded and responsive to the distinct environments in which they exist. That means there are a set of city- and regional-specific policies that may impact entrepreneurs, which need study, thought, and elucidation.

Broadly, more research is needed to better understand the regional ecosystem of entrepreneurship and how it evolves. We are seeking to find out how entrepreneurs are connected, or not, to one another in their communities and what role local resources play in promoting entrepreneurship.

We also are conducting research on economic development strategies and how these policies either support or fail to support entrepreneurs. And being engaged in research, we want to know what additional methods of data collection can be employed to inform future work.

With our expertise and resources, the Kauffman Foundation is uniquely positioned to pursue these questions and translate our findings into actionable policy prescriptions.

Already, our research has looked at the geography and characteristics of fast-growing firms. Importantly, this work found that innovative, fast-growing companies are located in cities across the country in a variety of sectors and that the presence of a highly skilled workforce is more significant to growth firms than commonly assumed assets like the presence of venture capital investment or high-quality research universities.

This implies that policies to develop and attract talented labor are especially important when it comes to local and regional economic growth.

Other studies are dispelling myths about which cities are hubs for technology startups – those companies known for growth and innovation – and the roles universities, entrepreneurship programs, and local governments play in their development.

“Research universities and other postsecondary institutions are important for metropolitan entrepreneurship, but are not the sole cause in spurring such activity. Instead, the most fertile source of entrepreneurial spawning is the population of existing companies, which has implications for economic policymaking and economic development strategies.”

We also are beginning to explore how local entrepreneurship programs influence startup education and networking. An initial project surveyed participants in 1 Million Cups (1MC) Kansas City, which is a Kauffman program designed to engage, educate, and connect entrepreneurs. Our researchers studied participants’ networks to learn how entrepreneurial communities form and grow. Dozens of cities host 1MC and this research can be replicated in those locations to provide unique insights while also allowing us to draw broad conclusions.

The findings reinforce the importance of a local support system. Entrepreneurs follow local entrepreneurs on social media more than the well-known national “gurus,” for instance. We also learned important insights about how entrepreneurs are connected not only to one another, but also to support organizations.

Notably, the survey results indicate the existence of different programs and events that engage entrepreneurs at different stages of the entrepreneurial journey—a sign of a healthy ecosystem. We look forward to expanding on this research and sharing lessons with policymakers as we learn them.

As part of our continuing interest in immigrant entrepreneurship, Foundation-funded research on the geographic distribution of high-tech immigrant entrepreneurs found that 80 percent of immigrant high-tech entrepreneurs operate in the twenty-five largest U.S. metropolitan areas, compared with just 57 percent of their U.S.-born counterparts. This clustering has implications for regional economic development and cities hoping to attract foreign entrepreneurs.

The unique influences of location necessitate policy engagement with municipal leaders so that mayors are equipped with data and research-backed ideas to support entrepreneurs. We are cultivating relationships with local policymakers to arm these leaders with the information and policy tools they need to foster entrepreneurship.

For instance, the Kauffman Foundation collaborated with Kansas City Mayor Sylvester James to convene a gathering of mayors and city leaders from across the country to discuss their role in supporting entrepreneurship.

This first-ever Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship in 2013 illuminated the distinction between small businesses and young businesses and served as a forum for discussion of ideas and policies that can help young businesses grow.

The second Mayors Conference, held in Louisville, Kentucky, and hosted by Louisville’s Mayor Greg Fischer, focused on the “Maker Movement.” Meanwhile, many who attended the first Mayors Conference also joined city and state leaders from around the country for a conference at the Foundation focused on incentives that can jumpstart entrepreneurship at the state and local levels.

Mayors have been energized by these events and have expressed a hunger for more data and policy ideas. To meet that need, we are distilling our research into short educational policy briefs specifically designed for policymakers. We also are exploring partnership opportunities with organizations that can expand our reach and magnify our impact. With more than 700 incorporated cities and towns in the United States with populations greater than 50,000, the value and necessity of partners are clear.

Federal and state laws certainly also have an impact on an entrepreneur’s business. Our role in learning about state and national policy challenges will continue, as will our efforts to educate policymakers in Washington, D.C., and state capitals. However, the importance of local policy combined with the opportunity to help cities become more supportive of entrepreneurship compels us to move in this direction.

New Direction: Entrepreneurship

An Editor’s Notes series on the new direction of Hire Immigrants international. 

Governments have a big role in creating the conditions for immigrant entrepreneurs to start and grow a business. There is increasing awareness about the value that immigrant entrepreneurs bring to the country and to local economies. For example, we know that in Canada, companies that export to non-US markets that are owned by recent immigrants are among the fastest-growing SMEs. In Silicon Valley, 52 per cent of startups between 1995 and 2005 had a founder who was born outside the United States.

But there is also a growing body of knowledge on the barriers faced by newcomers with a business idea.

Even as there is good news, as in the statistics mentioned above, there is also not-so-good news. The number of start-ups founded by the foreign-born in Silicon Valley has fallen, which some link to restricted visas. And while immigrant-owned SMEs are among the fastest growing, they are also among the least profitable.

Along with the problems, there are solutions – found in immigration policy to local government support to targeted capital funds to entrepreneur mentoring programs.

The solutions come from all over the world, and we suspect many of the problems are shared too. Even problems that are certainly place-based, like rigid bylaws, may have already been solved somewhere else.

The Direction

Our goal is to collect the latest thinking on the policies and programs that support immigrant entrepreneurs from pre-arrival, through the start-up phase, and into managing and growing a business.

We want to take a closer look at the profile of the immigrant entrepreneur in different sectors. What did they do before starting a country? What is their background and immigration status? What are their values and motivations? Why did they start a company? Why (or why not) do they trade abroad?

We want to examine the success factors, and enable them. How do immigrants access sufficient capital? How do they find sector-specific networking? How do they develop cultural and language skills? How do they develop a business plan? How do they gain experience? How do they diversify?

We want analyze the role of government, and the latest thinking on the policies and programs that incentivize and enable entrepreneurship. How do governments attract immigrant entrepreneurs? How do they retain them? What are the policy opportunities for national and sub-national governments? What are the emerging policy areas – like diaspora and trade? What’s been tried and tested elsewhere?

The Value

We will not duplicate the excellent body of work out there. We will collect it, and make it relevant for policy makers and researchers globally. A particular focus of ours will be on comparative. Wherever we can, we’ll present policy options and good ideas in pairs, to show “what works” in more than one jurisdiction.

The immense opportunities in the field of immigrant entrepreneurship are evident. This is true as demographics change and foreign-born populations rise, and as SMEs are faraway the largest employer group in most countries. Along with a section devoted to tools, resources and insights for immigrant entrepreneurs [link], we will make entrepreneurship a core focus area of Hire Immigrants.

Did you know?

  • Similar to many other countries, in Canada, small businesses account for over 98 per cent of employers (Industry Canada).
  • Across half the OECD in 2012, around 70 per cent of start-ups were born because of opportunity or taking over a family business, as opposed to necessity (OECD 2014).
  • In the US, immigrants are nearly twice as likely to start a business as native-born (Kauffman Foundation).
  • More than 40 per cent of Fortune 500 companies in 2010 were founded by immigrants (Partnership for a New American Economy).
  • In 2011, 76 per cent of patents going to the top ten patent-producing US universities had at least one foreign-born inventor (Partnership for a New American Economy).
  • In the US as of June 2013, immigrant-founded venture-backed companies had a total market capitalization of $900 billion. If these companies were a country, its stock exchange value would rank sixteenth, above Russia and South Africa (National Venture Capital Association).

The World’s Most Talent Ready Countries, 2014

Talent is moving around the world faster than ever before. Countries that remain open to it are building a competitive edge.

By Paul Evans, Academic Director of the INSEAD Global Talent Competitiveness Index and Bruno Lanvin, INSEAD Executive Director for Global Indices

The pace of change in the knowledge economy is reaching unprecedented speed. Rapid technological change, coupled with a globally mobile workforce is bringing benefits to countries able to harness the energy of the young and ambitious, and raising challenges to those unable to attract and grow this precious resource.

The second edition of the Global Talent Competitiveness Index, created by INSEAD, in partnership with Singapore’s Human Capital Leadership Institute and Adecco confirms that talent competitiveness is closely linked to wealth: high income countries again lead the top-scoring countries in the GTCI 2014.  With world-class universities, rich countries also have a greater ability to attract foreign talents through better quality of life and higher remuneration – all of which drive up diversity.

In the ranking of 93 countries, which measures their ability to attract and incubate talent, European countries continue to dominate this year’s list with 16 of them in the top 25.  Switzerland maintains its number one spot, while four non-European countries are among the top ten: Singapore, the United States, Canada and Australia.

Read more

Enhancing Immigrants’ Essential ‘Soft’ Skills – a win-win solution

Virtually every job requires competencies in nine essential skills. Do you know what they are? Learn about the tools and resources available to employers to assess and support essential “soft skills” among employees, including new immigrants. 

By hire immigrants Ottawa

Finding and keeping workers with the knowledge and skills needed to get the job done is critical for today’s businesses. Learning more about the nine essential skills used in nearly every job can help you reap the benefits of effectively engaging immigrants at work.

Presentation by Shareef Korah and Lindsey McIntosh of the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills: Why Employers Should Care about Essential Skills.

Many employers recognize that immigrants have the technical skills required to complete workplace tasks, but often find that they lack the equally valued “soft skills”, such as communication, problem-solving and teamwork, to excel at work.

A pilot project led by Bow Valley College, Success in the Workplace: Essential Skills Training for Immigrant Professionalsfound that this “disconnect” between the skills workers thought they needed (technical) and those their employers wanted (soft skills) often faded once both learned about the importance of essential skills.

Essential skills offer employers a common language that can help both employers and employees identify skills gaps and support essential skills development to increase job potential.

Integrating essential skills into business practices does not have to be time consuming or complicated. For example:

  • The Vocabulary Building Workbook can be used with immigrant workers to boost their communication skills – both oral and written – through a variety of exercises that teach new words commonly used in the Canadian workplace.

Businesses that effectively attract, retain and engage skilled immigrants benefit from increased innovation, productivity and overall competitiveness. Boost your success by tapping into this vital source of talent – and use essential skills to get you started.

For more information on essential skills and to access helpful guides, checklists and worksheets, check out the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills’ website.

Shareef Korah
Policy Analyst at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Office of Literacy and Essentials Skills-OLES

Toronto is diverse but not as inclusive as it could be

Toronto exemplifies multiculturalism, but struggles with inclusion and equality of opportunity.

By Carol Goar, Toronto Star

“Having diversity is interesting,” said Zabeen Hirji, chief human resources officer for the Royal Bank non-commitally. “It’s when you do something with it that it becomes powerful.”

She had put her finger on one of the biggest challenges facing this city: moving from diversity to inclusion.

As a woman, an Ismaili Muslim and an immigrant from Tanzania, Hirji is acutely aware of the difference. Many Torontonians are not.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the United Way of Toronto, Hirji was careful not to offend the business leaders in the room. (Eighty per cent of the charity’s funds come from the corporate sector in direct donations and employee payroll contributions). But she made it clear that diversity — which Toronto has in abundance — is simply a description of the city’s talent pool. Inclusion is the act of tapping into the whole pool — not just the top layer — and mixing people from disparate cultures, backgrounds and generations together in a way that allows them to combine their strengths.

On that score, Toronto doesn’t do as well. Very few immigrants — who make up 46 per cent of the city’s population — hold senior positions in business, politics or civil society. Racialized Torontonians — as they call themselves — are disproportionately poor, underemployed and socially isolated.

Many influential Torontonians who could reach out — corporate CEOs, political leaders and heads of major public institutions — don’t; or don’t do it effectively. Many immigrants and their descendents in turn, live in ethnic enclaves, work for employers from their country of origin and socialize among themselves.

 Hirji wasn’t there to preach. Her primary message was that harnessing the talent and energy of young people, newcomers, members of First Nations, gays and lesbians and other minorities is good for business and good for the city. She offered three tips, drawn from her 13 years spearheading RBC’s drive to make its workforce a better reflection of the population: Start with a clear commitment from the top, develop an explicit plan and get buy-in from all employees.

2013-14 WIL Award: Sarah Tattersall,Talent Solutions Manager at 3M Canada

HR champion has assisted skilled immigrants in achieving meaningful employment in their fields.

By WIL Employment Connections

Each year, WIL is very pleased to recognize an individual, group or company that has demonstrated Winning, Innovation and Leadership as related to the clients served by our organization. This year, our selection committee unanimously and enthusiastically selected Sarah Tattersall as the receipient of the 2014 WIL Award.

As Talent Solutions Manager at 3M Canada, Sarah has consistently volunteered her time and talents to assist WIL’s clients in achieving meaningful employment in their fields. She demonstrates a WINNING commitment to connecting business and newcomer talent within her company and London Region’s broader business community.

Read more here.


3M Uses Language Game to Build Cultural Competence
A five-minute language exercise helps 3M supervisors better understand the experiences of skilled immigrant employees who speak English as a second language. 

The Forgotten Person in Today’s Immigrant

Alan Broadbent, reminds us that we must remember the immigrant’s long term contribution to the labour market and to the nation.

By Alan Broadbent, Chairman, Maytree

Most of the public discourse about immigrants these days centres on the foundering temporary foreign worker program which has cast our view of immigrants as one dimensional people filling jobs at the low end of the labour market.

This immigrant is portrayed as a simple cog in the economy, doing work that Canadians may or may not want to do (depending on who is talking). According to this portrait, they are not here for long, they are easily replaced when they leave, they are alone, and they are completely at the whim of the employer who has laid claim to them. They are a picture of economic desperation, willing to move anywhere to work at low wages under any conditions, because it is better than what they can find at home. It is a simplistic view of a human being.

It is too simplistic by a wide margin. Where in that portrait is the whole person? Where is her or his family: spouse, parents, children, siblings, cousins? Where is their community, the place where they can fall back to find support and succour? Where are their dreams of a future life? Where do they sing and dance, pray and love?

And what is the ultimate benefit to Canada? Where in this simplistic concept of the immigrant do we inspire them to become the citizen to stand with us in the building of a great country? Where do they become the neighbour that makes our community strong? Where do they become the friend on whom we can rely over the years? And where do they become the parent of the person our sons and daughters marry?

Canada was built by whole people who lived their lives in many dimensions. We can view them now as people who built the railway, grew the wheat, or made our cities. At the same time they lived in the round as Canadians, at our schools and places of worship, in our new businesses, in the concert halls and sporting arenas, in our shops and at our parks. They were in good part families, providing the support and motivation that made adjusting to life in a new country easier.

Since the start of the 20th century Canada’s immigration policy has focused on a fit with the economy of the country: in Laurier’s time it was populating the prairies with cold weather farmers; at the end of the century it was human capital that would engender success in the knowledge economy. That focus is nothing new, and has worked well.

But the policy did not forget the whole person, and worked at helping them succeed in many dimensions. It did so in good part by recognizing that families help support the individual and build the community. It did so by recognizing that humans dream of a secure and happy future for them and those they love.

We risk making immigrants the forgotten person by focusing only on their short-term contribution to the labour market, and we risk our country’s future at the same time.

Why not use Refugees to Solve our Temporary Foreign Worker Problem?

Create a system to link refugees who are ready to work, with businesses that are currently using the Temporary Foreign Worker program to fill permanent jobs. 

By Howard Adelman, Naomi Alboim and Mike Molloy, The Globe and Mail

Howard Adelman is a Professor Emeritus at York University and a founder of Operation Lifeline. Naomi Alboim is a fellow at the Queen’s University School of Policy Studies and a former Ontario Deputy Minister of Citizenship. Mike Molloy is a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, and a former Canadian Ambassador to Jordan.

Two separate announcements were made by ministers of the Crown on Friday, June 20, World Refugee Day.

The first, made by Chris Alexander, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, announced a contribution of $50.7-million to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to help that organization in its protection and relief efforts with Syrian refugees.

While this is welcomed, there was no announcement by the minister about Canada’s response to the UNHCR’s request to allocate additional resettlement places over the original 1,300 previously agreed to by the Canadian government for these refugees. Nor has there been a clear statement by the minister as to how many of those Syrian refugees have actually arrived in Canada.

The second announcement was made by Jason Kenney, the Minister of Employment and Social Development, and Mr. Alexander, about changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. These changes will make it far more difficult for employers to bring in TFWs to fill low-skilled, low-wage jobs.

There is an important potential connection between these two announcements. This connection was not made by either minister.

Read more here.

Moving Beyond Headlines Towards a More Diverse Judiciary

Diversity at the top of the legal profession is a social imperative as lawyers and judges are in the forefront of advocacy and social change. 

By Ranjit Bhaskar, Maytree

The lack of diversity among superior court judges in Canada that made headlines recently has been flagged before by several studies. In reported comments, Peter MacKay, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, has been anecdotal on why there is a lack of women on federally appointed court benches while being silent on why the number of visible minority judges is so low.

Minister MacKay’s inability to offer insight into an opaque process that produces a demographically skewed judiciary may stem from lack of official data. While we know that female judges account for 382 out of 1,120 federal judges, the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs does not track the numbers of visible minority appointees. The Canadian Bar Association, in an assessment of the procedures for the appointment of judges, has identified the lack of data about representation of visible minorities in the judiciary as a major barrier to progress.

According to a Globe and Mail and University of Ottawa analysis, in the past five and a half years Ottawa appointed just a handful of non-white judges out of the nearly 200 first-time justices it has named to the bench. Improving Representation in the Judiciary: A Diversity Strategy,  a study released by Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute in 2012, revealed that while some progress has been made with female representation, it remains stalled in
the case of visible minorities. Just 2.3% of the federally appointed judges analyzed based on a sample of 221 were visible minorities.

There is a higher percentage of visible minority judges among Ontario’s appointees. In a sample of 138, 10.9% are visible minorities compared to 15% of practicing lawyers in the province. The better representation could be partly attributed to the differences in the appointment processes between the federal and provincial courts.

More open and transparent process

While not perfect, the Ontario Court of Justice requires a broadly constituted appointments committee that reflects the diverse population of the province, the Diversity Institute study said. The process is also made more open and transparent by announcing and advertising vacancies and reaching out to communities. In contrast, the study found the federal process appeared to be less transparent, with decision-making more concentrated in the hands of politicians.

The Diversity Institute research, part of a large multi-year study, builds on an earlier examination commissioned by the Maytree-Civic Action DiverseCity Counts project. That report, released in 2011, showed just 6.8% of leaders in the Greater Toronto Area legal sector were visible minorities, relative to 49.5% of the population studied. Judges, justices of the peace, governing bodies, law school leaders, partners in the top 20 law firms and crown attorneys in the area were included in the study. It reinforced an earlier report that showed only 14.4% of practicing lawyers in the area were visible minorities.

Previous research also suggests that barriers to entry persist in law firms. The Canadian Association of Black Lawyers has said legal professionals from the community do not have equal access to articling and post-call positions in corporate and commercial law firms. Immigrant lawyers, particularly visible minorities, also find it difficult to get their credentials recognized. They face barriers to advancement and are frequently offered non-permanent contract positions with fewer leadership opportunities.

As judicial appointments are inherently political processes relying heavily on informal networks for nominations, visible minorities are less likely to have access to them. This very lack of diversity throughout the path makes the likelihood of finding visible minorities in positions that lead to judicial appointments more difficult.

What this implies is that not only does the problem increase as we move up the value chain, but lower down, the reservoir of talent that supplies the federal courts doesn’t reflect Canada’s changing demographics, either.

Diversity at the top of the legal profession is a social imperative as lawyers and judges are in the forefront of advocacy and social change. The federal government should take the lead to ensure fair representation in a sector that is critical to our democratic society. It could start by establishing clear diversity goals, tracking the number of diverse appointees, and establishing a more open and transparent process.

Ten Ideas to Celebrate Diversity

Steps to create a more inclusive workplace.

By Hire Immigrants Ottawa

Here are 10 ideas that you can use to celebrate diversity in your workplace throughout the year and to create a more inclusive workplace. Honouring other faiths and beliefs can help to bridge the gap between us and those who are different from us. Trust is built when respect is felt.

  1. Hang a world map in your main office/hallway and have each staff member pinpoint their birthplace.
  2. Organize an intercultural potluck and invite everyone to write a short description of the food they contributed so that others can learn about the dish and the culture.
  3. Create a Learn at Lunch Day/Series where those who wish can share an aspect of their culture not usually known. Include Canadian-born staff as well!
  4. Honour religious differences by learning something about the faith practised by each member of your staff. Acknowledge major religious holidays and celebrations, perhaps combining with learn at lunch.
  5. Count the number of languages spoken in your office/department and post next to the world map.
  6. Invite your diverse staff to a focus group on how they have adapted to the work culture in your organization. Use their feedback to help new immigrant staff feel welcome and integrated.
  7. Organize a book group or movie day where either a book or film from another country is shown or discussed.
  8. When you interact with others, remember that immigrants and refugees carry an invisible backpack of history that we cannot see. Invite one of your diverse staff members to share their story in your company newsletter or bulletin.
  9. Ask if diverse staff members would like to organize a cooking demo at lunch and prepare a traditional or common food from their country of origin.
  10. Include intercultural elements into your coursework or other office initiative (for example, if you work in a counselling centre, organize a day where diverse staff members can share how counselling is practised in their home country) to increase understanding.


TRIEC Thanks RBC and Gordon Nixon

As chair of TRIEC, RBC’s CEO Gordon Nixon has been a champion of  immigrant inclusion in the workforce. This article was originally posted on the Maytree blog.


By Sandhya Ranjit, TRIEC

Ever since the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) was founded 10 years ago by Maytree and CivicAction, RBC has been a key partner, partnering in and funding many of our initiatives. RBC has also provided leadership through its CEO, Gordon Nixon, and Chief Human Resources Officer, Zabeen Hirji, who have demonstrated their commitment to immigrant integration as chair and co-chair of the TRIEC Council since 2009. Gordon has stated on many occasions that he sees diversity and immigration as important parts of Canada’s past, present and future.

Gordon Nixon is retiring from RBC in the fall of 2014 and will step down as Chair of TRIEC Council. As his last act as Council Chair, Gordon published an op-ed in The Globe and Mail on how a diverse workforce can help enhance our economy.

TRIEC would like to thank him for his partnership.

View this video on the impact of Gordon Nixon’s and RBC’s leadership in immigrant integration.

Investing in Internships

Exploring the business case for paid internships.

By Sydney Helland, Career Edge Organziation

The paid versus unpaid internship debate has intensified in the Ontario business community as the Ministry of Labour cracks down on internships that violate the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA). Meanwhile, employers face continuous pressure to cut costs and stimulate economic growth, making unpaid internships ever more appealing. But can they really help businesses achieve results?

Unpaid internships have been common among both public and private organizations for decades, especially in tough economic times. But, economic uncertainty and budget constraints should not be allowed to compromise employment equity and fairness, internships or otherwise.

In Ontario, both paid and unpaid internships are regulated by the ESA, which stipulates that if a person performs work for another person or an organization, they are considered to be an employee; the term “intern” is essentially irrelevant. As employees, interns are entitled to ESA rights, such as minimum wage, vacation, overtime, and occupational health and safety.

However, there are exceptions for unpaid internships, albeit very limited ones, which are typically restricted to vocational training for college and university students. According to the ESA, an intern is generally considered an employee unless all of the conditions below are met:

  • The training is similar to that which is given in a vocational school,
  • The training is for the benefit of the intern; the intern receives some benefit from the training, such as new knowledge or skills,
  • The employer derives little, if any, benefit from the activity of the intern while he or she is being trained,
  • The intern does not take the job of someone else,
  • The employer is not promising a job at the end of the training, and
  • The intern has been told that they will not be paid for their time.

Read more here.


Low Risk, Big Return: Using Paid Internships to Recruit Skilled Immigrant Talent
Learn about Career Edge’s internship program and its innovative partnership with RBC on supporting business clients of the bank to access internationally trained talent.

Four Ways the Power of Data can Improve Diversity Initiatives

Qualitative data analysis also is useful for getting to the root cause. Key themes emerging from interviews, focus groups or comments from surveys can be insightful.

By Alina Polonskaia and Brian Levine, Financial Post

Developing successful diversity and inclusion strategies at times can be vexing to talent leaders. Many organizations have diversity initiatives that are led by dedicated teams and councils, involve employee-resource groups and offer diversity-training and mentoring programs. Yet, there is little improvement in the representation of women and/or minorities in their ranks.

Many of these efforts stagnate because they simply mimic the practices of others. Diversity and inclusion leaders need the right data and analysis to reveal what needs to be done to effectively build representation and they need to look broadly at talent-management practices.

Lack of evidence specific to the organization makes it that much more challenging to galvanize business leaders to take action. And the absence of a holistic focus and partnership with human resources also severely limits a company’s options. Analytics and a company-wide approach to identifying areas of risk and opportunity have been effective in helping companies achieve what have been elusive objectives.

Mercer’s research shows that the following steps will lead to a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Read more here.

Why Immigration should be a Cornerstone of Canada’s Economic Policy

Canada’s labour force is changing. Justin Smith, the Director of Policy for the Calgary Chamber is taking a look at how improvements to immigration can improve Calgary businesses.  .

The Calgary Chamber was pleased to participate yesterday in the 2014 Western Canadian Immigration Conference organized by the Conference Board of Canada. We spoke on a panel discussing ways to support new Canadians and build an immigration system that is more responsive to the needs of the business community. Throughout the informative and thought-provoking discussion, what became clear was how crucial immigration is to our continued economic growth and competitiveness. In fact, last year was a bit of a turning point when it came to labour market statistics: it marked the first year that Canada’s total net labour force growth was 100% attributable to immigration. Put another way, because of baby boomer retirements and other demographic trends, at least for the foreseeable future, growing our workforce, and by extension our economy, will depend wholly on immigration – there simply aren’t enough Canadians to keep pace.

That means ensuring the efficiency and proper functioning of our labour market, and ensuring that this market is sufficiently resourced, needs to be the cornerstone of Canada’s economic policy, at every level of government. This is particularly true in Western Canada, where a tight labour market is hindering our economic potential; it is limiting our overall output, it is hampering our ability to grow existing industries and diversify into new ones, and it is stifling our capacity for innovation. Despite a solid decade of adjusted approaches and reforms from the federal and provincial governments, and a renewed focus on economic immigration, too many immigrants either lack the skills needed in our market, lack the certification required to practice these skills, or otherwise face significant difficulty in fully integrating into the Canadian economy.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the ideas discussed at the conference.

Read more here.

Look out for Hidden ‘Mediterranean’ Noses

Dr.  Mahzarin Banaji of Harvard University explains that we often underestimate the degree of influence our unconscious biases have on decision-making.

By Ranjit Bhaskar, Maytree

Can having a “Mediterranean” nose hinder your ability to land a seat at a university? Apparently it did at no less a place than Yale in the mid-twentieth century, says Dan A. Oren in his book Joining the Club – A History of Jews and Yale.

Such was the prejudice against Jews at this Ivy League institution that the admission panel came up with a “tactful” code to restrict their enrollment: finding fault with a candidate’s nose and making it reason enough to reject an application.

While such blatant discrimination is unimaginable today, the fact that diversity was unwanted in the club-like atmosphere of Yale in the 1940s has a lesson for all of us, said Mahzarin Banaji, Harvard University professor of social ethics, at an RBC Inclusive Leadership event on May 29, 2014.

“We must ask what it is that we are doing today that would look like the ‘Mediterranean nose’ 50 years from now,” said Dr. Banaji, who is also the co-author of the book Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People.

She said we underestimate the degree of influence our unconscious biases have. Most often strong expectations outweigh or push out the evidence. Put simply, our mindset is not as inclusive as we think it is.

It is a distressing claim, one that tends to surprise those who are confronted by evidence that shows their behaviour is out of sync with their intentions. But research conducted by Dr. Banaji and her colleagues reveals that the human brain is hard-wired to make quick decisions based on a variety of assumptions and experiences without us even knowing it is doing so.

“We’d like to believe we are open-minded, fair and without bias, but research shows otherwise. This is an important, even if uncomfortable, realization for most of us,” said Dr. Banaji.

Deadly Gender Bias

Pointing out the complete irrationality that can arise out of unconscious bias, she cited the case of people judging hurricane risks based on their names. More than six decades of death rates from US hurricanes show that feminine-named hurricanes caused significantly more deaths than those with masculine names. Research indicates that this is because feminine names lead to lower perceived risk and consequently less preparedness.

“While getting killed in hurricanes is an extreme consequence arising out of widely held gender stereotypes, its implications in everyday life are many,” said Dr. Banaji. Research on hidden bias reveals that in spite of the best intentions, most people harbour deep-seated resistance to the “different,” whether that difference is defined by such evident factors as race, gender, ethnicity, age or physical characteristics, or more subtle ones such as background, personality type or experiences.

Dr. Banaji drew on two news photo captions in the aftermath of Hurricane Katarina to illustrate how we unconsciously put into context things we perceive. The caption for the picture of a black woman carrying goods on her head through the flood waters said she had “looted” it. A similar picture of a white couple with backpacks had a caption that said they “found” the goods.

Outsmarting the Brain

As potent as hidden biases can be, the good news is that it is possible to overcome them. Although it requires a courageous approach to inclusiveness in everyday interactions, the solution isn’t complex or costly. Instead, all it takes is a concerted effort to outsmart our own brains through awareness, acknowledgment and consciousness.

The first step to defeat hidden biases is to be honest with ourselves about the blind spots we have. Having a bias is only human. The only shame is in making no effort to improve. “Human beings are an improving species — we have been improving ourselves in every way over millennia,” said Dr. Banaji.

“Comfort with diversity is an acquired taste, just like single malt Scotch,” she quipped. “But we already embrace and encourage it in a variety of spheres. Like for instance diversity in a financial portfolio, diversity in out nutrient intake and the conscious effort to keep the gene pool diverse by not marrying our cousins!”

Related Resources

Report: Outsmarting Our Brains: Overcoming Hidden Biases to Harness Diversity’s True Potential
This EY and RBC report discusses how business leaders need to overcome their hidden biases to be more competitive.

emergiTEL – 2013 RBC Immigrant Success Awards Winner

Telecommunications and IT recruitment agency works closely with candidates to position their skills so employers can clearly see how they meet their needs. 


emergiTEL is a growing recruitment agency that is becoming the go-to source for hard-to-find skills in the telecommunications and IT industry.

emergiTEL supports its candidates, including many new immigrants, by managing their career paths. emergiTEL was the outcome of a tech worker’s realization that tech employers were hard pressed to find skills that they required. An immigrant herself, Aneela Zaib, emergiTEL’s founder and Vice President of sales and marketing, was aware that most of the skills sought by employers were available in Canada. Employers just needed
help finding them.

That’s where emergiTEL comes in. The recruitment agency works closely with its candidates to position their skills so employers can clearly see how they meet their needs. Founded on the belief that experience is valid no matter where it is from, supporting

immigrant employment is a core value for emergiTEL.

“I personally believe that immigrants have a lot to offer. What is missing is confidence and somebody to give them customized attention to help them present themselves in the best way,” says Zaib. “That’s what we do and it helps ensure our clients find the best talent to meet their needs.”

Instead of just trying to place a candidate, emergiTEL works with its candidates to manage their career lifecycle. This is what makes emergiTEL stand out from other recruitment agencies and in particular important for immigrants who may not understand how to position themselves in the Canadian marketplace or how to succeed in an interview with a Canadian employer.

One distinguishing feature of emergiTEL’s process is that its recruiters meet with all candidates to assess their strengths, weaknesses, and job-readiness. This helps emergiTEL not only to understand their technical skills but also their soft skills and identify areas where coaching may be required. The company then helps candidates build a strong resume that reflects their technical expertise, provides interview tips and supports soft skills development.

emergiTEL’s clients, including the telecom industries’ top employers expect a high caliber of talent and emergiTEL delivers. Nothing demonstrates this better than their clients’ continued business and an average revenue growth of 300% per year.

“Our clients recognize the value we bring in helping them find the right talent with the right experience no matter where it is from,” says Zaib. “In the end, that’s also helping generate awareness among employers of the value that immigrants bring.”

Find solutions to better integrate skilled immigrants into your workplace or contact TRIEC
for more details.


Learn more about IS Awards

Learn more about  emergiTEl and their participation in the RBC Career Bridge Associate Host Program.

A 10-year Record of Immigrant Success

Toronto immigrant jobs council finds much success, but much work remains.

By Bob Hepburn, Toronto Star

Oddly, Ratna Omidvar dreams of the day the organization she helped launch some 10 years ago goes out of business.

“In my heart of hearts, I wish five years from now we didn’t exist,” says Omidvar, the initial executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), who now chairs the group’s board of directors.

To her thinking, shutting down TRIEC would be a clear sign that the small yet influential council had succeeded beyond its wildest aspirations, opening employment doors for all skilled immigrants and convincing big and small companies that hiring talented newcomers is good for business.

Since its beginning, TRIEC has developed into one of the top agencies whose goal is to help newcomers find jobs in the Toronto area and raise awareness among employers about the advantages of hiring skilled immigrants.

As well, TRIEC has developed resources that help employers effectively hire skilled immigrants. Started in 2005, became a vital source of practical advice on recruiting and training immigrant employees. The program has since expanded into a national project.

One part of the program, the Roadmap, has been accessed by more than 50,000 unique users and is now fully integrated into the Ontario government’s website.

Read more here

Temporary Foreign Workers – Two Editorials

Two editorials in the Globe and Mail make a case for bringing in more immigrants (future citizens) than temporary guest workers.

Foreign workers won’t be temporary if we make them permanent

By Doug Saunders, The Globe and Mail

We need migrant labour, but the current arrangement leaves everyone wanting. There’s no reason not to ease the path to citizenship

They are allowed into Canada to do jobs most Canadians would refuse at rates of pay most Canadians would never stand for, and then they have to leave. They are separated from their families for years. They aren’t allowed to settle, marry, bring their children over, expect a raise or change jobs. They have to live in rooms provided by their employers, and they cannot realistically quit without being forced out of the country.

Where are you most likely to encounter such temporary foreign workers? Not in a Fort McMurray tar pit or in the kitchen of a pizzeria in Weyburn, Sask., but far more likely in your neighbour’s spare bedroom – or perhaps even your own.

Our original temporary foreign worker program, launched in 1992, is the one that brings live-in nannies and caregivers into Canadians’ homes. It accounts for nearly a fifth of all “temporary” immigration.

We’d like to think of this variety of migrant labour – “Lucy, who takes care of the kids” – as somehow different. In fact, the similarities are striking, as are the deep and troubling flaws. The foreign-labour problem in our dormer rooms and kitchens tells us a lot about the foreign-labour problem in the workplace.

Read more here

Canada needs more immigrant future citizens, fewer guest workers

The Globe and Mail

The evidence is mounting that, whatever the Temporary Foreign Worker Program may be accomplishing, it is not the alleviation of temporary labour shortages, its ostensible purpose. There are no widespread labour shortages in Canada. But since the 21st century began, the number of workers in the program has nearly tripled to around half a million.

An employer that wants to hire foreign workers has to apply to the federal government for a “labour market opinion,” which is based partly on information from the employer. Allegations about McDonald’s franchisees in Victoria and Lethbridge, Alta., together with anecdotal evidence from other parts of Canada, suggest that some companies may actually prefer foreign workers because they believe them to be more willing to work longer and harder at tasks that attract little prestige, more deferential, and willing to work for less – though in some of the McDonald’s, they are actually paid slightly more than some of their Canadian co-workers.

Read more here

Diversity and Immigration – Important Parts of Canada’s Past, Present and Future

Gordon Nixon, President and CEO of RBC, was a featured speaker in the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21’s “Breakfast with a Fascinating Canadian” series on March 27, 2014. In his speech, Mr. Nixon talks about the importance of immigration to Canada’s identity and economy, and how we must move beyond diversity to inclusion to leverage our individual and collective strengths. He gives practical advice for business leaders, governments, agencies that support immigrants, and immigrants themselves.   “Those of us in leadership positions have an obligation and responsibility to get involved. The business case is clear – diversity and inclusion are both the smart thing, and the right thing, to do,” says Nixon, who chairs the diversity council at RBC.

By GordON Nixon, President and CEO, RBC Royal Bank

Gord Nixon, RBCThank you – I am delighted to be here to celebrate Pier 21 and talk about an issue that has been an important part of my activity at RBC over the past 13 years as CEO – Diversity and Immigration.  I have spoken often about this or these topics which are not the same but very much connected.

As Chairman of our Diversity Council for all of my 13 years and of The Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council for 5 years, I have been very active on the diversity file. I suspect that given my retirement, this may be one of my last opportunities to publicly speak on this issue – or at least the last time people will be willing to listen.

Diversity and Immigration are such important parts of Canada’s past, present and future. Canada would be a very different place today had immigration not played such a large role in our make-up and our diversity creates a global strength like no other country.  And while diversity and immigration have been a large part of our history, they will play an equally important part of our future.

Pier 21, the Canadian Museum of Immigration, is now a national museum with a new mandate to engage with Canadians across the country.  This morning’s breakfast has traditionally been an event that only people in Halifax could enjoy.  But today, we are kicking off a series of events to help the Museum celebrate and share the diverse story of Canadian immigration to a much wider audience.  These events will raise awareness and explain what Pier 21 was, what it is and what it stands for.

The Diversity Legacy  

Canada is a great nation — a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family.  And we are not alone in recognizing this.  We hear often from quality of life rankings that Canadians have built a prosperous nation, a civil society, one rich in diversity and opportunity, that people of many different cultures call home.  There is no question that our strength and economic prosperity are derived from the combination of what we all have in common and what makes each of us different.

Diversity is not new to Canada.  In fact, it has always been a core aspect of the Canadian identity — consider our origins and the coming together of Aboriginal peoples, the French and the English those who have come from hundreds of other countries including those who passed through Pier 21.

The Canadian history of immigration is accompanied by a history of integration. Canada’s experience shows that integration need not come at the cost of diverse identities and those diverse identities create a vibrancy and mosaic that helps define Canada.

The Museum’s own literature has called Pier 21 “a humble-looking building on the waterfront of Halifax.”  Don’t judge this book by its cover because Pier 21 has played a monumental role in welcoming new immigrants to our shores.  From 1928 to 1971, more than one million people entered Canada via Pier 21 and it is estimated that today, one in five Canadians has a direct link to Pier 21.  These are simple facts that speak profoundly to how large a role immigration has played in building our country and how large a role Pier 21 played in immigration.

Coming to Canada through Pier 21, these brave men, women and children took their first steps in building new lives in a new country.  Pier 21 was a gateway to opportunity for new Canadians to reach for and achieve new heights.  And as they followed their pursuits, these people contributed to Canada’s economy, its prosperity and to the building of a great nation.

Today, Canada’s population growth rate is the highest among G8 nations — and that is thanks to immigration.  Canada welcomes almost a quarter of a million permanent immigrants each year — one of the highest rates of all developed countries. It is projected that 28 per cent of Canadians will be foreign-born by 2031 up from 20 per cent today.  And without immigration, our growth rate would be in decline, a disaster for any economy.

Immigration and diversity should not be feared but rather celebrated as it is a source of strength for our country and we do multiculturalism like no other.  We are far from perfect but we are the model for the world and we should find ways to build on our strength.

Today, immigrants to Canada are coming from different places than during earlier years.  Fewer are from European countries. More people come from Asia, South America, the Caribbean and Africa.  Today’s immigration patterns represent diversity in a different way and reflect changing global demographics.

This diverse population presents tremendous opportunities — I have said many times it is one of Canada’s great competitive advantages.  But it is only an advantage to the extent we are inclusive.  Full inclusion means everyone feels enabled to bring their perspectives, knowledge and experiences to the table. Inclusion goes beyond diversity.

RBC has a saying:  “Having diversity is interesting; doing something with it is powerful.”  What that means is that we work to create an environment with equitable access to opportunities, where we can leverage individual andcollective strengths. If you only have people who think and act in the same way, you will be very consistent, but not very innovative and flexible.

While immigration patterns have shifted, four fundamental pillars remain the same:

  •  First, what brings people to Canada- the opportunity to build a future and the desire to contribute.
  • Second, the commitment and motivation of immigrants to succeed — let us not forget being an immigrant is not easy in any country.
  • Third, Canada’s need for immigrants – to grow and to continue the work of building this country.
  • And lastly, the welcome immigrants receive as the newest contributors to our society, to a shared economic prosperity.

Looking Forward

Institutions like Pier 21 are important because they help us learn from our past to help shape our future.  Canada’s history is intertwined with immigration.  This is a past we celebrate — and it’s also something to learn from and build on.

Lester Pearson understood the connection of Canada’s history and future immigration when he said, “The destiny of Canada is to unite, not divide; sharing in cooperation, not in separation or in conflict; respecting our past and welcoming our future.”

I strongly believe diversity and inclusion has a central role in driving productivity, innovation and growth in economic prosperity.  Canada’s future prosperity will increasingly depend on innovative, highly productive businesses with the flexibility to capitalize on opportunities wherever and whenever they emerge.

But we must remain a destination of choice for skilled immigrants — for entrepreneurs, professionals, scientists.  Talent is more mobile than ever, and skills shortages are predicted for many economies. Potential immigrants have more choices than ever before and simply having our doors open will not be enough.

Everyone knows Canada’s large companies like RBC, but we are a nation of entrepreneurs and small businesses.  The financial towers may be the landmarks of our Toronto business centre but go north of the 401 and you will find an incredible number of thriving companies – growing and creating jobs and many of them were founded and are run by visible minorities who are first and second generation Canadians.

Canada needs to leverage the diversity of our workforce today, and the workforce of tomorrow and large companies like RBC need to step up to the plate.  As important as immigration has been to our economy in the past, it will be even more so as we face an aging population and global competition for talent intensifies.

Yet current newcomers to Canada have a harder time adjusting than previous generations.  A 2012 RBC Economics study found that if immigrants were earning equal pay to Canadian-born peers, personal income would be $31 billion higher.  That’s more than 2.1 per cent of Canada’s GDP.  That means we are failing to tap the full potential of these highly skilled people, and the full economic potential of our nation.

We have choices to make — choices which will determine if we become more inclusive, innovative and prosperous, or face an uncertain future.

The Call to Action

With Canada’s growth depending on immigration as much today as a hundred years ago, we must recognize that there are new challenges that require new solutions.

We are building the next phase in the growth of our great country and there are many partners and players in this important work. These include businesses and business leaders, government at all levels, the agencies that support newcomers and the newcomers themselves.

I’d like to offer some suggestions and ideas for each.


For businesses, competition is global — whether directly or indirectly. The best way to compete is with a workforce with global experience. I’d like to provide you with an example of what that means to RBC.

We’re a Canadian company with operations in more than 40 countries. Our talent flows need to be two-way. We send Canadians to work internationally because we need an understanding of those markets coupled with an understanding of how to leverage what we have in our home market.

At the same time we’re hiring bankers with experience from many different countries. One might wonder how relevant banking experience in Brazil or China might be for Canada. But because of Canada’s immigration patterns, we have many clients — and potential clients — from those countries.

It’s a valuable asset for our business to have people who know the banking expectations and norms for these clients. Better yet, those employees will have gone through the immigration process to come to Canada. Who better to empathize with newcomers and help them build a new future?

A view that international experience is an asset is beneficial to business. Too often we hear an alternative view that is narrowly and negatively defined — it states that newcomers with no Canadian experience would be hard to fit into the Canadian workforce. This change in perspective recognizes that international experiences relate directly to the modern Canadian context. In fact, the Ontario Human Rights Commission has recognized this and recently declared the requirement for “Canadian experience” is a form of discrimination.

Overlooking new Canadians with both the skills and credentials, in terms of education or technical certifications, to do the job makes little sense. Many will speak multiple languages and understand different cultures. They will help you reflect the communities and clients your businesses serve, and can help you pursue new markets.

Giving newcomers a chance to apply the skills they have learned and to build Canadian experience also pays an employee engagement dividend. In RBC’s experience, employees who are newcomers are among the most engaged. And employee engagement is good for business. Being more open to immigrants is just one action employers can take.

At RBC we have diversity objectives built into our business plans including hard targets for both women and visible minorities in senior management. I am pleased to say we are at 37 per cent and 15 per cent respectively in Canada, but we are looking for new ways to maintain our momentum.

Business Leaders

Those of us in leadership positions have an obligation and responsibility to get involved.  The business case is clear – diversity and inclusion are both the smart thing, and the right thing to do.

Business leaders can and should play an active part.  A simple place to start is in guiding your company to encourage diversity and to be inclusive.  Leaders set the tone for their organizations.  Leaders who get involved see the benefits and opportunities and they encourage others to do so.

Business leaders should be visible in their efforts.  We are role models to many – in what we do — and in what we choose not to do. Leaders should be mentors and sponsors.

We have learned through the RBC Diversity Dialogues program that mentoring is two-way.  Mentees also learn about Canadian workplace norms and leadership, while mentors gain insight into wider talent pools and cultural markets.  You will learn and you will help new Canadians feel — and be — truly included in our society.

As a tall, white, Anglo-Saxon, male, I am in many ways the anti-diversity stereotype and, frankly, for much of my working life never thought twice about whether my career was advantaged due to my background. But it is perhaps because of my background that I have come to realize the incredible richness and competitive advantage that we gain from diversity and it has made me more focused on ensuring fairness and equality across our workforce.

We all have and are impacted by systemic biases and rather than pretend they don’t exist, we must find ways to identify them and develop strategies to compensate for them.

Chairing our diversity council since I became CEO has helped set a tone and it is thanks to people like Zabeen Hirji, and others that I have learned from, that diversity is well entrenched in our values and culture. When people begin to understand the value of diversity it is wonderful to see behaviour change and good things happen.


We often hear that government’s role is to create the right circumstances for the private sector to drive economic growth. Governments need to continue to work together to find ways to improve labour force participation for recent immigrants. They need to continue addressing interprovincial barriers to job movement and invest substantially in bridge training programs, which help immigrants settle and prepare to enter the labour market.

Governments of all levels can create opportunities to bring people together. Coordination of efforts makes the transition into Canadian life for newcomers easier and enables faster contribution to economic growth.

Immigration policies can encourage integration and still actively promote awareness and retention of diversity in a variety of ways, including education, support for community centers and funding for cultural activities.

Cities are a particularly important level of government. Cities deliver social programs that help immigrants the most directly. Cities can develop strategies and even brands that attract skilled newcomers — strategies that help immigrants find employment equal to their education.

And cities are much more than purely economic arrangements. They bring people together and create new possibilities. Immigrants often come in pursuit of a better life so their new chosen city embodies the hope of positive change. This change is much more possible in cities that are diverse, stimulating and provide a wide range of amenities.

Cities that offer this kind of rich, vibrant environment will attract skilled newcomers, enhancing their likelihood of becoming centres of economic growth. Cities have to be livable, walkable and have good transit systems, services and parks. Livable cities are inclusive cities that build a sense of community, a sense of belonging and a desire to contribute to the greater good.

Because more than 80 per cent of the Canadian population lives in urban areas, a large number of us benefit from integrated strategies in these areas — from newcomers to aging populations.

Cities like Toronto, Vancouver and provinces like Alberta naturally benefit from immigration but it is the future of cities like Halifax and Montreal that must find ways to attract and retain newcomers. You are either growing or declining and the ability to attract and retain people will be a large part of that equation.


We also need to recognize the role support agencies, not-for-profits, and immigrants themselves play in a successful immigration system.

The private sector and governments need to work together to provide support to both small businesses and the broad range of agencies that exist to provide services to newly arrived Canadians.

These organizations include TRIEC, the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council, the Immigrant ACCESS Fund and CareerBridge. The United Way also supports many agencies for new Canadians. These organizations often provide a vital networking path for immigrants, helping business better understand their skills and capabilities. This is the kind of action that is required to make it easier for small businesses to tap into pools of newcomers to bolster their participation in the labour force.


And finally, immigrants themselves must take ownership of their development. They must understand the limitations that their comfort zones place on them and push beyond. Immigrants must pursue and build professional relationships and networks in their field and participate in events and programs to help them become ready for their next new job.

New immigrants should seek advice and information on labour markets and not hesitate to get involved with volunteer services to gain valuable experience and to build connections.

We study history to learn from our past so we can help shape our future. The lesson of our history is clear and also points the way to future economic prosperity and success: Canada has relied on immigration to build a prosperous economy and will continue to do so in the years ahead.

Canada has benefited from its diversity and it remains one of our critical competitive advantages.

We are good at it but we need to get better to maintain that competitive edge.

The Pier 21 National Museum reminds us of the opening chapter to the stories of a million people, who literally stepped through its doors … to the opportunities offered by Canada.

The museum is also responsible for the many, many millions of descendants of those people.

Pier 21 played a major part in welcoming immigrants to Canada. Importantly, it also played a fundamental role in helping shape Canada, because of the critical place immigration holds in building Canada’s growth and prosperity.

The Pier 21 National Museum tells us the story of new Canadians. We need to tell this story and it needs to be heard. That’s why events like today’s are so important.

And that’s why, today, RBC is proud to announce a gift of $500,000 for the museum’s Canada: Day 1 Project. This national travelling exhibit will offer visitors a powerful living history experience, including displays of personal stories, original artworks and archive images.

We hope everyone will have a chance to see the exhibit, and truly appreciate what diversity, inclusion and immigration have contributed to Canada.

Thank you.

Ontario’s Clarion Call for Putting Diversity to Work

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration makes the case for why hiring skilled immigrants is essential to business.

By Ranjit Bhaskar, Maytree

When Steam Whistle set up business in downtown Toronto in 1998, the brewery wanted a brew master with a master’s degree in the field. As no such post-secondary education program existed in North America then, it was forced to look afar for talent. It found the right person in the Czech Republic.

“If you’re going to [produce] a pilsner that competes internationally, you need to have people capable of bringing that to the table,” Steam Whistle co-founder Greg Taylor told the Globe and Mail in an interview. “[Also, immigrants] take their jobs very seriously and are very passionate, and at the end of the day that helps your bottom line.”

The need for global talent to remain competitive has only intensified in the years since. And that’s the message Michael Coteau, Ontario’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, was driving home at the [email protected] conference held by Skills for Change in Toronto at the end of February 2014.

“We need to attract the best and brightest from around the world to Ontario and the situation is not like before. Apart from competing with other countries, we are now in competition with other provinces,” said Minister Coteau. “The mayor of Calgary [Naheed Nenshi] was in town the other day to attract talent to his city.”

The minister said Ontario wanted to implement a new immigration strategy and intended to fully maximize the advantages newcomers and diversity bring. He pointed out that globally, seven out of the top ten brands were founded by immigrants and together these companies now employed 10 million people world-wide. “Same is the case with Fortune 100 companies and nearer home. A Bank of Montreal study found that half of Ontario’s rich are immigrants.”

The good and the bad

With one-third of Ontario’s ruling Liberal caucus being born outside the country and a quarter of them being visible minorities, “the good news is that people in government share the same stories as the immigrant population of the province,” said the minister.

But he also mentioned some bad news, namely the province and Canada underutilizing the skills of internationally-trained immigrants. A 2004 Conference Board of Canada study estimated the cost to Canada as between $3.4 – 5 billion per year in lost productivity. According to Statistics Canada, among those employed in 2006 only 24% of foreign-educated immigrants were working in the regulated profession for which they trained compared to 62% among Canadian-born.

A 2012 TD Economics study says simply closing the gap in employment rates between newcomers and native-born Canadians would mean approximately 370,000 additional people working. It is estimated that the potential increased personal income if newcomers’ skills were rewarded on par with that of native-born Canadians would top $30 billion or 2% of GDP.

Most importantly, Minister Coteau said immigration is not a one-way ticket. Newcomers to Ontario arrive with vital ties and connections to their former homelands that can be leveraged to produce economic growth and prosperity for Ontario. “We want to tap into global trade as at present only 7% of our companies are looking out for opportunities outside of the U.S. One of the keys to realizing this two-way benefit is to quickly integrate immigrants into our economy. Another key is to get the internationally trained working in their fields as soon as possible.”

He pointed to the TD Economics study that said “Newcomers complement the skills of the domestic labour force, bring new investments and innovative practices, help to open trade routes with their countries of origin and enhance cultural diversity.” Indeed, building stronger and inclusive communities that promote and value diversity would help all Ontario businesses and municipalities grow and succeed.

You don’t have to convince Steam Whistle. Since its first hiring experience 16 years ago proved to be a good one, the brewery has been proactive in employing new immigrants without Canadian training and experience. Today, its staff reflect Toronto’s much acclaimed diversity. In 2007, Steam Whistle’s inclusive hiring was recognized when it won the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council’s Immigrant Success Award for leadership and innovation in recruiting and retaining skilled immigrants.

The business case for diversity couldn’t be clearer. Listed below are a few more Good Ideas from far and near:

Ask the Expert – Unlocking Potential: From Underperformer to Asset

In the article, Unlocking Potential: From Underperformer to Asset, we examined a dilemma that many employers face. You hire an internationally educated professional who has the right skills, degree, and workplace experience to be in management, but who under performs without explanation.  This is where Business Edge, a bridging program at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, enables and empowers skilled immigrants to move back into jobs where they can fully utilize their skills, education and professional experience at a management level.  Read the article.

There are also other strategies that employers can implement to assist their immigrant talent in performing better. In this series we are posing questions to HR experts to provide insight into getting the most out of diverse talent.

Question markWhat are the risks of linking challenges experienced by employees to culture? How can employers mitigate these risks?

By Athina Schloo, Director of Employee Programs and HR Initiatives, RBC

Culture is a complex and ever changing reality which differs from person to person and can sometime pose some challenges in the workplace. However, if we are quick to link employee challenges to culture, we often fail to see the uniqueness and full spectrum of talents that an employee brings to our workplace. We think it is more effective to see diversity and cultural differences as key levers that can drive our competitiveness and innovation. Every employee brings his or her unique talents, experiences and perspectives to the workplace. True diversity isn’t just a matter of having a strong representation of various groups, but of tapping into this full spectrum of ideas and abilities that people bring to the workplace. Encouraging this diversity is what leads to true insights and innovative practices.

A good place to start is to create a more “open” environment where staff can ask questions and learn about differences. No employee should “hide” something when they come to work. Employers will benefit by encouraging all employees to bring their full self to work every day. Encourage and seek out diversity of thought and actively include different perspectives.  That is fundamental to a workplace where innovation and competitiveness is fostered.

Success is dependent on promoting a work environment that is inclusive of every person and that allows every employee to reach his or her full potential.  We are a people business, as we grow as a global company, we recognize that our edge depends in our ability to attract and retain talent in a global marketplace. Today’s employees are a diverse mix of ages, races, religions, backgrounds, and personalities. They have different or similar lifestyles, sexual orientations, work styles, levels or education and ways of seeing the world. At RBC, we try to create an environment that recognizes the perspective of the individual and builds approaches customized to the individual. That ties in to one of our key values of diversity for growth and innovation.  It has worked well for us and it can work for others too. The idea is simple. The hard work is in being open to it and asking the right questions.

RBC recently released a new whitepaper, “Outsmarting our Brains“, with Ernst & Young that discusses how everyone has unconscious biases that can influence actions and decisions.  Left unaddressed, hidden biases have the power to derail an organization’s success.  By learning to recognize and address our biases, one can mitigate their impact and maximize the potential of individuals, teams and organizations.

Question markWhat are some strategies that employers can use to help newly promoted internationally-trained managers progress in their managerial development?

By Glem Dias, Talent & Diversity Strategist

For internationally-educated professionals (IEPs) that are transitioning into a managerial role there is an added level of complexity. They are operating not just outside their individual expertise, but must understand the cultural context where results depend on the ability to collaborate, influence and engage a team and others colleagues.

Here are some practices that an employer can use to support new IEP managers:

  • Work with the new IEP manager to create and implement a personal development plan (PDP) that addresses critical developmental gaps. The leader should meet with them once a quarter to review the PDP and provide feedback and coaching;
  • Match the IEP with another manager who is highly respected to share peer-peer level insights and lessons learned;
  • Provide a “new manager” toolkit and guide them to resources to hire, on-board, set goals, engage, develop and effectively manage performance of the team;
  • Encourage the new IEP manager to create a network to gain on-going feedback;
  • And consider “360 feedback” towards the end of their first year.

Question markAssume Sarah’s employer recognized cultural barriers were linked to certain performance issues. What interventions could her employer have made once the poor performance was perceived? 

By Sabina Michael, Program Manager, Business Edge 

The first step in a situation like Sarah’s is for the manager to provide timely feedback. Too often internationally educated employees such as Sarah receive their first form of real feedback’ in the form of a termination notice. This is too late; and it represents a situation where everyone loses.

Delivering feedback, however, is not a ‘one size fits all’ situation. Managers who work with internationally-educated professionals (IEPs) need to recognize that different cultures understand and perceive feedback very differently.

In Canada, professional settings are often characterized by indirect communication. Thus, if a manager is delivering feedback to an employee from an indirect culture, they might deliver it in a method fairly similar to how they would for a Canadian-born employee.

If, on the other hand, the IEP comes from a culture where the communication is very direct, the employee may struggle with indirect feedback. They may find the ‘feedback sandwich’ difficult to decode, and therefore miss the point completely. A manager should strive to give direct feedback in order to clearly convey the message. Focus on the content of message, rather than on non-verbal cues such as body language, intonation and register in speech.

Further, it is critical to set clear goals and concrete deliverables. Employees are then able to understand and focus on the key deliverables. Managers should allow for frequent check-in meetings to provide employees with the opportunity to clarify questions and review performance. Additional support from a mentor, coach or ‘cultural buddy’ would also be of great help.

The manager and IEP alike should keep the following in mind. Each should strive to increase their understanding of the other person’s perspective before jumping to conclusions. And each should address cultural issues in an open, honest way before they become insurmountable. Sarah’s case is one where everyone loses. Described here is a situation where everyone comes out ahead.

More Resources

Video – Business Edge for Internationally Trained Professionals – learn more about the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto program from participants, employers and faculty.

Video – Integrating Talent Video– Reward and Recognition
Cultural differences can influence the effectiveness of performance feedback in a diverse workplace. The effects of these differences are highlighted in the fourth installment of Integrating Talent, a training video created by TRIEC that follows the fictional experiences of the skilled immigrant Tarek and his employer MetroCan Technologies.

Roadmap – Manage Performance
In this section of the Roadmap learn how to set goals, outline expectations and provide regular feedback to help skilled immigrant employees perform effectively.

E-learning coursePerformance Management
This course examines the role of cultural norms in performance management and leadership.

Ontario Charts its Own Course with Proposed Ontario Immigration Act

Province is  taking steps to strengthen its role in immigrant selection by introducing legislation  that would, if passed, help meet the province’s future labour market needs and support economic growth.

By Bonnie Mah, Maytree

On February 19, 2014, Michael Coteau, Ontario’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, proposed the province’s first ever immigration legislation. Bill 161 follows A New Direction: Ontario’s Immigration Strategy, released in November 2012.

The bill, if passed, includes parts that would allow Ontario to:

  • Select immigrants to Ontario, in collaboration with the federal government, and set target levels for the number of individuals selected for Ontario;
  • Establish a registry of employers that would be eligible to make job offers to individuals selected under selection programs;
  • Enact compliance and enforcement measures to protect people from fraudulent immigration services and to deter fraud in the immigration application process; and
  • Increase fairness for internationally trained health professionals.

The proposed legislation also includes a provision for the Minister to conduct research on permanent and temporary immigration, selection and settlement. If carried out, this would be a welcome recognition of the importance of gathering evidence to inform policy making on immigration in the province.

The government of Ontario also announced that it will redesign its Provincial Nominee Program and has called to increase the number of immigrants coming to Ontario through this program to 5,000, up from the current level of 1,300.

In addition, the bill aims for collaborative relationships with the federal government, municipalities and employers.

Valuing immigrants’ contributions to Ontario

Significantly, the proposed legislation affirms the importance of immigrants to Ontario, and the role that they play in shaping the provinces’ social, economic and cultural values. The bill also recognizes the province’s family and humanitarian obligations.

In these ways, the bill is part of the province’s effort to write its own immigration story – one that is positive, inclusive, and recognizes the contributions that immigrants and refugees make to Ontario.

The bill underwent first reading on February 19. It must now undergo review by committee, and second and third readings before possibly becoming law.


Celebrating Canada’s Best Diversity Employers

Winners of the 2014 Canada’s Best Diversity Employers competition were announced in February.  In particular several employers were recognized for their development and implementation of various programs and HR strategies to better manage visible minorities and skilled immigrant talent.

By Stephanie Saunders, Maytree

On February 10, 2014, the winners of the annual Canada’s Best Diversity Employers competition were announced, recognizing employers from across the country for creating inclusive workplaces for employees from five diverse groups: women; visible minorities; persons with disabilities; Aboriginal peoples; and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) peoples. Employers were selected by the editorial team at the Canada’s Top 100 Employers project, which manages the competition.

In this post, we highlight employers who have developed and implemented programs and HR strategies –  many in partnership with immigrant employment organizations – to create a more inclusive working environment for visible minorities and skilled immigrants.

A number of companies have recognized the power of mentoring and networking and the mutual benefit for both the employer and the skilled immigrant. Employees at Agrium Inc., Jazz Aviation, Newalta and National Bank are helping skilled immigrants develop their Canadian career by providing coaching, guidance and connecting them to their colleagues. KMPG has participated in the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council’s Mentoring Partnership for over seven years and regional offices have since partnered with other immigrant employment councils to offer similar programs (Mentorat MontréalEdmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council and the Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council). Cameco supports the Saskatchewan Intercultural Association’s Connector program, which matches employees with internationally trained job-seekers for networking opportunities.

Enbridge and Rogers Communications offer skilled immigrants a much needed job opportunity by providing paid internships through Career Bridge. Shaw Communications, the City of Saskatoon, and Saskatchewan Government Insurance work with local settlement organizations to offer work placement opportunities.

Winning companies are also implementing innovative HR practices to develop an inclusive working environment. BC Hydro encourages managers to hire skilled newcomers at junior-level positions and provides a defined career advancement plan, which includes timelines for performance and development reviews. The electric utility also recognizes provisional membership to regulatory bodies, such as the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists, and Geophysicists of Alberta (APEGGA), and supports new Canadian employees through the membership process.

Various levels of government also recognize the value of a diverse workforce. The Ontario Public Service piloted an Admin Support Program, which offers visible minority and Aboriginal administrative staff learning and development opportunities by placing them in a higher stream position for a full year. The City of Ottawa partnered with Hire Immigrants Ottawa to host a coaching event for new Canadians and provides members with opportunities to connect with human resource professionals.

We would also like to congratulate ALLIES national partners who have been recognized as one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers: CIBC, Dentons Canada LLP, Ernst & Young LLP, RBC, TD Bank Group and Telus Corporation. These employers have continually implemented a range of initiatives to attract and retain employees from diverse communities and create an inclusive working environment.


Leveraging Immigrant Talent for Business Development

Clarence Lochead of Hire Immigrants Ottawa examines how immigration furthers economic development objectives in Ottawa.

By Clarence Lochhead, Senior Manager, Policy and Research, Hire Immigrants Ottawa, Ottawa Business Journal

So I recently purchased an environmentally friendly humidifier for my home – called the Rumidifier – you may have heard of it. It’s a great innovation, requires no energy to run, and it works really well. What’s that got to do with immigration and business development you say? Well, it turns out that the Rumidifier was developed by a local immigrant entrepreneur. It’s a terrific success story, and one that illustrates how the skills and talents of newcomers can lead to exciting new Ottawa based business ventures, creating jobs and growing the region’s economic base.

To be sure, business development objectives are at the forefront of local efforts to ensure continued prosperity in the Nation’s Capital. Invest Ottawa for example, is leading the way with innovative programs and resources that promote and support entrepreneurialism, investment and business growth in the capital region. With downsizing and adjustments in the federal public service, this focus is both timely and welcomed.

Along with this focus on growth and diversification, there is a widely held view in Ottawa that immigrants will play an important, perhaps even critical role in the future success of the city. The Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership (OLIP) for instance, tells us that “successful attraction, settlement, and integration of immigrants is essential for Ottawa’s future prosperity and vitality.”

So is there a relationship between immigration and the broad objectives of economic growth and diversification? Can immigrant talent be leveraged to advance and optimize Ottawa’s business development objectives?

I’d like to suggest a few of the ways in which immigration already furthers economic development objectives in Ottawa. As a starting point, I’ll refer to some work recently produced by the International Economic Development Council(IEDC), which is the world’s largest membership organization of economic development professionals. Last July, the IECD released a report outlining four ways in which immigration furthers economic development objectives: by contributing to economic expansion; by fueling STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) industries; by leading to immigrant owned businesses; and by supplementing the labour force in critical ways.

Let’s look at each of these in turn and see how it relates to the situation in Ottawa. Bear with me as I take you through a few numbers.

Read more here

Moving Past Diversity: RBC’s Journey to Rid its Upper Ranks of ‘Unconscious Bias’

Zabeen Hirji talks about how RBC is teaching its leaders to overcome unconscious bias; how it’s fostering diversity through processes versus organic evolution and how it reconciles those processes with regulatory requirements.

By Dan Ovsey, Financial Post

Diversity is one of those buzz words often tossed around in the corporate world by organizations with an interest in presenting themselves as progressive. Yet, in many cases talk of diversity is just that — talk. RBC may be the exception to the rule.

Current CEO Gord Nixon — who will be retiring later this year — has made diversity of gender, culture, age and professional experience a priority for the bank, believing it to be good for business. If RBC’s track record is any indication, he’s right.

The bank has generated $58-billion in total profit during Mr. Nixon’s 12-year tenure and saw its share price soar 164%. For its efforts, RBC has been recognized by various advocacy groups as an organization that fosters a diverse work environment and one that breaks down some of the traditional barriers to advancement.

But now the organization is moving past diversity, toward what its chief human resources officer, Zabeen Hirji, describes as “inclusion” — putting diversity to work in the executive ranks by tackling challenges such as unconscious bias and by getting out into the open those tough-to-tackle issues that push the boundaries of politically correct discourse.

Ms. Hirji recently spoke with FP’s Dan Ovsey about how the bank is teaching its leaders to overcome unconscious bias; how it’s fostering diversity through processes versus organic evolution and how it reconciles those processes with regulatory requirements. Following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Read more here

For more read Outsmarting our Brains: A Report by RBC and Ernst and Young 

Work and Culture

Interactive online learning helps skilled immigrants and employers understand the role of culture at work, so that everyone benefits.

By The Wave

Qualified but can’t fit in: the dilemma of internationally educated professionals (IEP) in Canada.

Fact: Less than half of qualified foreign trained professionals find work in their field in Canada. Even less are able to keep their jobs.

Employers say poor “cultural fit” is a key reason why IEPs are either not hired or not kept. But we desperately need immigrant professionals and hiring does happen. Even so, employers have difficulty integrating newcomers, and newcomers complain that they don’t understand what Canadians want from them at work.  Everyone feels so uncomfortable and frustrated that they frequently don’t stay together for long.

Understanding Canadian workplace cultural norms is KEY to improving this situation for both employers and international professionals. Unfortunately cultural competency training, if you find some that is appropriate for your industry, is time consuming and costly.  Global Leadership Associates Inc, funded by Alberta Enterprise and Advanced Education created Work and Culture Online to respond to this issue.

A practical solution: Work and Culture Online

WCO consists of 10 interactive online learning modules. The goal is to help both internationally trained professionals and their managers understand the role of culture at work, and to improve integration of newcomers into the Canadian workplace so that everyone benefits. It is available 24/7 as a go-to resource for employers, managers and internationally trained workers. You can access it for free or take the entire sequence as a professional development course complete with final exam and  certificate. Although just recently launched, WCO already boasts over 1,200 users and is attracting attention from around the world.

Increased cultural responsiveness means more productive workplaces

Work and Culture Online responds to the needs of both internationally trained professionals and their employers by providing an accessible resource that can be used as a reference, job aid and a professional advancement tool, anytime, anywhere. Links to existing resources and organizations providing support can be found throughout the modules.

Visit Work and Culture Online

Outsmarting our Brains: A Report by RBC and Ernst and Young

Business leaders need to overcome their hidden biases to be more competitive.

By The Wave, ERIEC

We all have unconscious biases that influence our actions and decisions. These biases can be in favour of, or against, a range of attributes from obvious physical characteristics like race, gender, ethnicity and age, to more subtle ones like education, and work experiences.

Diversity and inclusion make a big difference when it comes to a company’s ability to innovate, attract clients and employees, and keep pace within its industry. As a result it’s important to raise our awareness and develop truly inclusive leadership behaviors.

A new report by RBC and EY (Ernst and Young) entitled “Outsmarting our brains: Overcoming Hidden Biases to Harness Diversity’s True Potential” was recently
released. This report highlights the impact of hidden biases in organizations and how leaders can help overcome them.

“The best leaders challenge the status quo and seek out the visionary thinking and broad perspectives that foster opportunity and growth. We have a responsibility to tackle the complex challenges that create barriers, limit creativity and blind us to the possibilities of our talent and our organizations. There has never been a better time to drive this change; never has it been so urgently necessary” (Gordon Nixon, President and Chief Executive Officer, RBC).

Access the report.

With diversity and inclusiveness issues top of mind for high performing businesses in Canada and around the world, there has never been a better time to improve our businesses, and our impact as leaders to others when it comes to diversity.

Link provided by Bob Mulligan Regional Vice President, RBC and Board of Directors, ERIEC.

Enhancing Immigrants’ Essential ‘Soft’ Skills – a Win-Win Solution

Integrating essential skills into business practices does not have to be time consuming or complicated and helps both the employer and new immigrant employee.

By Shareef Korah, Ottawa Business Journal

Finding and keeping workers with the knowledge and skills needed to get the job done is critical for today’s businesses. Learning more about the nine essential skills used in nearly every job can help you reap the benefits of effectively engaging immigrants at work.

Many employers recognize that immigrants have the technical skills required to complete workplace tasks, but often find that they lack the equally valued “soft skills”, such as communication, problem-solving and teamwork, to excel at work.

A pilot project led by Bow Valley College, Success in the Workplace: Essential Skills Training for Immigrant Professionals, found that this “disconnect” between the skills workers thought they needed (technical) and those their employers wanted (soft skills) often faded once both learned about the importance of essential skills.

Essential skills offer employers a common language that can help both employers and employees identify skills gaps and support essential skills development to increase job potential.

Read more here

Bridging the Gap Between Skills and Culture

Program provides skilled immigrants  with the soft skills needed to advance their careers.

By Jared Linzon, The Globe and Mail

When Luiss Zaharia moved to Canada in 2002, she knew that she would have to work her way up the corporate ladder, but she never imagined that it would be so difficult to find a career that matched her qualifications.

In her native Romania, she worked at Bancpost, a Bucharest-based bank, where she held a post equivalent to vice-president of operations. Though she made only about $400 a month and struggled to get by financially, she had an MBA in banking and stock exchange management, and managed eight of the bank’s branches.

She certainly had the know-how, she thought, for a job in Canada’s financial services sector. When she went to interviews in her field, however, hiring managers would turn her away, saying she did not have enough Canadian experience.

Read more here

Also read by The Globe and MailThis Business Program Changed the Future for these Newcomers to Canada.

For more about Business Edge by hireimmigrants read “Unlocking Potential: From Underperformer to Assetand  “Ask the Expert“.

Technology and Innovation in Talent Management

In this article, Cathy Gallagher-Louisy of the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion, highlights the work of two Alberta employers who have used technology and innovative approaches to address the challenges of talent acquisition, retention and talent management in order to their diversify their workforce and create an inclusive work environment for all.  

This article was originally published in HUMANCapital, Winter 2013 issue , and reproduced with permission of HRIA and its publisher Naylor (Canada), Inc.

By Cathy Gallagher-Louisy, Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion

As an HR or Talent Management professional, the biggest challenges you face are attracting and retaining top talent, and providing an engaging workplace where employees can thrive.  These are no small tasks.  Alberta’s HR community is well aware of the myriad of challenges posed by talent shortages.

One of the best ways to address these challenges is by ensuring you are tapping into all available talent in the market.  This can be done through diversifying your talent pool and creating an inclusive work environment for all.

Talent pools look more different today than they ever have before.  Immigration is rapidly changing the demographic makeup of Alberta’s towns and cities.  We are challenged with providing engaging work environments for four generations in the workplace – with each generation having vastly different expectations of the employment deal. Furthermore, the fastest growing demographic in Canada is Indigenous People: Aboriginals, Inuit, Métis and Peoples of the First Nations. All these demographic changes impact the talent pool and ultimately Alberta’s workplaces.

Talent shortages, low engagement and high turnover all create significant costs for
organizations; therefore HR and Talent Management professionals have the opportunity to provide real bottom-line impact for their employers.  Organizations that create an inclusive and engaging work environment have a competitive advantage when trying to attract top talent – especially in a talent shortage.

The Challenges of Attracting, Retaining and Promoting Diverse Talent

Recently Halogen Software embarked on a unique interactive research initiative called HR Raging Debates, asking over 8,000 HR thought leaders for their views on the topic of the talent shortage. Their findings indicate that most view the talent shortage as a real problem, but it is not necessarily caused by the things we thought, such as lack of
employment-ready college and university graduates, or lack of the right skills or experience. Instead, they suggest the talent shortage is in part, being caused by organizations’ lack of ability to think creatively in order tap new talent pools and attract the right people.

Innovative, creative approaches are required by HR and Talent Management professionals to address today’s challenges.

Innovative Approaches Using Technology

We are pleased to highlight the work of two Alberta employers who have used technology and innovative approaches to address the challenges of talent acquisition, retention and talent management: The City of Calgary and Morrison Hershfield.  To find out more, we spoke with Cheryl Goldsmith, Business Partner, Talent Acquisition and Anne-Marie
Pham, HR Advisor, Diversity & Inclusion at The City of Calgary, as well as Zakeana Reid, Senior Manager, HR Strategic Initiatives at Morrison Hershfield.

LinkedIn Program at The City of Calgary

The City of Calgary  has implemented an innovative approach to increasing the diversity of their applicant pool.  The LinkedIn Program, implemented in October 2012, uses technology to leverage relationships and reach previously untapped networks.

Here’s how it works:  each week, The City posts five of their hard to fill positions on LinkedIn.  The unique aspect of the postings is that there is a “Contact Us” link which enables individual job seekers to directly connect with a City recruiter.  Potential applicants can ask questions about the position, and get information from a Human Resources Advisor  about working at  The City of Calgary, all prior to submitting an application.

“This significantly levels the playing field,” said Anne-Marie Pham,, HR Advisor, Diversity & Inclusion.  “Applicants no longer have to rely just on their existing network and who they know at The City to find out more about the position and its requirements.”

Implementation of the Program

In order to implement this new program, The City established recruiter accounts on LinkedIn, and put together a marketing and communications plan to internally and externally promote  The City’s LinkedIn page.  Internally, the Talent Acquisition team developed a plan to encourage employees to share LinkedIn job postings. They used all available channels, including The City s intranet, emails, banner ads, and in-person presentations to business units and HR advisors.

Externally, communications included presentations and regular communication with partner agencies of The City , such as Bow Valley Collegethe Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council (CRIEC)Champions Career CentreAboriginal FuturesAboriginal Human Resources Association, Hire Canadian Military, and many others.

“The City’s employees’ existing networks are diverse, and so are the networks of our community partners,” said Pham. “Through this program, City recruiters, with the help of employees and partners, are able to reach out to a very diverse network.”

Goals of the Program

The goals of The City’s use of LinkedIn are: to enrich the candidate experience, to make the The City of Calgary an employer of choice for all citizens, and to use LinkedIn as a key tool to create a broad and diverse pipeline of candidates for various positions.

“Our primary purpose was to be more inclusive for all individuals wanting to work at The City of Calgary ,” said Cheryl Goldsmith, Business Partner, Talent Acquisition.

Measures of Success

Measurement is a key component of any successful program.  Quantitatively, The City tracks the number of followers on The City of Calgary pages, the number of applicants sourced through LinkedIn, the number of interviews and hires made from LinkedIn-sourced candidates, and the number of shares through LinkedIn. Qualitatively, they collect feedback from hiring managers and new hires about the quality of their LinkedIn experience.  Response to the program has been very positive.

The City of Calgary  has found the use of LinkedIn to be valuable in several ways. First it is giving them access to more diverse talent pools; second, it is allowing them to more easily fill hard to fill positions; and third, it is allowing them to easily develop relationships with potential candidates and community agencies for future opportunities.

Management Capability Development Program at Morrison Hershfield

Morrison Hershfield, an employee-owned engineering with 2 offices in Alberta – Calgary & Edmonton –has increased the ethnic and gender diversity of their management team through the Management Capability Development Program.

In the early stages of the program, Morrison Hershfield wasn’t deliberately targeting women and visible minorities.  But the results of an assessment showed there were a number of women and visible minorities who were ready to move up into leadership roles.

Multi-year Approach

The Program has had a phased implementation over the last 6 years.

The first phase involved identifying potential employees for the program: existing high-performers who were at a point in their careers where they might be looking for their next promotion, such as those in senior consultant roles.

Next, they began behavioural and aptitude assessments using a science-based assessment tool called Pathfinder.  Based on 30 years of research, Pathfinder predicts the likelihood for an individual to have exceptional performance in a specific role.  They’ve determined that people who have specific characteristics and aptitudes would tend to perform well in people-management positions.

Although they want to retain high-performing employees and give them the next opportunity on their career paths, Morrison Hershfield wanted to ensure they were not putting people into roles where they were destined to fail. In many organizations, high-performers who are technically excellent individual contributors are often promoted into management roles because it is the only way to give them a promotion.  But not everyone is a good manager.

For those employees who don’t necessarily have the aptitude for people-management, Morrison Hershfield provides a technical career path that goes up to the senior director level, one level below Vice President.  This allows Morrison Hershfield to retain and promote high-performing employees without having to give them management responsibilities.

“We don’t want good employees to leave, even if they aren’t great managers,” said Zakeana Reid, Senior Manager, HR Strategic Initiatives. “It’s important for us to provide them with opportunities for advancement where they can thrive and feel like they are valued for their unique skills and contributions.”

Significant Challenges

While multiple studies have shown the benefits of having more gender diversity in leadership teams, the challenge of promoting women into management roles in the engineering field is twofold.  Few women go into engineering as a career path.  Female enrollment in undergraduate engineering programs in Canada reached a peak of 20.6 percent of total enrollment in 2001 and has fluctuated between 17 and 18 percent for the greater part of the past decade.

Further exacerbating that problem, studies have shown that many women leave the engineering field within the first five years of joining.  Since so few women join the field in the first place, and many leave within five years, the pool of management-ready women in engineering is even smaller.

“Studies have suggested that some women who join engineering may become disengaged by being in an environment where there is a majority of scientific men, many of whom tend to enjoy working individually.  Whereas, many women may feel more engaged when their workplace provides more of a sense of community,” said Reid.  “Interestingly, the types of attributes that Pathfinder has found to be characteristics of good managers happen to be aspects that some women in engineering want to have more of in their working lives.”

Training and Development for Management Roles

The third phase of the program involved training and development.  The HR team worked with identified candidates to improve their capabilities around financial management, implementing policies, HR management, and more – essentially how to be a manager at Morrison Hershfield. Developmental plans were created in the company’s talent management system, Halogen, which automatically recommends appropriate courses.


Communication to employees was about career development rather than diversity and inclusion.  “We wanted to ensure our learning management system and developmental tools were available to all employees at all levels,” said Reid.  “Removal of barriers is about ensuring all people have the same access to same tools.”

The final phase of the process was waiting for available opportunities to arise.  “Just because a bunch of people are ready for promotion, doesn’t mean 20 new management positions suddenly open up,” said Reid.  Over several years, retirements, resignations, re-organizations, and the addition of some new lines of business opened up additional management positions.  When these opportunities arose, they were prepared with promotion-ready people who could apply for those roles.

Results, Results, Results

Although the program was a talent management program, not initially intended to focus on diversity and inclusion, there have been excellent results for Morrison Hershfield’s diversity and inclusion goals.  As a Federal Contractor, Morrison Hershfield is subject to the Employment Equity Act and the requirements of the Federal Contractors Program.  Between 2006 and 2010, they tripled the representation of women in management, and more than quadrupled representation of visible minorities in management.  Also, because of increased representation in middle management, Morrison Hershfield now has a more diverse pool of high-potentials candidates when executive roles become available.

Innovative Use of Technology Yields Great Results

Acquisition, retention and development of diverse talent are essential for every organization today – especially in a talent shortage.  Sharing promising practices like these programs at Morrison Hershfield and The City of Calgary, and leveraging great ideas about the innovative approaches that are being used by some employers can help all HR and Talent Management professionals access new sources of talent and remove barriers, creating more inclusive workforces for all Albertans.

Boldly Playing the Global Talent Game

IEC-BC argues it is a critical time close the skills and labour gap by thinking differently about attracting and retaining skilled talent from around the world — seeing skilled immigrants as the solution.


As we move further into the second decade of the 21st century, the years ahead promise more than a few surprises on the human capital front due to a perfect storm of factors.

For all countries, including Canada, it’s not a matter of if we address the skills and labour shortages but how urgently we take action. Failing to act will, at best, leave our businesses, industries and communities ill-equipped to remain competitive. At worst, without actual skilled workers, employers may struggle to keep their doors open. What’s driving us to this point?

In short, demographic shifts coupled with a growing skills mismatch mean the global marketplace is headed for a perfect storm — a world where talent shortages and a lack of skilled workers are the norm, as seen already in the BC construction and trucking industries, and in BC’s northwest. There, the region is poised to gain between 6,000 and 13,000 jobs between now and 2020 due to large-scale projects such as liquefied natural gas (LNG), pipeline and marine expansion. The reality is the northwest region’s local labour force will be unable to meet the labour requirements demanded by these projects as we heard at the Northwest Regional Forums on Immigrant Employment we held in August.

At the broader provincial level, with more than one million job openings expected across BC by 2020, and not enough students expected to graduate from K–12 to fill those openings, surviving the skills shortage is about ensuring BC’s industries and businesses have the necessary skilled workers to meet demand.

As countries around the world vie for the brightest and best workers, skilled immigrants are set to become a sought after talent pool in an aggressive global recruiting competition.

Though this coming storm transcends Canada’s boundaries, our governments, industries, businesses, post-secondary institutions and other organizations such as IEC-BC must work together to take bold, decisive steps.

It starts with being far more strategic about closing the skills and labour gap by thinking differently about attracting and retaining skilled talent from around the world — seeing skilled immigrants as the solution.

We’re a country built on immigration, and Canada will always embrace new immigrants thanks to our longstanding policies of openness and welcome. The way ahead is about everyone — business, government and communities — recognizing that attracting skilled immigrants will be one of the keys to our success.

It’s also about turning dialogue into rapid action, so we can get there before others do. Our businesses and industries must be faster and more strategic at closing the gap between
what they have, what they need and the talent that’s out there.

As we navigate the coming competition for talent, it’s a real waste for us not to tap into the expertise of our skilled immigrants in BC.  Moreover, from an economic well-being perspective, now more than ever it’s critical that we do — as communities, as a province and as a country.

Expression of Interest: What Employers Need to Know about Canada’s Proposed New Immigrant Application System

The federal government will be introducing a new application management system that will aim to reduce application processing times and prevent backlogs. This system is currently being referred to as the Expression of Interest (EOI) model.

Updated: On December 10, 2013, hosted a webinar on the proposed Expression of Interest model. Questions # 1, 3 ,4, 6, 7, 8 and 10 in this article have been updated to reflect new information from this webinar.

By Bonnie Mah, Maytree

Background – Immigration to Canada

Immigrants come to Canada in one of three streams: economic, family reunification and humanitarian. The majority arrive through the economic stream. This stream includes the Federal Skilled Worker program, the provincial nominee program, the Canadian Experience Class and business class programs (such as programs for investors and entrepreneurs).

In the past few years, the Canadian government has made changes to all of these immigration streams. Nearly all of the programs under the economic stream have seen changes – for example, changes to the “points system” that determines who qualifies as an immigrant under the Federal Skilled Worker Program, to the size of the Canadian Experience Class as well as who is eligible to apply, and to business classes such as how applicants qualify for the entrepreneur program.

The federal government has indicated that it will also introduce a new application management system that will aim to reduce application processing times and prevent backlogs. This system is currently being referred to as the Expression of Interest (EOI) model. . Former immigration minister Jason Kenney has described the web-based system as being “like a dating site.”

1. What is the Expression of Interest (EOI) model?

The Expression of Interest model is a new immigration application management system that has been proposed by the federal government. It is a two stage model. First, a potential candidate expresses interest in immigrating, and, if qualified, is placed in a pool of qualified people. Next, federal and provincial/territorial governments will pick candidates out of this pool who will then be invited to submit a full application to immigrate.

The EOI model is not currently in effect.

2. Is EOI a new immigration stream/program or an application management system?

EOI is not an immigration stream or an immigration program. It does not replace immigration programs such as the Federal Skilled Worker program or the Provincial Nominee Program. EOI is an application management system for those who want to immigrate under an existing immigration program. For example, someone who wants to immigrate under the Federal Skilled Worker program will submit their expression of interest using the system. If they are selected and invited to apply, their application will then be assessed using the criteria of the Federal Skilled Worker program.

3. Which immigration programs will EOI affect?

The government has indicated that initially it will implement EOI for the Federal Skilled Worker program, the Federal Skilled Trades program and the Canadian Experience Class. Later, it could be used for other immigration programs (such as the Provincial Nominee Program) as well. Quebec, which has a special agreement with the federal government on selecting immigrants, will not participate in the EOI system.

4. How will EOI work?

Not much information is available yet. However, in very general terms, this is how it is expected to work (this example uses the Federal Skilled Worker program):

People who want to immigrate as a Federal Skilled Worker will submit an “Expression of Interest” with information about how they meet the Federal Skilled Worker program criteria. If they meet the criteria, they will be placed in a “selection pool” of candidates. Then, the government will select candidates out of this pool. These candidates will be issued an “Invitation to Apply” – that is, they will be invited to submit an application to immigrate.

After a specified period of time, candidates who are not chosen from this pool will be expunged from the pool.

5. What is the difference between EOI and the current way of processing applications?

Currently, people who want to immigrate submit an application to the Canadian government. The applications are placed in a queue and are processed in the order in which they are received. All complete applications must be processed and a decision made. This has resulted in long processing times and the creation of a backlog.

One aim of EOI is to speed up application and processing times and prevent backlogs. Because applicants are picked out of a pool, they can be picked in any order, not just the order in which they applied. And because candidates who are not chosen are expunged from the pool, EOI will not create a backlog.

6. Who will be able to choose immigrants out of the pool of applicants?

Few details are available at this time. However, the government has indicated that federal and provincial/territorial governments will choose immigrants out of the pool of applicants. In addition, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has indicated that employers will play an indirect role in selecting applicants from this pool.

7. What role will private employers play in the EOI model?

The government has indicated that EOI is an opportunity for employers to play a role in selecting immigrants to Canada. This could mean that employers will have more opportunity to communicate with the federal government about skill shortages and their challenges finding talent within Canada. Or, it could mean that the government facilitates or promotes ways to match employers with people who have expressed interest in immigrating to Canada. For example, in our webinar on December 10, Citizenship and Immigration Canada suggested that existing job-matching services, such as Job Bank, Workopolis, Monster or LinkedIn, might be used to connect EOI applicants with job openings. At this time, few details are available about how exactly this will work.

In addition, Citizenship and Immigration Canada said that employers will not have direct access to the pool of applicants.

8. When will the EOI model come into practice?

The government has indicated that the EOI system will come into effect for the Federal Skilled Worker program, the Federal Skilled Trades program and the Canadian Experience Class in early 2015. Later, the EOI might be applied to other immigration programs as well.

9. Do other countries use an EOI or selection pool model?

New Zealand and Australia use selection pool models that are similar to the one that the Canadian government proposes. Experts indicate that Canada’s proposal is part of a trend towards selection pool immigration models in Anglophone countries.

10. Where can I find more information about EOI?

Anonymous Job Applications Help Overcome Hiring Biases

Both employer and applicant win when using an anonymous job application process.

By Cities of Migration

Do hiring managers really need to know how old a job applicant is, or if she has children? What about where the applicant was born or what he looks like?

Anonymous job applications, which exclude personal information that is not related to an applicant’s qualifications or experience, are one way that leading employers are trying to focus on choosing the best person for the job.

Various forms of anonymous job application procedures have been tried in many places around the world, including in the public sector – for example, in the local governments of Helsinki (Finland) and Gothenburg (Sweden). Both Canada and Belgium prohibit the inclusion of personal information on applications for public sector jobs.  And it is a particularly welcome innovation in German cities.

In Germany, job applicants traditionally list a number of personal characteristics in their applications that are not related to their qualifications, such as place and date of birth, nationality, and marital status. In addition, it is common practice to attach a photo, which makes characteristics like race, gender and age quite obvious to potential employers.

In 2010-11, the city of Celle was one of eight public and private sector employers that took part in a pilot project initiated by the federal government’s Office Against Discrimination. The pilot project aimed to test how anonymous job application procedures could reduce biases in hiring.

Previous research conducted by the Office Against Discrimination indicated that bias in hiring was most likely to happen in the initial stages of the hiring process. Often, a brief glance at an applicant’s name, gender or age was enough for human resources staff to discard an application. In particular, these biases affected people with a migrant background, women with children, and older workers. This confirmed studies conducted in other countries showing that employers are influenced by these types of biases. The pilot therefore focused on the initial stage of hiring – the job application.

During the pilot, the participating employers tried a variety of methods to try to prevent these biases from influencing the review of applications – including blacking out personal details such as name, age, gender, and marital/family status, or using standardized application forms developed for the project. In the end, using standardized forms proved to be the most efficient method.

“The anonymous application process means that whether you will be invited for an interview depends only on your qualifications and not looks, gender, age or background,” says Christine Lüders, head of the federal government’s Office Against Discrimination.

Indeed, this pilot showed results similar to those conducted in other parts of the world – ethnic minorities and women are demonstrably more likely to be invited to an interview. “I was skeptical at first,” says Jockel Birkholz, the head of Celle’s human resources department. But he admits, “In the traditional process, I glanced at the photo, the CV, the marital status – there were biases despite all attempts at objectivity.”

Anonymous job application procedures are being credited with improving the hiring process. Mayor of Celle, Dirk-Ulrich Mende says, “We are now looking more at qualifications during the hiring process. This is the case for both leadership and apprenticeship positions. Many people who we’ve hired [with anonymous job applications] wouldn’t have been chosen before. And all of them have succeeded.”

It has been embraced by the human resources department, which finds the process more efficient. The standardized application forms make it easier for human resources staff to review the applications. “We can narrow down the candidates faster because we concentrate on a few important criteria,” explains Birkholz. This has become increasingly important as the city is often flooded with job applicants. Mayor Mende believes this is because the anonymous procedures have helped the city improve its reputation as a good employer.

The pilot was so successful that the city of Celle decided to continue using anonymous application procedures after the pilot ended. And this good idea has now spread to Göttingen, Hannover, Mainz, Mannheim, Offenbach and Nürnberg and to eight German states.

“The anonymous application process clearly leads to more transparency, objectivity, and equal chances during the decision-making phase and is an important building block towards a workplace without discrimination. We will continue with this process,” pledged Mayor Mende.

For further reading :

Canadian Work Experience Is Important And This Is Why

In this article Evelina Silveira examines Canadian work experience and provides practical advice to employers on how they can hire more effectively and useful tips to skilled immigrant candidates on how they can find work.

By Evelina Silveira, President Diversity at Work in London Inc.   

The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s (OHC) paper “Policy on removing the ‘Canadian experience’ barrier” speaks to the challenges many New Canadians face when they are seeking employment. Citing careers in teaching, counselling, project management, medicine, customer service among others as those requiring Canadian experience.

Opponents of the requirements will argue that it is discriminatory. However, this is too simple of an explanation.

While there will be employers who use this as a reason to discount New Canadians others
may doing so for some very valid reasons.

Let’s take a look at both sides of this issue in a more balanced way.

When I have looked at a resume and see an individual who has spent 5 years in English as A Second Language (ESL) classes and has never worked in Canada or been involved in any community service, this is a red flag for me. I ask myself: How much does this applicant contribute to their community? How integrated are they if their only responsibility is to go to school? Venturing out of the sterility of ESL classes and getting a paid survival job or helping out in the community makes you a richer person and a better prepared future employee. It shows engagement, flexibility, resourcefulness, adaptability, commitment and most of all contribution. These opportunities lead to practicing newly found English speaking skills in a more realistic setting.
Canadian experience can be obtained in many ways. The reason why employers like to have it is because it is easier for employees to integrate into a Canadian workplace. It often means that New Canadians will have some understanding of the soft skills that are required to be successful.

Requiring Canadian experience is not racist. Consider this. If those of us who were born in Canada and were hired to do a job in China, Saudi Arabia, India or other countries how long would we survive? Chances are unless we have a designated employee or mentor helping us out, we wouldn’t understand the workplace culture well enough to last.

Canadian experience is a two-sided responsibility that the Ontario Human Rights Commission doesn’t understand. Both employers and applicants have responsibilities.

For the New Canadian:

  • If you cannot find work in your field, try to find any job. Believe it or not, you are learning and gaining new skills. When I think of all of the survival and student jobs I’ve done over the years, I learned a great deal of skills, some of which I use every day in my business. Listing a survival job on your resume is better than not having one at all. As I have mentioned to ESL students I have mentored in the past, use these opportunities to listen with both your ears and eyes. If you are observant there is much you can learn from any workplace experience. These days there are a lot of people working below their skill levels because of the high unemployment. Employers understand this and will look more positively on you than not working or volunteering at all.
  • Volunteer in your professional associations where you will gain more contacts and networks. You’ll also learn more about how work is delegated, how different issues are handled and the latest information to make you more competitive in your field. You will certainly grow to understand the Canadian workplace landscape better and enhance your soft skills.
  • Become part of your community. Backlash against immigrants is often related to the belief that immigrants are not integrating enough. There is so much need in your community and your skills are surely required. Research what causes interest you and get involved. While going to school each day to learn English is important, if you have been doing this for more than a couple of years you may need to ask yourself if you are hiding behind the security of school, fearing getting a paid or volunteer position? The longer you are away from working the sooner you will lose your skills. Depression can easily settle in. Getting out and having responsibilities outside your family will make you feel better especially when you see that you can help others out.
  • Ask for feedback and be willing to take it. Whether you are working in a survival job or volunteering ,make a point of asking for constructive criticism. This is a great opportunity to find out how you are doing and to learn new skills and understand Canadian culture better.

For employers:

  • Be more flexible when it comes to Canadian experience. Consider survival jobs and community service engagement.
  • List required soft skills instead of asking for Canadian experience. Some applicants will have similar experiences working in multinational organizations with policies and procedures that are similar to North American standards. Canadian experience is less of an issue.
  • Take responsibility for helping New Canadians get experience within your company. You can offer paid internships, unpaid work placement and more. Don’t over look the impact that a buddy system, coaching and mentoring can have on an enthusiastic employee. Be prepared to explain why things are done the way they are in your workplace and the beliefs behind them.  Understanding the “whys” help us to understand the culture better.

Connecting Talent to Opportunity

The Halifax Connector Program helps immigrants build a professional network and connects them with job opportunities to help in their settlement. The Program has now expanded across the country. (This piece was originally published in The Maytree Blog).

By Fred Morley, Executive Vice President and Chief Economist, The Greater Halifax Partnership 

Business needs talent and talent needs opportunity. Both need the Connector Program. As part of a mantra for connecting immigrant professionals to local industry professionals, the Halifax Connector Program has been running since 2010 and has already been replicated in over a dozen communities across Canada.

This spring we were fortunate to receive funding from Citizenship and Immigration Canada to lead a National Connector Program Secretariat. This project recruits, engages and supports new potential connector communities as well as build a Community of Interest among existing connector programs across Canada.

Our goal is to work with 13 new communities across Canada, coast to coast. Three of those programs will be industry specific, such as our first new connector program under the national project, the CGA/CMA Connector Program launched this summer in Calgary, Alberta. A Connector Program Portal and Learning Exchange will contribute to building this national community of connectors and connectees.

The Connector Program is a simple yet highly effective free networking program that puts newcomers directly in touch with local business people, civil servants and community leaders who volunteer as Connectors – people who are in the habit of making introductions and connecting others to opportunities. Through one-on-one meetings with several connectors who work in their field, participants:

  • Learn about the local job market;
  • Enhance their networking skills;
  • Build a professional network; and
  • Improve their job search.

Business and community leaders who volunteer as Connectors benefit from:

  • Access to local talent;
  • Increased awareness about their organization and industry;
  • Knowing they are opening doors for people and helping them succeed in Halifax; and
  • Making their communities more welcoming and diverse.

If your community is interested in adopting a Connector program, please contact Fred Morley at the Greater Halifax Partnership at (902) 490-6000 or [email protected].


Train Employers to Hire and Work with Immigrants

On August 20, 2013, Ratna Omidvar, President of Maytree, spoke at the Queen’s International Institute on Social Policy conference on the topic, “Immigration and Skills.” This is the second in a series of excerpts from her remarks and was originally published in The Maytree blog.

By Ratna Omidvar

In a country where immigrants make up 20% of our population, projected to increase to 25-28% by 2031, focusing only on the deficits of immigrants is short sighted. Just as immigrants have training needs, so to do employers. They must learn to deal with a new demographic. I like to compare what is happening in today’s growing workforce to what happened immediately after the Second World War when large numbers of women entered the work force. As a result, employers and policy makers had to go “back to school.” Many years later we have a healthy range of policies ensuring that women are treated with fairness in the workforce – such as maternity leave policies, rules on what you can ask or not ask in job interviews, the adjustment of height and weight restrictions and so on. Today, employers are facing a similar kind of demographic train and their approaches to sourcing, hiring, on-boarding, assessing, and promoting need to be refreshed, reviewed and updated to meet the changing times.

With a little help, the best teachers for employers will be employers themselves. There is a small but growing community of employers who are learning that the nuances of culture and language of immigrant candidates may be different, but this should not get in the way of identifying and managing talent. Many years ago, we launched a website called that is dedicated to finding and describing these practices. In a way, this platform helps employers borrow proven ideas from their competition.

A few examples of strategies that employers are using:

  • Husky identifies top engineering universities from immigrant source countries to screen in candidates from these institutions.
  • 3M uses a five-minute language exercise for its hiring managers and supervisors that sensitizes them to the challenges that speakers of English as a second language face. Supervisors sit in a circle and are challenged to replace every verb with a synonym. So for instance if you want to say “I went to a movie yesterday,” you have to challenge yourself to replace the verb “went” with another verb.
  • And from as far away as Germany comes this idea that employers will agree to accept and assess resumes that are filed without names or place of education.

Each of these examples has the seed of a policy that could govern the way corporations and public institutions source and identify talent, or how they allocate precious training resources. By translating good practices into policy, we can ensure larger scale impact.

Read other excerpts from this speech
Read the full speech.

Managing Inclusion from the Middle

In this article Lisa Anne Palmer provides useful  tips for organizations to support middle managers to create culturally-inclusive work environments. (This article was originally published in the Ottawa Business Journal.)

By Lisa Anne Palmer

Many organizations invest a great deal of time and effort in the hopes of creating an inclusive work environment. They have top down initiatives to assess organizational maturity, communicate corporate values and highlight senior management commitment. They have bottom-up initiatives led by employee councils to promote and celebrate the spirit of diversity. These efforts make a great deal of business sense and are important elements of a sound Inclusion Strategy.

Then, why is it that HR and senior management within these same organizations are so often left scratching their heads to figure out why they are not achieving the desired results?

Support ‘Managers in the Middle.’

Middle managers are the ones who have to juggle competing priorities and oversee operations while fighting day-to-day fires. What’s more, times of fiscal restraint are placing added pressure on Ottawa’s managers with regards to employee motivation and engagement.

Overworked middle managers are the people that senior management, HR and employees rely on to implement the lion’s share of inclusion initiatives.  They are the gateway to the organization as they do the majority of hiring, communicating, requesting of accommodations, and managing of performance, etc.

At the end of the day, middle managers can have the greatest impact on the success of initiatives designed to effect cultural change. Over the years, I’ve worked with hundreds of managers at all levels from a range of organizations. The vast majority are on side with creating inclusive work environments and leveraging diversity. By the same token, many are still at a loss for how to accomplish this while they meet pressing demands.

Concentrate meaningful levels of effort and resources to support middle managers to integrate diversity.

It is not enough to ‘sell’ managers on the benefits of implementing diversity for their organization – organizations need to make it easier for middle managers to create inclusive work environments. Managers not only need the proper skills and personal attributes, but also tools and strategies that simplify integrating diversity management into their daily human resources and business activities.

How can organizations support middle managers so that they have the knowledge, tools and strategies they need to create inclusive work environments?

They can begin by ensuring that the proper infrastructure is in place to support managers as they strive to create a culturally-inclusive work environment. Progressive policies and senior management commitment provide a solid foundation. However, simplifying related processes so that managers can more easily integrate key elements into their daily operations is what will lead to desired results.

Here are 7 tips for organizations to support middle managers to create culturally-inclusive work environments:

1.    Provide useful and easy-to-access resources: Introduce managers to excellent resources that can connect them with a pipeline of diverse candidates such as theOttawa Job Match Network. Added benefit – this service is free, which can help defray costs during times of fiscal constraint.

2.    Work with recruiters to get strategic:  Engage those who have expertise in outreach to diverse audiences and provide an easy way to post job ads using media geared to qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds. Your organization can also work with Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Federal Internship for Newcomers Program to source highly-qualified job-ready candidates..

3.    Make it easy for Managers to raise their own awareness and that of their employees. Refer your managers to free-of-charge cross-cultural training through Hire Immigrants Ottawa (HIO). In addition, provide them with available on-line training resources and videos through the Cross-Cultural Teamwork Series.

4.    Have key contacts within the organization that can provide managers with additional support: Ensure that managers have access to advisors with the necessary skills to help them raise awareness and address challenging situations. For instance, HR representatives and leaders within your organization can receive advanced training as Facilitators of Cross-Cultural Change (FC3), also offered through HIO.

5.    Simplify cultural accommodation processes: Review existing related processes and establish the necessary infrastructure for requesting accommodation. Ensure that middle managers and employees are well aware of accommodation processes and how to use them.

To find out more about tools and strategies that can help you support managers to create inclusive work environments, you can visit the HIO website. A good place to begin is HIO’s Tools and Resources page, where you can access excellent, free-of-charge tools and strategies to suit your needs.

Lisa Anna Palmer is Principal and Owner of Cattelan Palmer Consulting. Lisa is also Ottawa’s 1st Passion Test Facilitator and helps individuals from all diverse backgrounds who face job loss or who feel stuck in their jobs to better align their career to what is most important to them. Lisa continues to be an avid supporter of HIO where she served as an employer council representative (2009-2011).

Cultural Competence & Diversity Management

In this article Adeeco talks to TRIEC’s Rose DeVerya  about steps Canadian employers can take to transform their organization’s culture and talent management practices in ways that work across cultural differences.

As touched on in our April 7, 2013 article, “The Power of Workplace Diversity“, despite being one of the most multicultural countries in the world, Canada still presents significant obstacles to those who are not of the longstanding western European, particularly British, heritage that characterized the country for much of its history.

Such cultural prejudices prevent organizations from having diversity in the workplace, which means they can’t take advantage of the benefits that come with it, such as appealing to more demographics in what is obviously an increasingly cosmopolitan marketplace. But what about when a new immigrant is hired, particularly one who’s from a very different culture? Are they over the largest hurdle? Or do they face even higher ones once they’ve entered the Canadian workforce?

According to Rose De Veyra, Manager of Learning Initiatives at the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), a multi-stakeholder council that brings leaders together to create and champion solutions to better integrate skilled immigrants in the Toronto Region labour market, there are concrete steps Canadian employers can take to transform their organization’s culture and talent management practices in ways that work across cultural differences. Ultimately, this would enable them to make the most of what true diversity in the workplace has to offer.

Diversity management and management styles

Many people see jobs as stepping stones within a career. Each new position is an opportunity to gain experience, grow one’s skillset, and move on to a new role of higher authority. Unfortunately, for many new immigrants, the gap between that first and second stepping stone can be too wide to surmount, particularly because of differing, culturally driven ideas about what makes a good leader.

“What we in Canada perceive to be the behaviours of a leader might not be what a new immigrant’s behaviour demonstrates”, says De Veyra. Studies have shown that while some personality traits and management styles are perceived positively in one culture, they may be perceived negatively in another. “For instance, while we might appreciate humility in our leaders in Canada, in some cultures, humility might not be perceived as a desirable trait for a leader because the expectation is for the leader to be a stronger, more out there personality.”

Cultural competence starts with communication – about communication

There are many culture-based discrepancies in the Canadian workplace about what constitutes an effective leader: while those born and raised in Canada may view a supervisor who provides a lot of detail and direction in their instructions as intrusive and distrustful (a “micromanager”), people from other cultures may simply see that supervisor as being thorough; while some Canadians may view an overtly passionate leader as lacking a cool head, new immigrants may see that same leader as resolute and rousing.

Most troubling about these differing ideas of what makes an effective leader is how they can impede many immigrants’ potential to climb the corporate ladder. According to De Veyra, leadership styles are demonstrated through different communication styles, which are themselves heavily influenced by cultural norms. “Communication style is one very visible way that culture becomes evident in the workplace”, she says. “How you correct your peers; how you answer a peer’s question; who asks questions and who doesn’t ask questions: these are all elements of performance within a workplace that every employee is expected to understand. But they’re often not defined.” De Veyra points out that employees who intuitively understand those undefined expectations, by virtue of being more familiar with Canadian corporate culture, have an easier time being promoted. For example, those who question various practices and speak up are often seen as contributing to continuous improvement, thereby exhibiting leadership potential.

But there may be new immigrants on the same team who, as De Veyra notes, “are very knowledgeable, but would never speak up, would never challenge an instruction, would never ask a question because in their culture, that would be disrespectful. Because they’re not the boss, it’s not their place to question what they’re told to do.” This respect, however, is often mistakenly perceived by Canadian employers as a lack of understanding or concern. “If you look at a lot of the postings for more senior positions,” continues De Veyra, “communication skills are valued because your ability to build teams hinges on your ability to communicate; your ability to cultivate relationships also relies on being a powerful communicator. But communication styles and preferences are culturally driven – they’re shaped by culture. If the employee shares similar expectations and norms with their supervisor, then there’s no issue. But if the person evaluating the employee’s performance doesn’t see what fits with their cultural norms and expectations, the employee misses out on the opportunity to be identified as high-potential.”

Diversity management strategies to promote cultural competence

Unless diversity in the workplace also includes diversity in the upper echelons, the benefits that cultural diversity can bring to an organization are much harder to realize. So the question is: How can Canadian employers overcome their own cultural biases and provide new immigrants better opportunities for promotion – especially when they’re often not even aware that they’re being biased? De Veyra suggests two types of strategies: process or policy strategies and interpersonal strategies.

  • Process/policy strategies
    According to De Veyra, the most powerful factor in affecting the development of cultural competence in the workplace is education, particularly when it comes to surfacing some of the unspoken expectations around performance and making them transparent. For instance, when communications skills are cited on a performance appraisal, they should include examples so that employees can better understand what kind of behaviour is expected of them. De Veyra says that such learning needs to be part of the employee’s development plan and should be part of a robust orientation/onboarding program. “The more an individual understands not just what needs to be done, but also how it’s expected to be done”, says De Veyra, “the more equitable opportunities there will be for people to move up into leadership roles.”
  • Interpersonal strategies
    Diversity management should not be purely institutional; supervisors also need to take an active, firsthand approach to teaching new immigrant employees about Canadian corporate cultural norms. De Veyra recalls how a supervisor she once worked for on a very multicultural team took notice of how some new immigrant employees didn’t make morning small talk because they came from cultures where it was normal to work straight through the day without any sort of socializing. Such reticence, of course, would impede those employees’ ability to get promoted. So, to help acclimatize them to the Canadian workforce, De Veyra’s former supervisor set aside time during regular team meetings for everyone to share what terms like “hardworking” and “respect” meant to them. They would also talk about one interesting thing with the rest of the group. “You could talk about your family, your work, something you wanted to learn about, or something you experienced,” says De Veyra. “By promoting that openness and providing opportunities for that kind of communication to happen, he provided an example in action of how the employees in question can interact with their peers and supervisors.”

As effective as these strategies are, De Veyra stresses that they take time to affect change. “It’s unrealistic to expect that just because you said something, a change will happen,” she says. “I think that through different strategies, like assigning an onboarding buddy, providing feedback and coaching as part of performance evaluations, the change will happen eventually. Change in any way, but particularly with cultural norms, takes a long time. Cultures are often compared to icebergs: they move extremely slowly, but when two of them collide, they start to shape each other.” That mutual change is one of the reasons De Veyra suggests organizations educate not only new immigrant employees about the corporate culture they’re coming into, but also longstanding employees about the social norms of the country their new teammates are coming from.

However, De Veyra warns against placing too much emphasis on country culture when trying to teach people about newly-hired new immigrants. “To say all people of a certain culture are like this or like that is risky because it leads to stereotypes,” she says, and that point only underlines people’s unfortunate tendency to judge. “Human nature is to jump to judgment when you’re faced with an unexpected situation, such as those that arise with culture shock. It’s human nature. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just a response. But the key is to condition your response. Identify what’s problematic for you about what you’re seeing. That will open up the kinds of conversations employers need to have, particularly with regard to things that might fall within the realm of human rights, such as an individual’s need for accommodations.”

To access free learning and development tools to help you build cultural competency in your organization, visit the TRIEC Campus.

Anonymous Job Applications: The Next Step Towards Bias-Free Hiring

What can employers do to find the best talent while avoiding discrimination or bias in their hiring practices? This article looks at evidence of subconscious bias in hiring and what employers around the world are doing to circumvent these biases. 

By Bonnie Mah, Maytree

Last month, the Ontario Human Rights Commission confirmed that requiring a job applicant to have “Canadian experience” is discriminatory. This has prompted a renewed discussion on discrimination in hiring, and what employers can do to find the best talent while respecting the rights of job applicants.

anon-jobs-postIt’s time to consider anonymous job applications.

Unconscious bias based on applicants’ names

2011 Canadian study (PDF) found that resumes with English-sounding names were 35% more likely to get call-backs from employers than resumes with Chinese- or Indian-sounding names, despite having identical qualifications and experience.

In the same study, when recruiters were interviewed about their choices, many pointed to concerns about the language and social skills of applicants with non-English names, even when a resume showed Canadian education and work experience. The study suggests that non-English names triggered the recruiters’ implicit or subconscious biases about “foreign” applicants. This led recruiters to overweigh their concerns without fully considering the applicants’ qualifications or information that would offset those concerns.

Anonymous job applications can help

The good news is that employers can reduce subconscious biases in their hiring processes by using anonymous application approaches. In this approach, applicants do not provide personal information on their job applications, or it is hidden from reviewers.

A Swedish study looked at the outcomes of an anonymous applications pilot program (PDF) at a large public sector employer. In this pilot program, the employer asked applicants to certain positions to complete an anonymous application form.

The form instructed the applicant to provide information on education, work experience and current employment, but not to include any information that would reveal their ethnic origin or their gender. The form specifically instructed applicants not to identify the university they attended, as this could indicate ethnic origin or immigrant status.

The study found that when the employer used these anonymous applications, ethnic minorities and women were substantially more likely to be selected for an interview.

Similarly, “blind” audition processes for orchestras – where the musician-applicant performs behind a screen – have been a boon for women. One study (PDF) found that since the widespread adoption of blind auditions in the 1970s and 1980s, the number of women in orchestras has increased significantly, and that the screen increases the chance that a woman will advance out of the preliminary audition rounds by 50%.

For online applications, it is easy to remove personal information such as names and street addresses and replace these with a number or other unique identifier for the first round(s) of screening. For “paper” or email applications, applicants could be asked to put personal information at the end of the resume, so that it will be the last, rather than the first, thing that the employer sees.

These practices aren’t perfect. Candidates will eventually meet the employer in person (or by video), at which point overt or subconscious biases can come into play. But getting past on-paper first impressions is a step in the right direction.

Focus on what matters

By helping employers focus on what matters most – the applicant’s ability to do the job – anonymous job applications can circumvent subconscious biases that can get in the way of good decision-making.

In some places in the world, applicants list their age, marital status, political affiliation and attach a photo with their resume. Canadian employers already recognize that this kind of personal information will not tell them anything meaningful about how the applicant will do the job.

Leading employers around the world are starting to test anonymous job applications, and diversity experts are calling for their use.

It’s time for Canadian employers to take the next step. Anonymous job application processes can help employers overcome subconscious bias to find the best, most qualified person for the job.


With the new Ontario Human Rights Commission’s policy on removing the “Canadian experience barrier” Ratna Omidvar, President of Maytree, provides practical examples that employers can use to assess competencies of a potential candidate.

Tips for Effective Cross-Cultural Interviewing

In this article Marianne Kayed provides advice on how to get the most out of a newcomer candidate during the interview process . (This article was originally published in the Ottawa Business Journal.)

By Marianne Kayed

Looking to hire? How do you avoid missing out on great talent?

Let’s look at this scenario… the pressure in the room is palpable – both parties are exchanging information and assessing their ‘fit’ for an employer-employee relationship.  The recruiter– we will call her Barbara , says, “Tell me about yourself.”

Across the table, Samir, an expert civil engineer and a newcomer to Canada begins his response with “Sure… well… I am the youngest of six children, married and have two young children.  I was raised in the outskirts of Tehran…”

After learning the details of Samir’s ancestry and family life, a discouraged Barbara glances down at the interview guide in front of her.  She has written nothing on her paper.  The interview concludes shortly thereafter, and Samir doesn’t receive a call back.

Everyone involved in a job interview strives to get it perfect. As an employer you obviously want to hire the right person for the job. Current demographic trends indicate that immigration is increasingly accounting for net growth in the Canadian labour force. This presents opportunities for employers but at the same requires that employers review their recruitment processes and tools in other that they do not miss out on great talent.

As an employer/recruiter it is important to recognize that:

  • Some newcomer job-seekers have never been in a job interview before.

A job interview can be daunting for even the most experienced job seeker, but for many new immigrants, responding to interview questions is a brand new skill that has to be learned.

  •  Interviewing may be a language minefield for the interviewee.

Just think of the difficulties you might have trying to understand questions and ’sell’ yourself quickly in such a stressful environment using a language that is not your mother tongue.

  • Culture can have a strong influence on the way someone responds to an interview question.

Some of the information that interviewees are typically asked to provide may be considered inappropriate in certain cultures. For example, identifying personality traits or promoting oneself may be seen as impolite, even as bragging. Likewise, identifying a weakness could be seen as losing face.

Here are a few tips and resources that you can use:

  • Review your interview guides for unintended bias
  • Rephrasing interview questions can help unearth the potential of candidates
  • At the beginning of the interview, take time to provide thorough information about the scope of the interview
  • Avoid using jargon or acronyms
  • Note that nonverbal signals vary across cultures. For example, nodding in some cultures, signals disagreement (Greece, Iran, Turkey)
  • Eye contact patterns vary by culture and should not be used to assess truthfulness
  • The Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks has practical employer resources covering a wide range of topics including occupational language analyses (OLAs), cross-cultural interviewing, and more
  • Hire Immigrants Ottawa delivers employer-oriented Cross-Cultural Competency training sessions for employers, managers and human resources staff

So let’s consider an alternate ending to Samir’s interview…

After realizing that Samir hails from a culture that is collectivist, where family lineage, status, and composition weigh heavily in a candidate’s character assessment, Barbara revisits her interview questions and recalibrates… “How did you become interested in engineering?”

Samir responds with excitement, sharing how in his first year of university, he handily won a bridge design contest that he had entered on a whim, “My design was selected in first place, ahead of 300 other entries.  I have loved my work ever since.” Barbara smiles, struck by his passion, and notes the impressive accomplishment on the sheet in front of her and continues with the interview.

I invite you to visit and explore a world of employment-based resources that will help you to avoid missing out on great talent.

Marianne Kayed is a Senior Manager at the Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks in Ottawa. She has experience in integration, professional regulation and second language acquisition of immigrants and helping build the supports to enable successful transitions.

Hire Immigrants Ottawa works with local employers to help them effectively hire and integrate skilled immigrants into their workplaces.

Unlocking Potential: From Underperformer to Asset

Canadian employers share a problem: You hire an internationally educated professional who has the right skills, degree, and workplace experience, but who under performs without explanation.  This is where Business Edge, a bridging program at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Mangement, enables and empowers skilled immigrants to move back into jobs where they can fully utilize their skills, education and professional experience. 

(In the next few month we will have guest experts comment on the story. Please note student names used in this article have been changed for privacy reasons.)

By Dana Wagner, Maytree

You hire qualified people with the right skills and experience. You expect that some will thrive and some will not because they simply don’t fit your workplace. However, if a new hire does under perform somewhat curiously, and particularly if that person was educated and perhaps raised outside Canada, there is a strong case for a slightly different outlook. Is she truly a bad fit? Or, are you about to fire an asset to your company?

Sarah’s case

In the eyes of her employer, Sarah was doing something wrong. She was not meeting her project targets and she was not getting much internal visibility.

Sarah is a mechanical engineer educated in Iran and for the past four years, she worked
as a manager in engineering in Canada. When she was moved from a management role because her employer thought she was better suited to a technical position, Sarah decided to resign. Although she knew management was right for her, she wasn’t excelling and she didn’t know why.

“I tried to gain confidence in my job, but after each mistake it became harder, especially because nobody explained what went wrong,” said Sarah.

A unique program at the Rotman School of Management identifies the problem as an inability of some employees to navigate intercultural dynamics in the workplace. Professionals who are new to Canadian workplace culture often find their soft skills are no longer working, like their communication, networking, and ability to advance. Over time, internationally educated professionals (IEPs) can lose confidence and stop engaging.

It’s a particularly disruptive problem in the workplace because culture is difficult to recognize as a root cause. “It’s very often attributed to the person,” said Sabina Michael,
Program Manager of the Business Edge for Internationally Educated Professionals at Rotman.

IEPs can be fluent in English, overqualified for their position and, on paper, poised to advance. But their inability to navigate a new culture can come across as a language problem, or worse, as a lack of interpersonal and other soft skills.

Intercultural barriers limit opportunities to gain visibility in a company and harm relationships with colleagues and management. Since underperformance frustrates managers, the underperformers will either stagnate or be fired.

Employers lose when IEPs experience career-limiting, intercultural challenges. Companies invest in hiring international talent, but when IEPs don’t show initiative, they don’t contribute in meetings, or they don’t give feedback effectively, “it doesn’t help them, it doesn’t help the employer.”

Delivering the Business Edge

In response to the glut of overqualified and underperforming IEPs, Rotman developed a program to strip the guesswork from navigating Canadian business culture. Business Edge targets men and women who are underemployed but determined to advance.

Participants in the six-month program learn skills needed to gain visibility and build networks. Communication is emphasized, for instance, how to decode subtle messages and manage difficult conversations.

The premise is that awareness unlocks potential. Michael encourages employers to think about the cultural shift employees experience when they switch companies, and imagine that magnified when someone has switched countries. From this perspective, it’s clear that people are able to adapt to a new culture, it often just takes awareness.

“When you are raised in a particular culture you are attuned to the signals of what is okay and what is not okay. Thrown into a new culture you don’t see those signals,” said Michael. “The program really trains you to be a cultural detective.”

A unique program element is its gender focus. Separate courses are offered for men and women because, while problems they face may be the same, the ways they deal with them can be very different. For instance, men and women may take a different approach in negotiating style, networking, and relations with a manager.

An assessment of participants at the one year mark after completion indicates the approach is successful. Over 70 per cent of Business Edge graduates in the last cohort advanced their careers, whether by landing a new position, a promotion, or achieving a lateral move where they negotiated additional responsibilities.

A graduate of the program, Sarah is now employed in a new management role with a global automotive manufacturer, with an even broader scope of responsibilities than in her previous job. She impressed her new employer during interviews and when she asked for better terms, they agreed right away.

“I know myself better and I know my strengths better,” said Sarah.

Intercultural dynamics in your talent management strategy  

If it is rare for IEPs to recognize intercultural barriers, you – the employer – are even less likely to have the ‘aha’ moment.

To recognize if IEPs underperform because of an alien workplace culture, Michael points to performance reviews as a strong indicator. If interpersonal, communication, or other soft skills are sub-par, the source may be cultural, not personal deficiencies. Another sign is a person with high potential who you want to see take on roles of greater responsibility, but who is simply not changing and not adapting.

You may also need to shift your thinking on investment in international talent to the medium-term. One such investment is in providing additional support structures for IEPs. Often, workplaces have internal support like one-on-one mentoring with management, but managers are not right for intercultural coaching. Michael emphasized that IEPs will not openly discuss vulnerabilities with a manager, and in addition, most managers do not have the time or competencies to coach on soft skills, especially those linked to culture.

If you are unable to provide additional support for IEPs, managers can be trained on recognizing intercultural barriers and how to better communicate from their end. “Canadians tend to be very indirect in our feedback,” said Michael, pointing to a common problem where managers give feedback that someone is underperforming, but the person simply has not heard it.

“Integration is much harder than people anticipate and if they don’t have the support systems for integrating, it becomes very hard,” said Michael.

An inclusive talent management strategy enables IEPs to identify and overcome barriers to their success, and you, to capitalize on the talent at your fingertips.

Learn more about Business Edge, funded by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario.

 Tips for employers

  • One-on-one coaching remains a highly effective tool to identify and overcome barriers that prevent IEPs from reaching their full potential
  • Coaching for IEPs should be an additional component to one-on-one professional development with management, since they are less likely to openly talk about problems to a supervisor
  • A starting point to identify the IEPs who underperform because of intercultural dynamics is to look at performance reviews, especially results on interpersonal and other soft skills
  • Managers should be trained on recognizing career-limiting errors linked to culture and on ways they can help, for instance, by improving their own communication style

Business Edge for Internationally Trained Professionals – learn more about the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto program from participants, employers and faculty.

End the Call for ‘Canadian Experience’

Ontario Human Rights Commission makes right move in putting onus on employers to prove it’s a bona fide occupational requirement.

By Todd Humber, HR Reporter

If your job posting calls for “Canadian experience,” it may now be discriminatory — at least in Ontario.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) unveiled its new Policy on Removing the ‘Canadian experience’ Barrier on July 15, and it came out swinging against employers who may not be giving immigrants a fair shake at job opportunities.

“The OHRC’s position is that a strict requirement for ‘Canadian experience’ is prima facie discrimination (discrimination on its face) and can only be used in very limited circumstances,” it said in the 16-page policy. “The onus will be on employers and regulatory bodies to show that a requirement for prior work experience in Canada is a bona fide requirement, based on the legal test this policy sets out.”

When I read the OHRC’s policy, I started with a cynical eye — can this really make a difference?

If an employer doesn’t want to hire a certain group of people — say, minorities — it doesn’t need to put “no minorities need apply” in the ad. It can just not hire minorities. It’s racist. It’s discriminatory. It’s illegal. But it’s hard to prove that in the absence of a smoking gun.

Same with asking for Canadian experience. You don’t need to put it in a job ad if you only want workers who have proven themselves in Canada — you can just skip the resumés that don’t have it, or perhaps even bring in a few token candidates who don’t fit your bill to help with the optics. That tactic is reminiscent of the National Football League’s Rooney rule, which requires NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching and other senior positions and has led to complaints among some minority candidates that they’re being brought in and used only to satisfy the rule.

Plus, employers don’t seem to be calling for Canadian experience— at least not blatantly.

An unscientific search of job board Workopolis on the morning of July 15 revealed just 59 postings with the phrase “Canadian experience.”

Then my cynicism faded and I donned my “left alone people will do the right thing” blinders. Is this even necessary in modern Canada?

While nobody would suggest every employer understands the economic benefits of hiring immigrants, that tide has certainly turned.

It’s safe to say the majority get it — and we’ve covered our share of great stories highlighted at the annual Immigrant Success (IS) Awards in Toronto, of which Canadian HR Reporter is a key sponsor and a strong believer.

But those blinders were quickly knocked off by a survey the OHRC did in 2012 on Canadian experience. It received more than 1,000 responses from jobseekers, regulatory body applicants, employers and others. It proved that newcomers face Canadian experience requirements from employers at the job search stage.

It also showed that professional regulatory bodies need to find a way to smooth the path to membership for new Canadians without Canadian experience — so there’s work for those bodies to do as well.

With all that in mind, there’s only one way to view this new OHRC policy: It’s laudable and it’s helpful to employers and jobseekers alike.

Any move that helps new Canadians find work in their fields can only be met with open arms. In nearly all cases, a call for Canadian work experience is arbitrary at its root. And in positions where it is absolutely critical, employers will still be able to call for it. They’ll just have to clear the bona fide occupational requirement hurdle, which was spelled out in the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling in Meiorin. Essentially, employers must prove the decision was:

•adopted for a purpose or goal that is rationally connected to the function being performed

•adopted in good faith, in the belief that it is needed to fulfill the purpose or goal

•reasonably necessary to accomplish its purpose or goal, because it is impossible to accommodate the candidate without undue hardship.

The Meiorin bar is a high one, so employers will need to ensure the position truly requires Canadian experience before making it a requirement.

While some may argue the real problem is a lack of jobs, not the wording chosen by employers in job postings, the fact remains that we need talented immigrants coming to Canada, en masse, in order to maintain our standard of living and grow the economy.

“If Canada is seen as a place where it is impossible to find a good job, a job in your field, or where, as an engineer or PhD graduate you are likely to end up driving a taxi, it will no longer be a desirable destination for many of the world’s most skilled immigrants,” the OHRC said in the policy. “They will simply choose to go elsewhere.”

The message from the OHRC is simple: Canada is an attractive destination for immigrants. But that shine can easily come off — and some may argue it’s already starting to fade and peel as statistics show new Canadians face higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.

We don’t want the world’s best and brightest going elsewhere. We want them here in Canada, swimming among our talent pool and the OHRC policy will help ensure the water looks inviting.

Other jurisdictions should follow suit.

Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. 

Best practices

In the policy, the OHRC included a list of best practices for employers.

Employers, representatives of employers and regulatory bodies should:

Examine their organizations as a whole to identify potential barriers for newcomers; address any barriers through organizational change initiatives, such as by forming new organizational structures, removing old practices or policies that give rise to human rights concerns, using more objective, transparent processes, and focusing on more inclusive styles of leadership and decision-making.

• Review job requirements and descriptions, recruitment/hiring practices and accreditation criteria to make sure they do not present barriers for newcomer applicants. Take a flexible and individualized approach to assessing an applicant’s qualifications and skills.

• Give an applicant the opportunity to prove his/her qualifications through paid internships, short contracts or positions with probationary periods.

• Provide newcomers with on-the-job training, supports and resources that will enable them to close “skill gaps” (i.e. acquire any skills or knowledge they may be lacking).

• Use competency-based methods to assess an applicant’s skill and ability to do the job.

• Consider all relevant work experience – regardless of where it was obtained.

• Frame job qualifications or criteria in terms of competencies and job-related knowledge and skills.

• Support initiatives designed to empower newcomers inside and outside of their organizations (for example, formal mentoring arrangements, internships, networking opportunities, other types of bridging programs, language training, etc.).

• Monitor the diversity ratios of new recruits to make sure they reflect the diversity of competent applicants overall.

• Implement special programs, corrective measures or outreach initiatives to address inequity or disadvantage affecting newcomers.

• Supply newcomers and social service agencies serving newcomers with information about workplace norms, and expectations and opportunities within the organization.

• Retain outside expertise to help eliminate barriers to newcomer applicants.

• Form partnerships with other similar institutions that can help identify additional best practices.

• Provide all staff with mandatory education and training on human rights and cultural competence.

Employers, representatives of employers and regulatory bodies should not:

• Require applicants to have prior work experience in Canada to be eligible for a particular job.

• Assume that an applicant will not succeed in a particular job because he or she lacks Canadian experience.

• Discount an applicant’s foreign work experience or assign it less weight than their Canadian work experience.

• Rely on subjective notions of “fit” when considering an applicant’s ability to succeed in the workplace.

• Include a requirement for prior Canadian work experience in the job posting or ad, or a requirement for qualifications that could only be obtained by working in Canada.

• Require applicants to disclose their country of origin or the location of their work experience on the job application form.

• Ask applicants questions that may directly or indirectly reveal where their work experience was obtained.

• Ask for local references only.

Removing the “Canadian Experience” Barrier

On July 15, Ratna Omidvar, President of Maytree, addressed the attendees at a launch event of the new policy, “Removing the ‘Canadian experience’ barrier,” by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The policy addresses the issue of employers requiring “Canadian experience” which can create barriers for newcomers looking for jobs or professional accreditation.

By Ratna Omidvar, Maytree

The discussion over removing the “Canadian experience” barrier has an extremely personal context for me. When I arrived in Canada in the early 1980s, Canadian work experience was a much more openly articulated criteria. And, of course, as an immigrant you can’t buy it for love or money. It took me and my husband roughly eight years to find a location in the world of work, and I believe we lost some of the best years of our working lives.

Since that time, while much has changed, much has stayed the same. Canadian work experience is still a barrier – and even when employers don’t ask for it overtly, I think that covertly it is a consideration.

In the years that I have worked on this issue, I believe that employers use Canadian work experience as a proxy for mitigating risk – a sort of shorthand for figuring out whether someone will fit into the workplace.

Bigger employers though are recognizing that this proxy of Canadian work experience is impractical. It is unlikely to tell them what they really want to know, leading them to develop other forms of testing competency. They are therefore breaking down job requirements into specific competencies and striving to ask candidates to demonstrate their experience in these. This is part of the larger bias-free movement to assess skills and competencies. Others are no longer asking for place of education at the onset of the hiring process and on online applications. Still others openly welcome international experience by considering this facet in salary considerations.

The truth is, of course, that while there are enlightened employers, they are still few and far between. Part of the solution must be to grow the tent of enlightened employers and make the case that if corporation A can do this, so can corporation B. Maytree has taken on this challenge and regularly engages with close to 150 employers nationally through best practice, tips and tools and webinars through our work with ALLIES and Slowly but surely, we are building a community of practice. And much as we think that Canada is the leader in all things immigration-related, the truth is that we can learn from other jurisdictions. In Germany, a campaign has been launched to encourage recruiters and candidates to accept anonymous job applications – so dealing directly with the bias around names, credentials, etc.

However, an essential part of the solution is policy. The power of policy is enormous. It can change attitudes, approaches and behaviours. Federal employment equity policies changed radically who got to work for nationally-regulated employers. Federal bilingual policies changed the face of the public service. Demographics too play a role. The massive entry into the workforce by women had a profound effect on gender neutral hiring systems and policies.

Today there is another demographic train bearing down on us. Good practice by a few employers or institutions is encouraging, because it can show what success looks like. But for large-scale change one needs to consider the translation of some of these efforts into policy.

When we think of policy, we usually think only of governmental policy – be it federal, provincial or municipal. And because of the regulating authority of governments, government policy can have enormous reach. For instance, a policy coming out of the Ministry of Labour to formalize bias-free hiring processes for employers of a certain size is imaginable with a “comply or explain” mechanism. The difficulty may well arise in actually implementing and monitoring the policy. The OHRC policy proposal that we see before us today could result in a series of complaints that are resolved one way or another, and if there is enough scope and scale to these complaints, it is possible that a case can be made for the strong arm of government. However, I don’t think that there is either political or public will to take on more regulations at this time.

So while we build the public and political will at the governmental level, we must also remember that policy exists in every corner of our society, not just in the corridors of government. Just as we encourage progressive policy proposals at the governmental level which would deal with the Canadian work experience conundrum, we should also consider a range of proposals coming from industry and business themselves, or their industry associations to ensure that progress is made. These policy initiatives may well stick stronger because they will be industry-led and -owned. Many large employers are aggressive on diversity and have instituted new processes and approaches that can feed the policy imagination. For example, I can imagine a voluntary move by the financial services industry or the insurance industry or even the University Health Network to remove “place of education” from job applications or even accept anonymous job applications. Or I could see them move towards a self-regulated and self-monitoring approach towards bias-free hiring with systems developed by them for application for their members and member organizations.

I welcome this report as a catalyst towards larger policy improvements and greater policy imagination.


With the new Ontario Human Rights Commission’s policy on removing the “Canadian experience barrier” Ratna Omidvar, President of Maytree, provides practical examples that employers can use to assess competencies of a potential candidate.

In the second part of Ratna Omidvar’s remarks on the new Ontario Human Rights Commission’s policy on removing the “Canadian experience” barrier she also talks about the larger role employers can play in ensuring bias free hiring practices.

Accommodating Different Faiths Begins from Within

In this article, Nancy Mark, stresses the importance of accommodating people’s faiths in the workplace and using employees as a way to educate other employees about their behaviours, traditions and practices.

By Nancy Mark, Ottawa Business Journal

Years ago, my Somali colleague Abdi Yunis and I were deciding how to help the managers at an Ottawa corporation learn how to accommodate its Muslim staff.  Abdi’s idea was to include a prayer demonstration during our training.  I will never forget how the management crowded around as Abdi talked about the ablutions, laid down his prayer rug and prayed — all the while explaining what he was saying and doing and why.

The silence in the room was palpable — and the onlookers were forever changed. The veil of mystery had been lifted … somewhat.  Abdi’s decision to “instruct” through interactive demonstration was bang on. His use of a managerial context to support his demonstration added meaning: staff’s need to pray at specific times was akin to that of the CEO calling a meeting at a certain time (one could not say ‘no’ to the CEO) and Abdi pointed upward to demonstrate his adherence to his spiritual CEO.

As we become more and more diverse as a city, and the customs, traditions and values of our mosaic of cultures make their way into our workplaces, it is important to accommodate people’s faiths. Employees have both a human and legal right to this accommodation, even though for us at the other end, we may not know how best to make that happen.

In trying to accommodate, we usually miss a step — the education piece. If people understand the backbone of a faith (albeit the 101 version), they will understand the behaviours, traditions and practices of their fellow employees.

And, it’s not too much to learn about ALL of the faiths in your workplace. Organizations only have to begin within … to look to their own staff members, who are often the best teachers. New Canadians want their faiths to be understood; they do not want to live and practise quietly on the outskirts of our society.

A first step is inviting a member of a faith you are accommodating to speak to you in HR or at lunch-and-learn sessions. Structure what you want to know and allow those you are accommodating to be your teachers. If a particular issue comes up repeatedly, ask the employee who acts as your cultural interpreter (CI) to provide his or her perception. Share views and integrate workable suggestions (slowly) into existing practices. A CI can also help to stay abreast of information the organization should be aware of (for example, Ramadan starts on July 9th  2013, so staff will be fasting and fatigued until they adjust to the fast).

Other ideas:

1) Use lunch-and-learn times to coincide with the faith-based holidays and traditions of your staff. Encourage staff to share food and some typical practices during that holiday.

2)  Obtain an interfaith calendar to know in advance when the holidays that your staff members practise take place.

3) Inclusiveness means to acknowledge the faiths within your group, not to take away from those that are there (for example, instead of dropping the Christmas tree, make sure to add some recognition of other staff holidays). Most people feel comfortable honouring other faiths if their own is acknowledged.

The added bonus to these strategies is the sense of inclusiveness created by allowing learning to arise from within … doing so is a benchmark quality of excellent diverse workplaces.

While we accept multiple faiths in principle, we are still new at moving beyond acceptance to understanding and respect. In the workplace, this will be achieved effectively through interactive understanding. Remember Abdi’s prayer demonstration and how knowledge inspired respect.

Among the many rewards of faith-based accommodation are staff inclusion, retention and productivity.

Nancy is the lead facilitator of Hire Immigrants Ottawa’s cross-cultural competency training for employers.   Hire Immigrants Ottawa works with local employers to help them effectively hire and integrate skilled immigrants into their workplaces.  

What’s in a Name? Possibly Your Future Prosperity

Can having a difficult name to pronounce impact your hiring and promotion prospects? (This article was originally posted on the Maytree blog.)

“Given our diverse and global world, no one should have to change the way they pronounce their name, and Mivoko offers an easy and practical solution to address this issue. We want to change the way people make first impressions and build connections.” Ritu Bhasin, Co-founder, Mivoko –

A recent study discovered that the “more pronounceable a person’s name is, the more likely people are to favour them.” Research also shows that you’re “more likely to land a job interview if your name is John Martin or Emily Brown rather than Lei Li or Tara Singh – even if you have the same Canadian education and work experience.”

The barriers facing newcomers seeking employment have always been difficult. Some are intangible, like the vaguely defined “Canadian experience.” Names and difficulty pronouncing them are barriers that have come to our attention more recently, but they have existed for quite some time. Some employment counselors advise their clients to change their names, or come up with a “Canadian” nickname to make it easier on them (or, really, on others).

Even Maytree’s President, Ratna Omidvar, was given this advice after she had arrived in Canada, as she recalls in A Canadian in the Making: Letters to Canada: “I have received some interesting advice as well and I am pondering over it. It relates to my name, which is apparently very difficult for Canadians to get their tongues around. So I have been advised by a well meaning friend to change it … I have even come down to the final short list of names under consideration: Rita and Rosa. But in the end, I know I will not be able to this. My name is so much part of my identity, handed down to me by my grandmother, it is as indelible as the colour of my skin. And I guess, we will just have to manage.” 

Clearly, our names mean a great deal to us. And it matters that they are pronounced accurately.

So, what to do?


Frustrated with having her name constantly mispronounced, diversity consultant and entrepreneur Ritu Bhasin worked with a Toronto tech team to create a product and service that could help. Like most useful solutions, Mivoko takes a simple approach:

  1. Record your voice in the way you want it pronounced.
  2. Share it. Everywhere.

How Mivoko works

mivoko-widgetMivoko is very easy-to-use and you can sign up for free on the Mivoko site. Once you’ve recorded your name using either Mivoko’s phone recorder or audio recorder, you’ll get personalized HTML code that creates a Mivoko icon button that says your name when you click on it.

You’ll also get a unique link to your Mivoko profile (such as Ratna’s) that you can put anywhere online (email signatures, social sites, blogs etc.) or off-line (resumes, business cards, marketing materials etc.).

You can share your profile, but it’s also available to anyone who visits Mivoko. According to a Toronto Star article: “Once you sign up, the names are then added to the company’s namebank, a database that currently has more than [15,000 names], from Archuleta to Zoubi. It’s a free service for individuals, and low-cost for businesses that want to buy the service for their employees to use. The goal is to gather millions of names from people around the world.”

mivoko-enterpriseIt’s a great service for individuals. But Ritu knows that the “killer app” for Mivoko is getting into companies where name mispronunciation has promotion and business implications.

From the Star: “From Bhasin’s perspective, the widget is good business, but also something that just makes sense in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. By 2031, 63 per cent of Toronto’s population will be a visible minority, up from the 43 per cent counted in the 2006 census, according to StatsCan projections. There’s also the very real possibility that having a hard-to-pronounce name can impact a person’s career, said Bhasin, who witnessed many examples working as a lawyer and diversity consultant to companies in Toronto.”

We think it’s a good idea and we’re on board. Find some of our staff here.


York Region Ensures Effective Hiring with Foreign Credential Process Guide

The Regional Municipality of York was awarded the 2012 Toronto Star Award for Excellence in Workplace Integration as part of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council’s IS Awards. Read more on why they won the award with their innovative practice. This story was originally published by TRIEC.

The Regional Municipality of York wanted to be inclusive to all applicants, including skilled immigrants who possess foreign credentials and experience. Not able to find a tool elsewhere to help them, the Region developed one of its own – a foreign credential process guide with a flowchart, scenarios, templates and other resources.


  • A foreign credential process guide with a flowchart, scenarios, templates and other resources

By the numbers:

  • 27 per cent of the Region’s employees are born outside of Canada
  • The Region’s employees speak more than 60 languages
  • Employees list ‘support for diversity’ among the Region’s top five internal strengths


To promote an effective hiring process that leads to hiring decisions based on merit and is inclusive of all candidates

What else:

The Region partners with a series of internship and bridge programs, such as the Professional Access and Integration Enhancement (PAIE) program, to recruit and integrate skilled immigrants


A major barrier to employment for new immigrants is recognition of foreign credentials and experience. Wanting to diversify the workplace, The Regional Municipality of York developed an innovative tool to help its recruiters and hiring managers overcome this barrier.

“Many new immigrants are choosing to live in York Region. As the Regional government, we need to take the lead and develop a workforce that reflects the community we serve,” says York Region Human Resources Acting Director Beverley Cassidy-Moffatt. “To support this goal, we developed the foreign credential process guide to ensure consistency in our hiring practices among both Canadian and internationally trained candidates.”

The innovative foreign credential process guide was developed following research among other Toronto region municipalities that did not have anything similar. The guide consists of a flowchart for when and how to assess foreign credentials, scenarios, templates for assessment requests and other resources. Easy to use, the guide is designed to promote an effective hiring process that leads to hiring decisions based on merit and does not exclude diverse candidates. The process is working.

York Region is seeing an increasing number of skilled immigrants within its workforce but the foreign credential process guide is only one of its initiatives to facilitate this process. In particular, the Region has targeted new immigrants for some of the hard-to-fill positions through internship and bridge programs with partner organizations. For example, the Region is a leading employer partner with the Professional Access and Integration Enhancement (PAIE) program. Through this program, the Region has first provided internships to and subsequently hired internationally-trained engineers.

“At the Region, I’ve been able to transfer some of my skills and technical background from the Philippines,” says Leany Moreno, an industrial treatment engineer who first joined York Region through the PAIE program. “There is great opportunity here for me and I am always looking forward to coming to work because of the supportive environment.”

The Region’s efforts to diversify its workforce are starting to show results. A 2011 demographic census shows that 27 per cent of the workforce was not born in Canada. Speaking even more to the impact of the human resources initiative, in a 2011 survey, employees rated support for diversity as one of the Region’s strengths.

Watch the video below to learn more about the Region of York’s efforts to implement an effective hiring process that led to hiring decisions based on merit and inclusive to all candidates.

Diversify Your Team: Looking Beyond Recruitment

Law firm Stikeman Elliot recognizes the value of hiring a diverse staff but they also realize the need to also invest, mentor and engage these new staff members to develop a productive working atmosphere. This article was originally published by HRM Online oJune 13, 2013

Canada’s population is becoming increasingly diverse, so your customer base and talent pool are likely a mix that wouldn’t have been seen 20 years ago. There are plenty of soft reasons for increasing diversity, but if you still need to be convinced, how does an increase in sales and revenue sound?

Companies with teams are likely to have better results, according to a University of Illinois study, which found that for every percentage increase in the rate of racial or gender diversity up to the rate represented in the relevant population, there was an increase in sales revenues of approximately 9% and 3%, respectively.

It’s an area that law firm Stikeman Elliot has been focused on for 15 years, starting with an ad hoc, grass roots system and building to today’s organized process for hiring, developing and promoting staff.

A focus on diversity gives the company two advantages, according to Anne Ristic, the Assistant Managing Partner Toronto. One is in recruitment – a focus on diversity gives a broader pool of candidates and therefore a better opportunity to hire the best talent. Secondly, as the firm, like many companies, increases its global client base a diverse team is an advantage for building relationships and understanding other culture groups.

“Having diversity in our workforce helps us increase our cultural fluency and our ability to connect with clients from different cultures whether in Canada or internationally,” Ristic said. It’s also  a recruitment tool as diversity becomes increasingly important for attracting top candidates.

Over the past 15 years the company has seen a big increase in diversity at every level, learning that simply hiring a more diverse group is not enough.

“When we started our focus tended to be on recruitment. We thought we just need to recruit people from different communities and then the problem would take care of itself,” Ristic said. “We realized we needed to do more on both sides – community outreach to get people applying in the first place, and then on the other side, once people are working with you, investing in mentoring and engagement. It’s important to look at what you’re doing at every stage along the pipeline.”

So how did they do it? First was to analyze every step of their employee’s lifecycle, from hiring to partner, and developing clear, objective, written criteria for every stage so everyone from new candidates to the hiring team to the executive branch understood the criteria and expectations.

They also expanded the mentoring program so each junior staff member had more than one mentor, ensuring a more diverse mentor group which gave all the employees more opportunities to learn, grow and take on more advanced assignments.

But sometimes it’s the small thing that counts. If you have ever attended an event where there was nothing you could eat or had someone repeatedly butcher your name you know how demoralizing that can be. “We ask about dietary restrictions and religious observances. They sound like small things but I think taken together it has made our workforce feel that a broad range of communities recognized within the firm,” Ristic said. “We probably get more feedback on the small things than any of the big things.”

For example, Stikeman’s “Hear my name” initiative allows co-workers to listen to a recording of an individual saying their own name before calling them. This broke down barriers where team members might resist asking for help or collaboration out of fear of mispronouncing a name.

There’s also a reflection room available for religious observances, and the company’s Outlook Calendar includes multi-faith holidays to help accommodate any potential conflicts.

It’s made a difference to engagement at the company, with the last few years’ surveys showing Stikeman staff feel welcomed and supported by the company.

“You need to keep moving forward and keep engaging people. We’re not resting on our laurels and thinking we’ve got it all under control,” Ristic said

The Top Five Ways for an Employer to Leverage International Talent

The Waterloo Immigration Partnership provides useful tips on how you can maximize immigrant talent. Check out local resources section to do the same in your region.

1) Provide an internship opportunity to an internationally trained professional

Through the Immigrant Internship program employers are matched with job-ready, skilled, professional immigrants. Placements offer valuable Canadian work experience to a newcomer and all candidates have been screened and assessed for English usage. Employers benefit from multi-lingual professionals who bring global experience to your company and an opportunity for increasing intercultural awareness. Placement opportunities are a minimum of four months.

For more information contact Lil Premsukh at 519.748.5220.2387 or [email protected]

2) Mentor an internationally trained professional and encourage your staff to do the same

The Mentorship for Immigrant Employment Program brings together internationally trained individuals with local mentors in their field to gain a better understanding of the job market; establish networking contacts; and learn more about sector specific language and professional practice in Canada. The volunteer commitment of no more than a couple hours a month over a 4-6 month period is a valuable opportunity to increase intercultural awareness, learn about your field from an  international perspective and support a newcomer’s efforts to become professionally established in our community.

To become a mentor, or for more information, contact:  in K/W 519.579.9622 and in Cambridge 519.621.1621.

3) Integrate Skills into your company’s recruitment practices is a one-of a-kind database for employers to search for, and find internationally trained professionals to fill their recruitment needs.  Candidates are work authorized, language-ready and pre-screened by organizations who work with immigrants in Waterloo region and across Ontario. Use of this no-cost resource in your recruitment strategy will build your competitive advantage in accessing a hidden talent pool of skilled and motivated professionals.

To get started contact Marlene Meechan at 519.664.3402, [email protected]   or visit

4) Conduct mock interviews and/or resume critiques for internationally trained professionals

Internationally trained professionals, while bringing valuable skills and experiences to Canadian employers, often face barriers in getting their foot in the door.  Professional resume development and interview practice are opportunities to better prepare newcomers by building confidence, understanding behavioural and situational interviewing techniques and ensuring their resume meets employer expectations.  While employment specialists in the community assist job seekers, meeting an employer face to face and gaining their perspective can be invaluable to assisting newcomers to become professionally established in our community.

If you are interested in offering your expertise please contact Lil Premsukh at 59.748.5220.2387 or [email protected]

5) Participate in organized networking and recruitment opportunities and in employer learning seminars

The Immigration Partnership provides opportunities for international talent and employers to connect by organizing and presenting networking and recruiting events. These events provide an opportunity for employers to have a complimentary exhibit space to meet immigrants, promote job opportunities and give an overview of their business. In addition, the Immigration Partnership also presents learning seminars for employers i.e.: business owners, human resource professional and hiring managers. Such seminars (usually a lunch and learn) would cover such topics as: how to offer an inclusive workplace, cross-cultural understanding, how to interview and hire immigrants and other topics which employers may indicate as a knowledge/information.

For more information contact Nora Whittington at 519.575.4757.3173 or [email protected]

Check out the hireimmigrants  local resources section to find  immigrant talent and related programs.

Speed Career Networking: Ready, Set…Network!

Speed Career Networking builds relationships and provides informational opportunities for skilled immigrants, while at the same time Canadian professionals use their expertise to support global talent.


The Speed Career Networking (SCN) event is divided into six, 15-minute sessions. Groups of two to three mentees (internationally trained professionals) are paired with a mentor (local professional) to ask questions and pick up job search and career tips. Every 15 minutes, the mentees move to a different mentor for another round of networking. An informal, open networking follows where participants continue with discussions started during the speed networking session.

The first SCN event for this fiscal year was planned for internationally trained Engineers and took place on May 16th in Matrix Hotel, Downtown Edmonton. There were 31 mentees attending the event and 14 mentors representing Enbridge, Worley Parsons, Stantec, Capital Power, Jacobs, City of Edmonton, Pentair Thermal Management and the Immigrant Access Fund (IAF).

Employers shared with the event organizers that they had “enjoyed the event not only as a networking opportunity but also as a learning experience”. One evaluation read: “The event was valuable to me as a mentor as I came to realize the expertise and potential of many people looking for work”.

One of the mentee participants wrote, ”Having helpful and nice persons like you makes Edmonton a nice place to live in. The inspiration and motivation, which you and all volunteers shined with, have reflected positively on all of us and have made Thursday one of the happiest days in my life in Canada”.

The second SCN event held this year was for internationally trained Science Professionals took place on May 23rd at the Natural Health Practitioners of Canada office building on 124th Street in Edmonton. Twelve internationally trained environmental professionals, microbiologists, chemists and geologists attended the event, and two mentors representing Paragon Soils and Environmental Consulting Inc. and The City of Edmonton participated in the event. Many of the mentors invited were not able to attend as spring is the busiest season for their staff, “everybody is out in the field” said one of the HR Managers. The event was still highly appreciated by mentees as participants had an opportunity to learn a lot about the real labour situation in their field of expertise.

These events are not intended to be a career fair or job recruitment opportunity. However, the practical information and career tips provided by professional insiders can help you build and develop your future career in Canada.

Making Connections – Halifax Regional Municipality and Greater Halifax Partnership

Business needs talent. Talent needs opportunity. A networking program completes the equation. This story was originally published by The Cities of Migration.

Most highly skilled newcomers face a common challenge when looking for work – a lack of local connections and networks. How can a city help its newcomers quickly leap over this hurdle? By keeping it simple. The Connector Program in Halifax, Nova Scotia starts from a simple premise: connect established community, business and government leaders with new talent and help them build professional networks.

For cities, the potential is obvious. Newcomers get jobs, cities get skilled residents and thriving labour markets. Recognizing that the availability of jobs is the primary factor in a newcomer’s decision to stay or leave, Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) has made workforce recruitment and retention a primary goal of past (2005-10) and current (2011-16) economic plans. To put good policy to work, HRM engaged the Greater Halifax Partnership (the Partnership), the city’s lead economic development organization, to deliver the Connector Program.

The program’s innovation lies in its simplicity. Its approach:

  • Taps into a willingness among knowledgeable business and community leaders to share their professional networks with newcomers;
  • Uses face-to-face interactions – 30 minute meetings – and networking events such as speed interviewing to facilitate connections between employers and newcomers;
  • Provides newcomers with opportunities to learn about the local job market, enhance their networking skills, build a professional network, and improve their job search

A Multiplier Effect

The Connector Program was designed to meet recruitment and retention goals by building and expanding networks between newcomers to Halifax and established members of the community.

Partnership President and CEO Paul Kent explains: “Connectors meet one-on-one with participants, at their office or for coffee, to share their knowledge about their organization or industry sector and current labour market demands. And then they give the participant referrals to three other contacts in their network.” Because Connectors are employers as well as established community members and business leaders, when the professional network of the newcomer grows, “the potential job pool for the Connector also expands” (HRM Council report).

This multiplier effect addresses local labour needs, by connecting newcomers with opportunities to contribute and settle in their new community and by enriching the talent pool available to employers. The Program has ambitious objectives: to raise awareness and change perceptions on the benefits of hiring immigrants; help newcomers establish a professional network and find employment in their field; connect local employers to skilled, employment-ready newcomers; and establish Halifax as a welcoming city and make it the destination of choice for talent.

While the challenge is complex, the program provides a simple solution. Dick Miller, a Connector from The Shaw Group, explains: “Businesses connect with immigrants to try to develop business leads for them, employment opportunities, talk to them about the benefits and to also help them develop a network. It creates an opportunity for an immigrant to engage with the business community.”

Don Sinclair of Halifax insurance company Fraser & Hoyt recently met with newcomers interested in the insurance industry and came away both impressed and committed to help: “I met a group of “ very bright, focused and keen young men and women who see a positive future for Nova Scotia. I’ll be chatting with my contacts in the local insurance industry this week.”

The low tech, high touch approach is working. Prasad Ranay, a program participant, says: “For me, being a person from outside of Halifax it makes a lot of sense for the initial touch and contact with the community. It’s expanded my network as well as expanded my skills and reach in the community.”


According to the Partnership’s Paul Kent, the Connector Program illustrates the power of relationships. Over 500 local Connectors representing over 300 organizations – including all three levels of government – have already participated, working with 428 international students and newcomers. As a result, 177 new immigrants have found jobs. Given that the model is easily adapted for use with various talent pools, it’s no surprise that the program is being replicated in 14 other Canadian cities.

The Connector Program is not just growing externally, but within Halifax as well. GHP has expanded the program to young and emerging talent, adding a campaign to welcome international students studying in Halifax. A recent Speed Interviewing & Networking event using a ‘speed dating’ model brought together nineteen HR and IT professionals from Halifax’s leading digital industry companies with 40 international students and immigrants.

Even though it’s a relatively young program, past participants have already become Connectors, helping other newcomers establish themselves in Halifax. Program participants like Evgenia Tumik are thrilled at the opportunity the Connector Program offers:

“Through meetings I had while participating in the Connector Program, I was able to develop a strong network of professionals in my field. The referral process led me to apply to the position where I am currently employed. With the help of Connector program, I managed to find a position in my field right after graduation. I am so happy to be living in Halifax and hope to give back to other newcomers in the future.”

The Halifax Connector Program is funded under the Canada-Nova Scotia Labour Market Agreement. The Connector Speed Interviewing Event Series is funded by the RBC Foundation. Its work has been recognized by both the Conference Board of Canada and the International Economic Development Council.

Since the publication of this article the Connector Program also received Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s IQN Workplace Integration Award.

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.

Know your Workforce: Using Data Strategically for Inclusion & Organizational Excellence

In this article, Hire Immigrants Ottawa explains the importance of measuring diversity programs in your organization. In May 2013 they held a workshop highlighting two employers’ practices in using such data to improve their organization’s talent management processes.

By Hire Immigrants Ottawa

Gathering demographic data about your employees is widely regarded as a best practice in diversity and inclusion, according to the Canadian Institute on Diversity and Inclusion. 
Their recent report, What Gets Measured Gets Done, suggests that an Employee Census can be a critical first step in designing, implementing and evaluating the efficacy and impact of diversity initiatives. Yet the same report also estimates that nearly one-half of Canadian organizations do not track basic demographic data of their workforces, and few organizations measure the impact of their diversity initiatives.

To learn more about this important topic, Hire Immigrants Ottawa held a workshop on May 15, 2013, for HR professionals, hiring managers and other stakeholders. The session was
led by two Ottawa employers who are using employee data strategically for inclusion and organizational excellence.

Janice McCoy, Superintendent of Human Resources, Ottawa Carleton District School Board, provided an overview of the OCDSB Journey to Building an Equitable, Diverse and Inclusive Culture. Workshop participants heard how OCDSB implemented a workforce census in order to understand the diverse characteristics of their employees and their capacity to serve an increasingly diverse student and parent population. McCoy illustrated how these data are being used to identify employee training and development needs, and to inform the development of the School Board’s policies and procedures.

Lois Emburg, Program Manager, Diversity & Inclusion with the City of Ottawa, spoke about the City’s Equity and Inclusion Lens, a practical tool used to promote diversity and inclusion at the City of Ottawa. Emburg spoke about the successes the City has had using the tool and how the City is now undertaking a survey-based evaluation project to measure the impact and effectiveness of the Lens.

Additional Resources you can use:

What Gets Measured Gets Done: Measuring the Return on Investment of Diversity and Inclusion. This report by the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion presents a cross-sector overview of what Canadian employers are currently doing to measure diversity and inclusion, and human rights and equity initiatives within their organizations, and specifically highlights promising practices among leading organizations. The report includes a Toolkit to assist HR practitioners in the area of assessing the ROI of diversity.

Equity and Inclusion Lens
 is an innovative and practical tool that enables all City of Ottawa employees and managers to promote equity and inclusion in a systematic fashion. The Lens is it is accompanied by 11 Diversity Snapshots, which serve as effective education and awareness tools. The Lens is designed for use in all types of work situations, whether it’s working with people, designing communications, developing policies, planning projects, or recruiting, interviewing and training.

Count me in! Collecting human rights-based data is a practical guide for human resources professionals interested in collecting employee demographic data. Produced by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, this resource includes examples of Canadian companies that have undertaken data gathering initiatives, which the Commission says can play a useful role in creating strong human rights and human resources strategies for organizations in all sectors.

National Household Survey: this 2011 Statistics Canada’s survey has replaced the Census “long-form” as a primary source of information pertaining to characteristics of the Canadian population.  Data about immigration and ethnocultural diversity is now available on-line, and Statistics Canada provides free access to several data products that will be of use to HR professionals and employers who want to better understand the diversity of the communities in which they operate.

Changes to Temporary Foreign Worker Program a Small Piece of the Big Picture

By Bonnie Mah, Maytree

On April 29, the government announced changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program and encouraged employers to “triple” their efforts to find workers in Canada. The changes follow recent controversies over temporary foreign workers and increased public scrutiny of this program. While they might address some pressing issues, they focus on a small portion of the TFW program. Many issues with the program remain.

Adding checks on employers

The government has billed the changes as ways to ensure that employers use the program only when they truly cannot find workers in Canada. Many of the proposed changes focus on the Labour Market Opinion (LMO), which approves an employer to hire a temporary foreign worker and is issued by the Canadian government.

Some of the changes are effective immediately. Others will be introduced through legislation.

The following changes are effective immediately:

  • The Accelerated LMO, which allowed certain employers to get an LMO in as little as ten business days, is suspended.
  • Employers must pay temporary foreign workers the prevailing wage for that occupation in that region. (Previously, employers could pay temporary foreign workers 5-15% less than the prevailing wage.)

Other changes will be introduced through legislation:

  • Employers will have to answer questions on the LMO application to confirm that they are not using the program to facilitate the outsourcing of Canadian jobs.
  • Employers will need to have a plan in place to transition to a Canadian workforce over time.
  • Employers may not require language skills other than English or French in their job description.
  • Employers will start paying fees for LMO applications.
  • The government will have increased authority to suspend and revoke LMOs if the program is being misused.

Interestingly, some changes target the temporary foreign workers themselves. For example:

  • Applicants will have to pay increased fees for work permits. (Unlike employers, workers have always had to pay a fee to apply.)
  • The government will have increased authority to suspend and revoke work permits if the program is being misused.

Many issues remain

About 40% of temporary foreign workers come to Canada with an LMO. The above changes focus only on these temporary foreign workers (the Seasonal Agricultural Worker program will be exempt from some of these provisions).

In other words, the changes don’t address the majority of temporary foreign workers. About 60% of temporary foreign workers come through streams that do not require an LMO. These include youth exchange programs, intra-company transfers, post-doctoral fellows, spouses of international students and temporary foreign workers, and those who come under international agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

And many issues facing our TFW program remain. For example:

  • The program continues to lack targets or caps on admission.
  • Many temporary foreign workers continue to pay taxes and contributions, but cannot access the services and benefits they pay for (such as Employment Insurance special benefits).
  • The “four-in, four-out” rule continues to require some temporary foreign workers to leave after four years and remain outside of Canada for four years before being eligible to return. Meanwhile employers can apply to hire a new temporary foreign worker right away.

Perhaps most importantly, the trend towards the temporary and away from permanent immigration will continue, untouched by these changes.

This is just one piece of Canada’s immigration system

Some level of temporary foreign workers, both with and without LMOs, is necessary and desirable. We should welcome changes that, if implemented effectively, will ensure that the TFW program fulfills specific, short-term purposes.

However, we must consider these changes as one small piece of the TFW program, which is, in turn, one small piece of Canada’s larger immigration system. Traditionally, our immigration system has been built on the foundation of permanent immigration. As we turn our attention to the TFW program, we must look beyond tweaks and towards the growing role that temporary residence is playing in our immigration system, and what this means for Canada.

Related links

RBC Career Bridge Associate Program

Program support RBC’s small and medium-sized GTA-based business clients in connecting with high-potential, internationally qualified candidates to fit their employment needs.

By Sydney Helland, Career Edge

RBC Royal Bank has further enhanced its partnership with Career Edge Organization by developing the RBC Career Bridge Associate Host Program. This unique program is designed to support RBC’s small and medium-sized GTA-based business clients in connecting with high-potential, internationally qualified candidates to fit their employment needs.

The primary benefit to RBC’s business clients is that the cost of hiring a candidate under this program is covered for the first four months entirely by RBC Royal Bank. This significant subsidy allows for small and medium-sized organizations to grow their business while realizing the benefits of hiring highly skilled, internationally qualified professionals.

Many of RBC’s business clients have already successfully leveraged this program to connect with talent. We had the chance to sit down with Aneela Zaib of emergiTEL Inc. to learn about her experience with the RBC Career Bridge Associate Host Program.


What is the story behind starting emergiTEL?
“Coming from a telecommunications and IT background, we saw a gap in technical hiring. The gap was detailed and accurate screening of candidates based on job requirements. What we saw was the “keyword-based search” on resumes, and not a lot of effort was being made by traditional recruitment companies to qualify whether the resume is a true reflection of the candidate or not.

EmergiTEL was formed based on a solid qualification process to find the right candidate fit for the job as well as the client’s job environment. The model is called Technology Strategy Productivity (TSP).”

How has the RBC-sponsored internship helped your business?

“RBC is clearly aligned with the commitment and the initiative to support newcomers. RBC provided the sponsorship for the first four months to support financially the hiring of these individuals, and EmergiTel eventually decided to offer a regular, full-time position instead of a short-term internship role, which is a great demonstration of our commitment to the longer term retention of good talent.

The subsidy that was provided by RBC has mitigated the inherent risk of a new hire as they move through the probationary period, and on top of that we had those funds that we saved that we can spend on other initiatives, for example maybe the hiring of a few more resources. For a small business like emergiTEL, this subsidy helped with some of the costs for the period when these individuals were being trained for the technical recruiter job, which otherwise would have to be absorbed by emergiTEL.”

What are some of the ways that newcomers contribute to growing Canadian businesses?

“Every year, tens of thousands of newcomers create new economic opportunities for themselves and for Canada by joining the country’s labour force. They not only bring the skills and experience, which might not otherwise be available right away, and they make themselves useful by applying their experience immediately for Canadian businesses, as well as training the rest of the workforce so that – maybe in a few years or maybe in a few months – that workforce again becomes useful for Canadian businesses. This is just one aspect.

The other aspect is that newcomers are a major portion of the technology upgrade of Canadian businesses. We all know the IT and telecommunications field is evolving constantly; it’s growing, the technology is becoming more and more complex. I cannot emphasize more than this, that this is a great channel that we have available in our country to get ourselves an upgrade in technology and knowledge transfer through the immigrant workforce.”

What kind of support does RBC and Career Edge offer small and medium businesses, like emergiTEL, through the Associate Host program? What is really the most valuable to you?

First and foremost, I would really like to thank RBC and Career Edge for being there for us, not only in terms supporting our growth, but also aligning their company’s values and initiatives to businesses like emergiTEL and mobileLIVE. Most of the small to medium-sized businesses have tight budgets, and programs like RBC Career Bridge Associate Host program provide the initial push needed to go through the ramp-up period until the new employee becomes well assimilated with the workforce. This is a very important point; this is the risk mitigation that this program has provided us, for us to be able to hire new immigrants with the peace of mind that this is not going to cost, or put a huge impact on our financial situation. This is a double-fold advantage; these newcomers that we hire prove themselves throughout that probationary period of time and become useful ultimately for the long-term retention of the company.

What value do you see in the relationship between Career Edge and emergiTEL?

As far as Career Edge is concerned, I believe that Career Edge has provided a very strong channel and platform for businesses like emergiTEL and mobileLIVE to get the talent and further place them with our clients. We see Career Edge as one of the important sources of talented newcomers and will continue to work with Career Edge and RBC to find the right place for the new talent.

People with Jobs – Jobs with People

In this article, Ratna Omidvar, comments on how the changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program presents an opportunity and a challenge for all stakeholders involved in immigrant employment.

By Ratna Omidvar, Maytree

The recent and relentless coverage of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program has focused national attention on an issue that has silently crept up on us. The truth is that the program has grown at a rapid and exponential rate over the last few years without much public dialogue or consultation. At the same time as employers are looking overseas for talent that they believe they cannot find at home in Canada, we know that there are many thousands of immigrants, refugees and other Canadians who cannot find a job suitable to their skills and experience. As Rick Miner noted in his landmark 2010 study (PDF), it is the classic conundrum of “People Without Jobs; Jobs Without People.”

The changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program that the federal government announced on April 29 will make it more difficult and more expensive for Canadian employers to overlook talent on the ground.

This presents both an opportunity and a challenge for the ALLIES community.

The opportunity

It calls on us, employers, community agencies, government, and post-secondary institutions, to strengthen our relationships. It calls on us to understand employers’ hiring needs and realities, to identify local talent and showcase it to employers in different ways. Minister Kenney urged employers to “triple” their efforts to find local talent. Let’s make sure we triple our own efforts in serving and connecting our local communities of employers and immigrants.

The challenge

Some habits are hard to break. The affinity for the easy route of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program may have become just such a habit. But the larger community of trainers, educators, NGOs and immigrant-serving agencies may also have fallen into some bad habits by failing to correctly identify the skills, competencies and attributes that today’s labour market demands, or to appropriately prepare, train and coach our job seekers to demonstrate these to employers. Here, too, we must triple our efforts to bridge whatever gaps exist.

Are we up to the challenge? I believe we are. ALLIES’ partners in cities across Canada have their ears to the ground and are connected with both local employers and with immigrant talent. These excellent relationships have brought us solutions such as the Internationally Educated Engineers Qualification program in Winnipeg, along with many other successful bridging programs.

Employers, too, have taken great strides in immigrant employment. Some of these leading employers have been recognized with RISE Awards in Edmonton, Immigrant Success Awards in Toronto, Employer Excellence Awards in Ottawa, and the Best Employers for New Canadiansaward among others. In addition, the website highlights promising practices from employers across the country.

We have the opportunity and responsibility to turn the situation around to “People with Jobs; Jobswith People.” If we continue to open the lines of communication and develop trust between us, ultimately, we will reap the results.

The Canada Job Grant: Challenges and Opportunities for Immigrant Employment

The Canada Job Grant was recently announced in the 2013 federal budget. As a new initiative, it presents both challenges and opportunities for the immigrant employment sector.

By Bonnie Mah, Maytree

The Canada Job Grant is a new initiative that the federal government announced in its 2013 Budget. It has piqued a lot of interest in the immigrant employment sector, and for good reason. The Canada Job Grant could present both challenges and opportunities for our sector. At this time, it exists as an announcement only; however, a few details in the announcement give some indications of how the program might be implemented.

The grant will provide up to $15,000 to individuals for short-term occupational training.

Employers can apply for the grant to train unemployed or underemployed workers. The maximum federal contribution of funds will be $5,000, which must be matched by $5,000 in provincial/territorial funds, and $5,000 from the employer.

The government funds will come from the federal-provincial Labour Market Agreements (LMAs). The federal government plans to negotiate implementation with provinces and territories in 2014-15, and fully implement the program by 2017-18.


Eligibility requirements, shifts in funding, and a shift in approach to training could present challenges for immigrant employment programs and services.

We do not yet know many details about the individuals or employers who will be able to use the grant, nor about the kinds of training and organizations that will be considered eligible. The Budget document indicates that eligible training institutions will include “community colleges, career colleges and trade union training centres,” but we do not know whether programs delivered by community organizations will be eligible. If they are not, this might drive skilled immigrants and employers to programs offered by “approved” institutions.

Further, the Canada Job Grant will be funded through federal-provincial Labour Market Agreements (LMAs), which fund programs and services for people who are not eligible for Employment Insurance (EI). When fully implemented, 60% of LMA funding will go towards the Canada Job Grant, leaving only 40% for everything else that is currently funded through LMAs. This could leave proven programs – such as mentoring for skilled immigrants – vulnerable to funding cuts.

The grant also represents a shift in approach to skills training. It relies on the participation and, by extension, the direction of the employer. Some argue that employers are likely to focus on training for immediate needs, which means that broad-based training that might bring longer-term benefits to workers and the labour market could suffer. In addition, employers might tend to rely on training and institutions that they are already familiar with, which might not be targeted at the specific needs of skilled immigrants.

Others question whether employers will be willing to pay $5,000 for training a new worker in the first place, or in the case of small businesses, whether they will have the resources to do so. If employers are allowed to apply for the Canada Job Grant for training programs that they are already running, then this grant might not actually impact how employers hire or encourage them to consider under-employed workers, such as skilled immigrants.


Since we don’t have many details on how the Canada Job Grant will be implemented, we might have opportunities to share our ideas on how to make it most effective. The federal government has indicated that it will consult with stakeholders such as employer associations, educational institutions and labour organizations. In fact, the first consultation was held on April 19 in Brantford, Ontario. It might be possible to encourage federal and provincial/territorial governments to consider the work that we do with skilled immigrants. Perhaps this is a time to consider whether fees for community-based programs are appropriate, if individuals and employers can use the grant to pay them.

If implemented in a way that makes sense for employers, the Canada Job Grant could encourage employers to take risks on candidates who they wouldn’t normally hire. This could benefit many workers, including skilled immigrants. Targeted outreach about the grant and how it could help them hire skilled immigrant talent could nudge employers in that direction.

It is important for those of us working with skilled immigrants and employers to take part in this conversation. We must monitor and share information about the consultations and possible directions for implementation. We need to provide evidence of the success and potential of our work, and consider how to make the Canada Job Grant work for skilled immigrants and employers.

Related links

Strengthening Teamwork and Building More Effective Service Delivery – The City of Edmonton

City of Edmonton’s Canadian Workplace Culture project develops staff’s communication skills to be more effective in their jobs.

By ERIEC, Wave Blog

The  City of Edmonton is running a Canadian Workplace Culture pilot project for their staff who are Internationally Educated Professionals (IEP) and newcomer graduates from Canadian Universities.  Participants are individuals whose first language may not be English; in fact many of them speak three or more languages and English is the most recent language they have learned. The newcomers were invited to participate in this eight-month project about communication skills and conversation management for the professional workplace. The diversity within the group in terms of number of years of service with the City, how long they have been in Canada, marital status, age, gender and occupation was immense.

Why did the City consider implementing such a project? Language is more than words; it is also about how we communicate. We can learn English grammar, but it’s another thing to learn the soft skills, the cultural nuances and the unwritten rules of communication. That is why the curriculum of the pilot program focuses on integrating IEPs and other graduates into the Canadian Workplace. The sessions follow a structured curriculum and cover a range of topics that includes introduction to the Canadian-workplace culture, non-verbal communication signals, and giving informal and formal presentations. The group meets twice a month between February and December 2013.

To implement a successful program, buy-in from senior leadership is ‘a must’. In this case, the Manager of Drainage Services, and the Diversity and Inclusion Consultant in the Human Resources Branch partnered with Norquest College to assist Drainage staff in improving both their language and presentation skills. The City views this as an investment in their employees and the participants sees this training as an investment toward their careers.

Effective communication is an essential skill in today’s workplace which can lead to collaboration, sharing of information and relationship building. The anticipated outcomes for participants also include increased self confidence and ongoing positive interactions both with team members and customers.

The City hopes that the pilot will be highly successful and that this will lead to similar program offerings to other employees within the City of Edmonton.  Hopefully other employers will follow The City’s lead in building a diverse workforce!

(Special thanks to Candy Khan, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant and Jeff MacPherson Branch Manager Human Resources, City Of Edmonton for this week’s blog contribution)

Temporary foreign workers are a concern for all Canadians

The number of temporary foreign workers living in Canada has tripled over the past decade. Reliance on these workers interferes with market forces that would otherwise improve working conditions and spur investment in training for Canadian citizens and permanent residents according to this new Maytree article. However, the recent federal budget signals that the government is reconsidering how the temporary foreign worker program works.

By Bonnie Mah, Maytree

Last year, nearly 215,000 people entered Canada as temporary foreign workers in half a dozen program streams.

In comparison, in the same year, Canada admitted a grand total of 257,500 people as permanent residents – a number that includes all immigrants and refugees, spouses and children.

Those numbers are not an anomaly. Rather, they reflect a trend that has been quietly gaining momentum. The number of temporary foreign workers living in Canada has tripled over the past decade. From 2002-2010, numbers for every temporary foreign worker stream (both high-skilled and low-skilled streams) have increased. In 2012, nearly 340,000 temporary foreign workers lived in Canada.

Temporary foreign workers influence the labour market

Unlike permanent immigration programs, temporary foreign worker programs have no targets or caps on admissions. The number of temporary foreign workers admitted each year is subject to demand from employers and people applying for work permits. Our top five source countries are: Philippines, the United States, Mexico, Australia and France. About 40% come with a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) from the Canadian government, which approves an employer to hire a temporary foreign worker. The remaining 60% do not require an LMO.

Over the past few years, the federal government has made a number of changes that make it easier for employers to hire temporary foreign workers. For example, it shortened processing times for the LMO. In addition, employers are now allowed to pay temporary foreign workers 5-15% less than the prevailing wage for that occupation in that region.

Economists argue that the use of temporary foreign workers interferes with market forces that would otherwise motivate employers to raise wages and improve working conditions. Further, relying on workers that have been educated and trained abroad removes the incentive for employers and the government to invest in training Canadian citizens and permanent residents for available jobs. Some employers even hire successive temporary foreign workers, which suggests that these jobs are not truly temporary. Why spend time and money on job training for Canadian-born workers, or on employment support for new immigrants, when you can import short-term workers and pay them less?

Temporary foreign workers also give a few unscrupulous employers the opportunity to circumvent our labour laws by maintaining sub-standard working conditions for workers who are unlikely to complain or exercise their rights. And while temporary foreign workers pay taxes and contributions, they often cannot access the government services or benefits that these taxes and contributions pay for. Some temporary foreign workers, for example, are not eligible to collect Employment Insurance (EI) special benefits (such as maternity, parental, and compassionate care benefits), even though they are required to pay EI premiums. In other words, the government collects from these temporary foreign workers without fulfilling its end of the bargain.

At the same time, changes to our immigration system, such as the introduction of the Canadian Experience Class for select temporary residents, indicate that the government increasingly sees temporary residence as the first step before permanent immigration. Compared to Canada’s tradition of direct permanent residence, this extra step can mean delaying attachment to Canada and “being Canadian,” as well as prolonged family separation.

Reconsidering the role of temporary foreign workers

The government has recently signaled that it is reconsidering how the temporary foreign worker program works. Following recent public uproar over foreign mining workers in British Columbia, the government has undertaken consultations on this program. And while the federal budget allocates $42 million to meet the growing demand of temporary resident programs, it also proposes to:

  • Introduce fees for employers applying for a Labour Market Opinion (LMO)
  • Restrict the use of non-official languages as job requirements when hiring through the temporary foreign worker process
  • Increase the requirements for employers to try to recruit workers within Canada
  • Help employers that legitimately rely on temporary foreign workers to plan to transition to a Canadian workforce over time

These proposed changes might provide a needed check to ensure that employers reconsider their use of the temporary foreign worker program. At the same time, the fees will presumably facilitate processing of LMOs and work permits.

Certainly, some temporary foreign workers are necessary and desirable. But not at this scale. Not if the system works to the detriment of citizens and permanent residents already living in Canada. And not at the expense of our successful tradition of permanent immigration and naturalization.

We cannot let more time pass without a serious discussion about what this program does to and for Canada, and to and for foreign workers and future Canadians. We need to have a national conversation about the role of temporary foreign workers in the Canadian labour market and in Canada’s immigration system.


Internships in Ontario: A Checklist for Employers

In this article, George Vuicic talks about some of the regulations which govern organizations as they plan an internship for newcomers to Canada. George is an Ottawa based partner with Hicks Morley LLP, a law firm specializing in human resources law and advocacy for employers.

By George Vuicic, Ottawa Business Journal

Internships are playing a growing role in the skills development and integration of our city’s labour market entrants.  These experiences offer advantages to job-seekers as well as host- organizations, presenting an excellent opportunity for highly skilled newcomers to gain familiarity with the Canadian workplace culture, and strengthening host-organization mentoring culture and training programs, while bolstering the talent pipeline.

In human resources lingo, internships tend to be loosely classified as ‘formal,’ ‘informal,’ ‘paid,’ and ‘unpaid’.  Organizations can sometimes be perplexed when it comes to understanding their responsibilities when entering into an internship relationship, especially with regards to compensation.

I was recently approached by Hire Immigrants Ottawa (HIO) to clarify some of the regulations which govern organizations as they plan an internship for newcomers to Canada, as well as what factors can contribute to a successful experience for both parties.

Here are some of the basics, and some resources to consult for more information.

Most employment relationships in Ontario are regulated by the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA).  Under this legislation, an internship is considered a paid employment relationship and entitles the intern to minimum wage payments unless all six of the following conditions are met:

1) The training is similar to that which is given in a vocational school.

This requirement indicates that in order for an intern not to be considered an employee, they must be learning employable skills or a caliber comparable to vocational schools – extending beyond errands and small tasks.

2) The training is for the benefit of the individual.

3) The person providing the training derives little, if any, benefit from the activity of the individual while he or she is being trained.

Requirements two and three infer that an intern who is not receiving remuneration cannot perform work which would otherwise be paid.  The intern must be taken for their own proper benefit and not for that of the employer.

4) The individual does not displace employees of the company providing the training.

The ‘unpaid’ intern cannot take the place of a current employee or act as a substitute for hiring a new employee.

5) The individual is not accorded a right to become an employee of the company providing the training.

This requirement outlines that the ‘unpaid’ internship may not automatically end with a guaranteed position.  Hiring of interns may occur on a contingent basis dependent on assessment at the end of the internship program.

6) The individual is advised that he or she will receive no remuneration for the time that he or she spends in training.

It is important to note that although a newcomer may agree to partake in an unpaid internship program, they may still qualify as an employee for the purposes of the ESA, and therefore be entitled to remuneration.

While remuneration is the final item addressed on the list of requirements above, one of the first things a host-organization should determine and communicate to a potential intern is what training will be provided and whether/how they will be remunerated.

If your organization is considering taking an intern for the first time, I would advise you to have an internship agreement in place.  This document should outline the objectives of the internship, the duties and responsibilities of both parties, and the organization’s HR policies with regards to privacy, confidentiality, intellectual property, and termination.

It is also essential to ensure compliance with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, as well as the Ontario Human Rights Code – two other pieces of legislation which have a bearing on employment in Ontario.

In 2011, HIO recognized Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) with an Employer Excellence Award for their paid Immigrant Internship Pilot Program (now called Federal Internship for Newcomers Program with Citizenship and Immigration Canada).  Janice Charette, Deputy Minister of HRSDC at the time shared that, “This pilot has created an opportunity for HRSDC to recruit and mentor Foreign Trained Professionals, not only increasing the diversity of our workplace, but providing them with a quality work experience that will help them to better integrate into the workforce.”

If you are considering bringing a newcomer intern aboard, I would encourage you to get involved with HIO for cross-cultural training and referral to organizations in Ottawa that can help your organization source candidates.

George Vuicic is an Ottawa based partner with Hicks Morley LLP, a law firm specializing in human resources law and advocacy for employers.  George thrives on helping employers to achieve their workplace objectives.

Hire Immigrants Ottawa works with local employers to help them effectively hire and integrate skilled immigrants into their workplaces.

Top 10 Canadian Immigration Stories of 2012

2012 was an exceptionally busy year in the Canadian immigration system. Below are 2 out of the top 10 immigration stories of 2012 that focus on immigrant employment issues. (This article was originally published in its entirety on February 27, 2013 in Maytree Conversations.)

By Maytree

2012 was an exceptionally busy year in the Canadian immigration system. Building on last year’s “Top 10 Canadian Immigration Stories of 2011,” a group of writers including Z Sonia Worotynec, Gregory Johannson, and Bonnie Mah present a similar top 10 list for 2012. For each story, we’ve provided a brief introduction, some background and related links and resources.

This year’s overarching theme: while 2011 was the year of consultations, 2012 was a year of change. It brought an explosive number of changes and proposed changes to the ways that Canada selects and treats immigrants, refugees and citizens as well as how we talk about immigrants and refugees. Multiple announcements and re-announcements from the Minister’s office made it challenging to figure out what changes had been made, what had been proposed only, and when changes or proposed changes would take effect.

Selection of Economic Class Immigrants

The Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), often considered the backbone of Canada’s economic immigration, was the target of many of the proposed changes. The points system is being re-configured to:

  • Increase the number of points for the first official language spoken;
  • Increase points for younger applicants;
  • Decrease points for work experience gained outside of Canada;
  • Require a credential assessment by a third party at the time of application.

While it re-tooled this program, the government stopped accepting applications to the FSWP on July 1, 2012. This program is expected to re-open on May 4, 2013.

Alongside these changes, the government also announced a new stream for skilled tradespersons, who traditionally have had a difficult time qualifying under the FSWP criteria. Like the FSWP, the trades stream will accept applications from individuals with occupations on a predetermined occupations list. The stream will be capped at 3,000 applications for 2013. It opened on January 2, 2013, and has been well-received, despite its small size.

In addition, the Canadian Experience Class, Provincial Nominee Programs, Investor Class and Entrepreneur Class all saw changes or proposed changes this year.

To deal with the long-standing backlog of applicants to the FSWP, the government proposed to return FSWP applications and fees submitted before February 27, 2008. The decision cut off 280,000 applicants, and is currently being challenged in Federal Court.

To prevent the development of future backlogs, the government proposed moving to a selection system similar to New Zealand’s Expression of Interest system. Under this system, applicants are selected from a pool – rather than from a queue – allowing unsuccessful applicants to be removed quickly. Canada’s new system is expected to be implemented in 2014.

Related Resources

Facilitating Temporary Residence and Two-Step Immigration

The trend towards temporary resident growth continued in 2012. In particular, a number of changes made it easier for employers to bring temporary foreign workers (TFWs) to Canada.

In April, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) introduced a ten-day Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (A-LMO) process to approve employers seeking to hire a TFW. At the same time, HRSDC changed the rules on pay for foreign workers. Employers can now pay TFWs in high skilled positions 15% less than the prevailing wage, and TFWs in lower skilled positions 5% less than the prevailing wage.

In July, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) expanded a pilot project that allows employers in Alberta to hire TFWs in some trades, and allows these workers to move between employers without going through the Labour Market Opinion (LMO) process.

Just as the year was about to close, the government announced it would table new rules for international students. The rules would designate educational institutions permitted to host international students and remove the requirement for international students who wish to work part-time to get an off-campus work permit. These changes are intended to be part of Canada’s efforts in attracting international students – who are “a great source of potential permanent immigrants.”

In 2012, the government again signaled the growing preference for two-step immigration – that is, permanent residence after temporary residence – by easing requirements of the Canadian Experience Class (CEC). This change means that TFWs in high-skilled jobs will require only 12 months of in-Canada work experience (down from 24 months) to apply for permanent residence through the CEC.

Read the the full list of top 10 Canadian Immigration Stories of 2012

Skilled Immigrants Give Metro Labs A Competitive Advantage

Metro Testing Laboratories uses innovative recruiting and training techniques to grow their company.


You’re hiring. Of course, you want the best fit possible. So, ideally, as a BC-based company, you want candidates with Canadian experience and fluent English. Right?

Maybe not. Metro Testing Laboratories is one company that has taken a very different approach — which has paid off handsomely for them in terms of highly successful recruitment and retention.

Metro Testing Laboratories is a 205-employee firm that provides inspection and testing for all phases of construction as well as in-house supplemental testing. They work with local contractors, engineering and architectural firms and municipal and provincial government agencies.

Metro Testing Laboratories doesn’t make Canadian experience mandatory for new hires. “We prefer to train them ourselves into our way of doing things,” says Harry Watson, President, Metro Testing Laboratories. Metro Testing Laboratories also has other techniques for recruiting skilled immigrants. “In our advertising we ask to have a second language. This prompts skilled immigrants to apply,” Harry explains. “We put on free training courses for the type of work that we do, and we also send the applicants out to shadow some of our employees. Then we will often offer them a job.”

Harry notes that his approach of actively seeking out skilled immigrants for its workforce is unusual in his field, where he says most companies tend to be somewhat “tribal” in whom they hire. At Metro Labs, however, the “tribe” is global. “To date we have brought people from 15 different cultures into the group — no small thing for a small company,” says Harry.

Harry admits that it does take some accommodation: “Give the skilled immigrants an opportunity to show they can actually do the work, be patient with them, give them a little bit longer time to adopt the culture,” he suggests. But, he says, the pay-offs are enormous. “Skilled immigrants have definitely contributed to the success of Metro, and they really do feel like a part of the company. I think they feel proud of the company.”

“As BC employers face growing skill shortages, what constitutes the “right fit” is undergoing a transformation,” says Kelly Pollack, Executive Director of the Immigrant Employment Council of British Columbia. “Employers like Harry, who have adjusted their hiring standards and recruitment techniques to include, rather than exclude, skilled immigrants from their talent pool, will have a significant competitive advantage.”

Harry was a presenter at the fall IEC-BC Leader’s’ Summit on Immigrant Employment. Click here to read the Summit Proceedings. Harry and his employee Ali Boromand are featured in an ad which ran in BC Business and in a video on the importance of integrating skilled immigrants into the BC labour force.

Barrier or Opportunity: How do you Think about Diversity

Clarence Lochhead Senior Manager, Policy and Research, Hire Immigrants Ottawa talks about turning diversity challenges into diversity opportunities. (This article was originally published on February 11, 2013 in the Ottawa Business Journal.)

By Clarence Lochead

In the world of human resources, diversity is a commonly used word. You probably can’t name an HR conference of the recent past that didn’t have at least one session devoted to diversity in the workplace.

A quick Google search of “diversity in the workplace” will give you…just a second….there we go, 5,530,000 results, in 0.23 seconds no less. Scanning the search results you’ll find that references to diversity specialists and diversity managers are ubiquitous, that CEOs in Canada and elsewhere are becoming diversity champions, and that yes, bloggers are blogging about diversity! Even the most unlikely (and perhaps funniest) of workplaces are beginning to talk about diversity.

Diversity refers to many things: cultural, linguistic, sexual orientation, age, gender, cognitive facilities, and so on. It’s a long list, and ah-hem, very diverse.  But what I’m focusing on here is the diversity we see in Ottawa’s labour force as a result of immigration.

In the past 10 years, Ottawa has received a total of about 64,000 immigrants. That’s almost equivalent to the total population of Barrhaven!  Immigrants represent an incredibly diverse set of cultures, languages, skills and experiences. According to the Census, 22% of Ottawa’s residents are immigrants, and projections by Statistics Canada suggest this could rise to 29% over the next 20 years.

Diversity is not a new topic, but it seems pretty clear that interest in diversity is growing rapidly. We’re also starting to see a change in how we think about diversity: what it means to our workplaces, and importantly, how we “situate” diversity within organizational and business strategies.

It was only about ten years ago that research based on 2001 Census data began to document the deteriorating labour market outcomes experienced by new immigrants.  At that time, the diversity within and among immigrant populations coming to Canada was largely viewed as a barrier to successful labour market integration. Diversity was associated with lack of language skills, or with religious and cultural practices that had to be accommodated. Diversity meant educational credentials attained from an unfamiliar university from another country. It meant, as it still does, great pot-luck dinners, but the top level view of diversity was largely that it created challenges for the workplace. And more, the challenges of diversity were typically cast as deficiencies of the new immigrants themselves (sub-par English or French skills, no Canadian work experience, etc.), while the perceived “solutions” were largely seen as the domain and responsibility of the immigrants themselves.

Managing diverse teams is not without challenges. The truth is, a diverse labour force does, and likely always will, present challenges for any workplace. But the new and much more powerful thinking is that diversity represents opportunity: to incorporate different perspectives, to gain access to highly skilled internationally educated and trained workers, to better understand and respond to a diverse customer base, to expand markets, and so on. It’s an important change of viewpoint, for what used to be seen as the immigrant’s problem is far more likely today to be seen as the organization’s responsibility to seize the opportunities presented by diversity; to support and sustain inclusive and dynamic workplaces through sound practice and policy. For many organizations today, strategically managing diversity is simply a business imperative.

Of course, not all businesses and organizations think this way. But there are great examples of workplaces making real systemic change based on this far more astute view of diversity. Many of these organizations are members of the Hire Immigrants Ottawa initiative. The engagement of these organizations suggests to me that Ottawa’s employers are finding ways to turn diversity challenges into diversity opportunities.

So how do you think about diversity: barrier, opportunity, or both?  I hope you’ll reflect on that question, and maybe share your thoughts.

Tips for Onboarding Skilled Immigrants

Jill Chesley of the Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council talks about the steps you can take to ensure a new employee will succeed in your organization.  (This article was first published in the Commerce News; The Voice of Business in Edmonton, in December of 2012, Vol. 34 No.11 and republished in ERIEC’s blog- The Wave.)

By Jill Chesley, ERIEC

It is projected that by 2025, immigrants will constitute 100% of the growth in the Canadian labour market. Combine this potential business reality with the fact that recruitment and training of new employees is a significant expense, and you will understand why effective onboarding and retention of internationally educated employees is crucial.

There are steps that employers can take to ensure that the new employee will succeed and contribute to the organization’s goals. Orientation, training/development, setting expectations, and mentoring are important components of a new hire’s first few weeks or months on the job.

Many immigrants come from work environments where orientation is a 2-week long process. Imagine their surprise when they arrive at work in Edmonton and have a one-day orientation. Employers often encourage new hires to make themselves comfortable in their new workspace, and to ask questions when needed, but the immigrant may not know who to ask, or may be hesitant to approach colleagues who are very busy.

Orientation should include a number of topics in addition to the employee’s regular list of job duties and requirements. No orientation for newcomers is complete or effective without addressing workplace culture. What are the norms of behaviour, communication, dress, breaks, social conversation, or meeting etiquette? Cultures vary widely in their approaches to verbal and non-verbal communication, personal space, hierarchy, teamwork, initiative, formality, punctuality and privacy. Employers need to help a new employee understand how things work in their new work environment – help them integrate.

Perhaps most importantly, orientation should involve introductions to colleagues. Many immigrants come from countries where relationships must be developed before work can get done. By facilitating introductions with peers, and it will help them start on the right foot.

Exploration of such cultural issues is often best done through training with an experienced intercultural facilitator over the first few weeks of the immigrant’s employment. It is also effective to have Canadian staff in the sessions; they, too, need to understand cultural differences and how to best work in multicultural teams. Other training topics such English in the workplace and communication can also be useful for the new employee.

Employers need to set expectations with the new employee and provide feedback on their performance. It is important to explain key requirements of the job, key performance issues, and goals of the work team and/or organization. Expectations need to be clear, concrete and timely. Employers need to create opportunities to provide frank and constructive feedback in the first weeks and months. Canadians are often too polite, and couch criticism in a “feedback sandwich”. A newcomer might not hear criticism that is subtly expressed. The skilled immigrant wants to perform well, get along with colleagues and contribute to the team, but needs the information to do so.

Mentorship or a buddy system can be an effective way to address many of the issues described above.  Many organizations have internal mentorship programs that are excellent ways to help a new hire integrate, and to allow the mentor to grow professionally as well. A mentor or a buddy is a colleague who shows the new employee around, makes introductions, answers questions – especially ones that the new employee might be embarrassed to ask anyone else – and provides feedback. This responsibility should be part of the buddy’s job description, and not a task that is piled on top of an already full workload.

One issue not yet mentioned is culture shock. Culture shock can happen at any time, and not just to immigrants who are brand new. Learn the symptoms and signs of culture shock, and prepare organizational strategies to support the employees through it.

Cultural Fit, Professional Newcomers, & Constructive Dismissal

In workplaces emphasizing “cultural fit” over skills, a newcomer might feel edged out or subtly ignored, and feel tempted to quit. Orange LLP provides insight into constructive dismissal, a thinly veiled form of workplace harassment. (This blog posting was originally published on the Orange LLP blog.)

By Victoria Hetherington, Orange LLP

Since the Orange team has welcomed the wonderful Vicky Wong, who specializes in labour law, our firm has expanded its focus to employment and human rights issues. This expansion is quite intuitive as, from a legal standpoint, there are many intersections between employment and immigration. While the enormous, disastrous temporary foreign worker situation in Canada is (rightfully) commanding national attention, professional newcomers entering the Canadian workforce also face challenges, and many center around minute cultural difference. A recent article in BusinessWeek suggests that employers “don’t necessarily hire the most skilled candidates,” and are instead beginning to emphasize “cultural fit.” As a result, hiring practices are beginning to feel like “first dates”: a new survey from Glassdoor reveals, for example, that some of the most-asked job interview questions include “What’s your favorite movie?;” and, even more inanely, “If you could pick one person to play you in a movie, who would it be?”

“I hired someone as a manager, and it created a lot of tension because he didn’t fit in. People tried to alienate him because they weren’t interested in him as a friend,” one employer reveals. Wait, what? While we understand that happy employees are less likely to quit, saving rehiring and retraining money, a growing emphasis on social dynamics opens avenues for workplace bullying through exclusionary tactics and clique-like behavior – and, since “cultural fit” is located within a very specific set of cultural references, newcomers are left vulnerable. Furthermore, an increased emphasis on “cultural fit” in job interviews might beget racial or cultural discrimination. One workplace guide outlines common cultural stereotypes: people from China are often stereotyped as “hardworking, diligent;” people from Italy are “passionate, explosive,” and so on. Keeping personal space or avoiding eye contact is read as distant and cold in some countries, but as appropriately respectful in others; shaking one’s head means something different in India than it does in Canada. Non-verbal communication and culture – or gestures, movements, tone of voice, eye contact and facial expressions vary in meaning across cultures; a working awareness of cultural difference is crucial both during job interviews and within the workplace. A multicultural workplace is one that not only recognizes but actively encourages people from a variety of backgrounds to retain their language and culture. How does ‘cultural fit,’ with its emphasis on very specific set of Western cultural references, work towards this goal? Wouldn’t it encourage all kinds of problematic homogeneity in the workplace?

In workplaces emphasizing “cultural fit” or culturally congruent sociability over skills, a newcomer might feel edged out or subtly ignored, and feel tempted to quit. Today Vicky provides her insight into constructive dismissal, a thinly veiled form of workplace harassment that, she reveals, occur all too often. For clarity, Vicky provides some examples (names have been changed):

When you feel discriminated against and/or feel forced into quitting, it’s possible you have a case for constructive dismissal. Here are her examples:

  1. Brian is a high-performing employee, but he does not get along with his manager. His manager often tells him to quit if he doesn’t like him and Brian finally does after his manager’s constant coaxing.
  2. Nick’s manager constantly yells at him and tells him that he’s stupid. He also makes jokes about him and laughs about it with other employees while Nick is present. After months of his manager’s bullying, he decides to quit.
  3. Angela is one of four computer programmers in her department. All the programmers were hired at the same time, with the same seniority. Angela’s performance record has always been great. She gets paid $10,000 less than the other programmers. After speaking to her manager about the pay equity issues in the department, the manager refuses to do anything about it and tells her, “tough luck.” Angela decides to quit after several attempts to fix the compensation inequity between her and the programmers.
  4. Max’s manager is temperamental and has no patience for employees that work under him. Max approached his manager with a question and in frustration, his manager pushes him and tells him he is incompetent. This treatment occurs every time Max approaches his manager. Max finally decides to quit.
  5. Carmen’s manager decided to start giving her the worse assignments and any projects that other employees in the department dreaded to do, in hopes that she would quit. Her manager began taking away all her meaningful tasks and assigned them to his daughter, whom he hired upon he graduation. After a few months, Carmen became visibly upset and quit.

If one of these examples resonates with your own situation, talk to a lawyer: constructive dismissal is often difficult to define, but it’s possible you have a case. And if you feel you’re being guided towards constructive dismissal, talk to HR immediately – it’s their job to maintain a healthy, positive work environment.

Five Reasons Canada Leads the World on Immigration

Alan Broadbent and Ratna Omidvar from Maytree on why they think Canada are leaders in immigration including how immigrants achieve long-term success.

Maytree Opinion, December 2012

By Alan Broadbent and Ratna Omidvar

December 18 is International Migrants Day, a time to reflect on the 214 million international migrants in countries around the world. If migrants all gathered in one place, they would constitute the fifth most populous country in the world.

It is also the eve of a new year, a time when we take stock of what we’ve done over the past months and look forward to what we will do in the coming year. Now might be the right time to take a look at the success that Canada has made out of immigration.

While we are not perfect, Canada has made determined and deliberate efforts to encourage conditions in which newcomers can flourish. We are recognized internationally as a leader in immigrant integration. Here are five reasons why:

1. Immigrants become Canadian citizens at one of the highest rates in the world

Not only has Canada traditionally welcomed newcomers as permanent additions to this country, we have also seen immigrants as “citizens in waiting.” At 89%, Canada has traditionally had one of the highest naturalization rates in the world. High rates of citizenship are associated with better employment rates, and being a citizen is a prerequisite for many aspects of civic and political participation. It also gives immigrants and refugees protection and assurance that their commitment to Canada and being Canadian is reciprocal. Recent changes to our citizenship policies make it more difficult to become a Canadian citizen, which should concern all of us.

2. Immigrants achieve long-term economic success

Although immigrants might initially suffer an earnings penalty, traditionally they have caught up over time, so that the average wage for immigrants comes within a few percentage points of the Canadian-born. Employers report strong satisfaction with immigrants who are chosen for their human capital through the points system. While we must continue to work to shorten the initial period, both of these suggest that once immigrants are able to get into the labour market, many are successful. Similarly, immigrants own homes at nearly the same rate as the Canadian-born – an anomaly among OECD nations. Owning a home is one expression of the emotional and financial commitment that immigrants make to Canada and their local community, and is therefore an important factor in successful integration.

3. The children of immigrants attain high levels of education and earnings

In fact, second generation immigrants outperform children of non-immigrants. Second generation Canadians attend post-secondary education at higher rates than non-immigrant Canadians, which results in higher earnings. One study showed that nearly 55% of second generation Canadians go to university, for example, compared to 38% of non-immigrant Canadians. The second generation also tends to improve on the lot of their parents. On average, they earn more compared to their parents at a similar time in their lives.

4. We get along with each other

Canadians of all stripes go to school together, work together, walk the same sidewalks and play in the same parks. Increasingly, we are seeing immigrants making inroads into leadership positions in our boardrooms, city halls and parliaments. Isolated incidents of interethnic conflict make headlines because they are shocking and contrary to our norms and values.

Another way that we know that we get along is that we marry each other. Mixed unions (in which one partner is a visible minority and the other is not, or between two people from different visible minority groups) are growing rapidly – at more than five times the rate of growth for all couples. While immigrants are not necessarily visible minorities, statistics show that of first generation immigrants who are visible minorities and in a couple, 12% are in a mixed union. By the second generation, that figure rises to 51%, and by the third generation, 69% of coupled visible minorities are in a mixed union.

Further, mixed unions are more likely to have children in their household. These children, even more so than Canadians at large, will grow up with diversity as a simple, given fact of life. And that bodes well for our continued social harmony.

5. Canadians support immigration

Surveys and polls consistently show that the majority of Canadians believe that immigrants make positive contributions to our country and to our communities. Canadians recognize that immigration is not a threat to our jobs or way of life. In fact, our own poll on the meaning of citizenship found that Canadians value being active in the community, volunteering, helping others and accepting others who are different – and that being a good citizen was unrelated to where you were born.

Moreover, while multiculturalism is hotly debated elsewhere in the world, it persists as a foundation of Canadian values. A recent survey suggests that three-in-five Canadians believe that multiculturalism has been good for the country. Younger Canadians believe so at an even higher rate, which, again, bodes well for all of us.

This public support is the result, in large part, of positive messages from our governments over the years about how immigration helps to build our nation, and open discussion about immigration policies that do just that.

We cannot take this support for granted. Negative messages that obsess over marriage “fraud,” “bogus” refugees and “queue-jumpers” needlessly undermine public confidence.

Indeed, we cannot become complacent about any of these achievements. Our nation’s success depends upon our continued deliberate and thoughtful efforts to create conditions where all Canadians prosper.

Michael Bach on Why Diversity Matters

The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations interviews Michael Bach on why diversity matters to KPMG – an employer champion of hireimmigrants (reposted with permission).


Why does diversity matter to KPMG?
Diversity matters to KPMG because we are a people business. We don’t manufacture a product and as such, our success is dependent on the engagement of our people. We want them to be fully engaged in their work so that they can provide excellent client service. If there’s something in their way, if they are being discriminated against, if they don’t feel like they have the same opportunities, if they aren’t being promoted properly, then those barriers are what we, as an employer, need to remove to ensure that they can be successful. And we are in a war on talent. Even in this economy, where we aren’t hiring as many people as we’re used to, we’re still hiring. And we need to make sure that we’re not excluding any group, that this is a place where anyone can come to work and be successful.

Can you give me an example, what kind of policies and practices does KPMG implement, to promote diversity in the workplace?
Our big focus right now is on the advancement of women. We’ve done some research and found that our numbers around women weren’t decreasing but they weren’t advancing at the rate that we want. Our model is fairly simple. We’re not publicly traded, we’re privately owned by the partners within the organization. So we want our partnership to be representative of our overall population.  Our partnership is about 25% women and the overall population is 54% women. We hire very much off-campus, out of university. That’s about 55-to-60% women, going into accounting programs. Then when we get up into the partnership ranks, there’s a substantial drop-off. So we put in a particular focus on the advancement of women. We’ve done that by increasing the focus on flexibility in the workplace (…). That doesn’t necessarily mean part-time, it can also mean working from home, or compressed work weeks like doing 5 days in 4 (…). We are working on our on-ramping and off-ramping for maternity leave. In Canada, when a woman gives birth she is entitled to a year of maternity leave. There is good and bad to that policy. From our perspective, the bad of it is that you’re potentially disconnected from the office for as much as a year, so we need to make sure we’re doing a good job of off-ramping them, spending the time with them as they’re getting ready to go on maternity leave but then doing an even better job of on-ramping them and getting them back into the workforce.

We want to keep the best. We believe really strongly that we hire the best and the brightest, and so we want to make sure that they stay within the organization throughout their career.

That’s just the focus on our advancement of women internally. There are other pieces to it externally. There’s a whole raft of other projects that we take on around other groups: visible minorities, skilled immigrants, the LGBT population, people with disabilities, etc. It’s a pretty broad focus.

Could you expand further on the advancement of visible minorities and individuals from ethno-cultural groups at KPMG?
We’ve done a lot of work on visible minorities over the past few years. The population of visible minorities in Canada is quite high, particularly in the larger centers where we operate: Toronto as an example, Vancouver as another one. And if you look at our office in Toronto, it is 38% visible minority and 42% were born outside Canada. We did a lot of education around inclusive practices and how to have an inclusive office, how to work with people from different ethno-cultural backgrounds, and we have included in that work with skilled immigrants. We have to keep in mind that not all skilled immigrants are visible minorities and not all visible minorities are skilled immigrants.

An example of the work that we do in respecting cultural diversity is the global license of an offering called GlobeSmart. This is a tool where you can fill out a profile online and it will match you to different countries. So if I was going to China for example, I would answer the questions and it would say “these are some of the things you will need to be aware of when going to do business in China, when moving to China or in fact when working with a person who is actually from China”(…). It’s a very powerful tool for us as a firm because we’re able to understand culture differently, and we’ve done a lot around educating our people: we have a mandatory diversity training program, we have employee resource groups for some of our different ethno-cultural groups: one for our Muslim practitioners and another one for our East and South East Asian people. They each play a part in terms of educating and helping the organization move forward around the topic of ethnicity and intercultural connectivity.

What does intercultural innovation mean to Michael Bach? Who is better positioned to innovate in this field?
It’s a good question and I don’t know if I have the exact answer for you. Intercultural innovation to me is about getting the best out of people and giving them the opportunity to soar and to succeed, and not allowing biases to get in the way. (…)I think that if we can all just respect each other a little more, then we can work together and that’s where you start to see innovation.

I don’t preach tolerance in my work. I don’t believe in tolerance, I always say my mother-in-law tolerates me. I don’t want to be tolerated, I want to be respected. I don’t need you to have the same beliefs that I do; I don’t need you to follow the same moral compasses I do. I need you to respect who I am as an individual and I will provide that same respect to you. If you can do that then you can get into a room and you can do magical things in terms of innovating and creating and solving the world’s problems

Who does it well? I don’t really know. I think sessions like this Learning Exchange are a great opportunity to come together and share experiences around the world and I think it’s going to be up to every organization to define what this looks like. I think we’ve done a good job. Do I think we can do better? Of course, I think we can always do better. But I think we’ve done a good job in terms of teaching that value of respect around the office.

Finally, how can the public sector, corporate and civil society better work together to promote diversity in general, and cultural diversity in particular and respect for ethno-religious minorities and beliefs?

It’s not easy. I can probably tell you the meaning of life better than I can tell you this one. I think Chancellor Merkel from Germany said that multiculturalism in Germany was a failure. And there’s a lot of question as to why Canada has been so successful around multiculturalism and I believe that one of the reasons why we’ve been so successful is because no one in this country has ever forgotten that we’re all immigrants. Other than our Aboriginal and First Nations peoples, none of us are from this country. My family has been here a long time. I’m an eighth generation Canadian. But at my core, I’m British. English, Irish, Welsh, and Scottish – there’s a little bit of each in me. I understand that. I respect that. I don’t do pilgrimages to Britain or anything, I don’t have immediate family over there, but I still recognize that I’m an immigrant to this country. And I think that’s part of our success.

I remember the story of a woman. I was doing some work in our practice in the Netherlands, and I was chatting with a woman who was Muslim. Her family was originally from Morocco but she was third generation Dutch. She was giving a presentation and one of the partners in the firm came up to her and all he said to her was “Your Dutch is very good.” Of course! It’s her first language! That’s a mindset that suggests that she is not “pure” (and I deliberately use air quotes), then she is a foreigner. I think all of us, as corporations, countries or civil society need to get past that. If we can get through those things, as individual organizations, as countries – if we can respect all of our citizens, if we can help all of them to succeed, then we as countries succeed. And we as a planet succeed.

Every individual has a responsibility. We have a role to play in creating a world that is free from bias. That bias is taught. You’re not born a racist, you’re taught to be a racist. But at some point that cycle has to break in order for us to succeed. If every person takes it upon themselves to say “I’m going to respect everyone” and live and die by that, we’re going to see a change in the world. A dramatic change in the world.

In addition, in October 2012, Maytree, KPMG the UNAOC and the BMW Group hosted delegates from 20 international cities in Toronto to learn more about the Maytree DiverseCity onBoard program – connecting qualified candidates from visible minority and under-represented immigrant communities to the governance bodies of agencies, boards and commissions and voluntary organizations in the Greater Toronto Area. Read more

What You Can Learn From Inclusive Companies

Robyn Lawlor a recent graduate of Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Business and a past volunteer at hireimmigrants,  examines successful employer practices in creating inclusive workplaces.

By Robyn Lawlor

While researching the different methods companies use to create inclusive workplaces for skilled immigrants, I noticed several similar practices among the most successful ones. These practices include:

  • foreign credential recognition
  • English as a Second Language (ESL) training
  • mentoring
  • cultural competency training
  • work placements
  • religious/spiritual accommodation

While all of these programs can be effective in helping skilled immigrants integrate into the workforce, it’s important to choose the programs that work best for your company. As with all human resources programs, choose initiatives that complement your company’s long-term goals to improve the chance of success. Also, you need to ensure you have the time and money to invest in the programs’ implementation and maintenance

Below are some examples of companies that have implemented some of these practices.

Foreign Credential Recognition

Recruiters at Manitoba Lotteries Corporation, Business Development Bank of Canada and D+H recognize foreign education and experience during the hiring process. The McGill University Health Centre and Christie Digital Systems Canada take it one step further and help skilled immigrant employees obtain their Canadian credentials, sometimes even covering the cost.

ESL Training

Some companies find great skilled immigrant candidates during the recruitment process, but they end up being screened out due to weaker English language skills. To avoid losing out on these talented candidates, some companies will pay for employees to attend English as a second language (ESL) classes or offer the training internally.

For example, Energy Resources Conservation Board offers subsidies for ESL classes at post-secondary institutions to allow skilled immigrants improve their English language skills and progress their careers. Rescan Environmental Services offers internal writing coaches to those who require English language training while also paying for professional writing courses to advance their English skills.


Community mentoring programs help skilled immigrant job seekers network and learn workplace cultural norms in their respective fields.

The Mentoring Partnership, a program of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), pairs skilled immigrants in Toronto with mentors in their same professional field. Organizations that provide volunteer employee mentors include the Ontario Public Service, Xerox Canada and the Regional Municipality of York.

Cultural Competency Training

Cross-cultural training for managers and employees raises awareness of cultural differences in behaviour and communication, improving the integration of skilled immigrant employees into the workplace.

Nordion Inc. provides cross-cultural training to recruiters and managers to help prevent them from screening out a candidate based on cultural characteristics that may be interpreted unfavorably, such as not making eye contact. At Nexen Inc., employees receive cross-cultural communication training to improve communication among all employees.

Work Placements

Work placements help skilled immigrants obtain the Canadian work experience many companies are looking for and allow an employer to try out prospective employees before offering them a permanent position.

CH2M Hill Canada Limited provides eight-week unpaid work placements through MicroSkills Toronto, usually offering permanent employment if the placement is completed successfully.

Religious/Spiritual Accommodation

Recognizing, embracing and accommodating all religions helps new employees feel more comfortable and integrate into the workplace faster. At Agrium Inc., employees have access to a quiet room for religious or spiritual practice.

What Employers Want When They are Hiring

In the Canadian Immigrant series, “What employers want,” the publication speaks to the people who are instrumental in hiring talent for their companies — human resource managers, recruiters and senior managers who share their insight on what’s affecting the employment of newcomers. (This article was originally published in Canadian Immigrant, September 5, 2012)

By Baisakhi Roy

Much is said about having relevant Canadian experience when applying for a job in Canada. Newcomers also face additional challenges, namely being educated outside Canada, unfamiliarity with Canadian work culture and difficulty in communicating effectively with their colleagues and clients.

Our first interview is with Jason Winkler, chief talent officer, for Deloitte Canada, which provides audit, tax, consulting and financial advisory services through more than 56 offices, and has been recognized for its work in incorporating diversity into its workplace. Winkler speaks candidly of the importance of recruiting immigrant talent, how taking initiative lands you a job and the great Canadian compromise!

CI: What skills should foreign-trained professionals focus on when they come to Canada?

JW: Be a specialist. In Deloitte we have multiple service businesses. So we are always looking for people with well-defined technical skills. People that come in with specific skills like SAP products should make sure that their skills are very well defined.

We are also a professional services firm so we serve clients in many different industries. Therefore, we are always looking for people who are very knowledgeable in a particular industry. We have people from overseas who really understand mining or telecom, so we would actually want their industry expertise. From the perspective of the cultural setup at Deloitte, what is important for us are the candidate’s interpersonal skills — the ability to work with a range of people both with clients on the outside and within the firm. One of our core values is collaboration: with each other and our clients. Regardless of whether they are coming from overseas or not, we look for this skill. A proven record to be collaborative is an important skill.

CI: What are your thoughts on Canadian experience?

JW: All the above skills I mentioned are more important than having Canadian experience with the exception in some areas where we need to understand specific Canadian regulatory or legal requirements; we need candidates to understand that quickly. We value global experience quite a bit. I can think of a number of people that I have hired who have had no Canadian experience, but have wide international experience. It’s not essential, but is it nice to have … people who understand Canada? Sure. But we want to bring global experiences to this marketplace.

CI: What advice can you give newcomers on learning the ropes quickly?

JW: Prepare before you come to Canada. In an area like audit or tax, there are Canadian rules and regulations to be known. It’s an advantage if you can attain that knowledge before you come to Canada. The other way obviously is to get that knowledge quickly when you are on the ground [in Canada] and connect to communities that can help you gain this knowledge. If you are an accountant from another jurisdiction, there are lots of groups and associations where you can start to network and begin to understand the system.

You can also engage in self-training. I’ve met people who have told me that they have actually read the Canadian standards on a particular area. You should know what the overlaps and the differences are. If any recertification is needed, you should know what that process is.

CI: What about the all-important workplace culture? What should immigrants know?

JW: There is the matter of how Canadians are nice and polite; the great Canadian compromise. Some cultures are very direct and for people coming from such backgrounds, it might be difficult to adapt initially. Then again, from the North American perspective, there are cultures that are more indirect and subtle. We are in the middle zone culturally. It is a difficult adjustment, but we try to maintain a balance.

In Canada, we are very diverse, which if utilized properly could be a great asset to the Canadian economy. Our company is more diverse now than it has been in the past 20 years. We see people coming from other countries quickly find their communities here, more easily now. We take that further and are prompt to assign “buddies” who are not your performance manager. He explains to you about how things work here, sort of helps you find your path. For new immigrants, this is important.

 CI: What specific challenges does Deloitte face when recruiting immigrant talent?

JW: Being able to do the due diligence to actually find out if they are a strong candidate is tough. Because we rely on not just what’s on the resumé, but also doing reference checks, getting hold of people can be tricky. When a candidate is from a different place and culture, how do you actually do the assessment fully? We like a new candidate to meet at least six or eight of us so that they get a chance to find out what our firm is like. We like to get a good sense of the candidate because there are multiple people involved in the hiring process. Also, we usually need people quickly so logistics and the immigration process is another issue that we are constantly working on.

CI: What do you think are the biggest barriers that newcomers face when applying for jobs?

JW: This is not specific to Deloitte, but from what I have heard and seen, the first barrier is language. It’s crucial how you communicate and interact in that first interaction. We observe that basic communication skills are fine, but there is a problem getting to the next level — conversing convincingly. There is still a level of bias out there amongst employers who want to hire people who are “like them.” So if they don’t understand your background and where you come from and you don’t look or sound like them, they would be hesitant in hiring you. I think we can still improve on this front.

There are organizations that take the easier route: they hire people whose name is familiar to them, whose education they are familiar with, etc. The way to counter this is that we must make more effort to familiarize ourselves with foreign education and educational institutions. One of my senior colleagues is from India, so he knows all the universities there and if we get a candidate who is educated there, we go over to him to cross check. And he tells us, ”Yes, that’s a top university or not many people get in there!” We are very lucky to be well networked within our organization and so we can always check up on candidates who are educated outside Canada.

CI: Do you believe diversity in the workplace is important?

JW: Our core culture is delivery to our clients. Our clients are diverse, so if we are not diverse, we won’t match up to their needs. We don’t want our clients to face our team and go, “You don’t look like us!” We actually believe that our workplace is fun, more interesting, more valuable because we are all so different from each other. We come up with better ideas from a diverse workforce. It’s actually sound business.

CI: What are your top tips for being considered for a job at Deloitte?

JW: Assuming that they have the tactical skills and are able to demonstrate them, the first thing would be that they should show that they are willing to invest in themselves in terms of language skills — what are they doing to improve their communication skills?

Also, all of us want to work on a certain type of project and a certain type of location, in a certain way. So the willingness to work at something that is not exactly what you are looking for on your first day is a great asset. A candidate should be able to say, “This is my ideal profile, but I am willing to participate and contribute to other tasks.” It gives us the ability to say that we can give them an opportunity. Then there’s collaboration. We are ready to help people and we expect people to ask for help. The lone wolves don’t do well. People need to be strong enough to realize when they need help. When they make it known that they need help, then their colleagues are incredibly supportive.

If you don’t ask for help, almost by definition, you will not be successful. Focus on these two things: how do you make your client successful and how do you make your colleague successful? Everything else is noise. If you let these two things guide your behaviour, you will be successful.

Promoting Diversity in the Office: Tips for Bias-free Hiring

While many organizations may have the goal of creating diverse workplaces through bias-free hiring, they may not have implemented the many elements needed to achieve this goal.

By Tana Turner, Charity Village

With Canada’s increasing diversity, employers are becoming more conscious about their hiring practices and the need to reflect the population served. They are also aware of their obligations under the Human Rights Code to have non-discriminatory hiring practices.

However, women, persons with disabilities, Aboriginal peoples, and racial minorities continue to experience disadvantage in the labour market, resulting in higher rates of unemployment and underemployment – even when they have comparable levels of education and work experience.

So, while many organizations may have the goal of creating diverse workplaces through bias-free hiring, they may not have implemented the many elements needed to achieve this goal.

The challenge for many is understanding the various types of bias in the hiring process. Some agencies may not have considered that their hiring process may be biased. Others may focus on one type of bias, but neglect the others.

Read more here

10 Ways to Diversify Your Workforce

10 Ways to Diversify Your Workforce

Hiring and promoting employees whose cultural backgrounds represent the clients they serve is key for an organization to succeed .Companies seeking to do this should take the following 10 steps. (This article was originally published on April 23 2012 by Peter Fragale from Diversity Executive)

In health care, a diverse staff can provide great value in meeting the needs of patients from a wide range of cultures — a lesson that carries over to other industries.

An immense challenge lies before the nation’s health care sector: diversifying its workforce. A 2012 study by executive search firm Witt/Kieffer, “Diversity as a Business Builder in Healthcare,” found that diversity is lacking in health care leadership. This is unfortunate because industry leaders surveyed in the study believe diversity in the workplace improves patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes. This impact on the customer likely has similar effects in other industries.

A key tenet of excellent health care — like any service-oriented industry that meets a customer’s needs — is the caregiver’s ability to understand patients’ needs. This includes their diverse cultural needs — since, as the study noted, minorities account for 98 percent of the population growth in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas during the last decade.

It’s all part of knowing who you serve. Where does a patient, or customer, come from? How about their culture, values and sensitivities? Are these just as important to how we meet their needs?

Knowing all this begins with hiring — and promoting — employees whose cultural backgrounds represent the patients the organization serves. This takes a commitment both internally with employees and externally in the communities served. Companies seeking to do this should take the following 10 steps:

1. Embrace diversity: This seems basic, but it’s critical and worth noting first. A diverse workforce is a true competitive advantage. Promoting a culture that values employees for unique skills, experiences and perspectives distinguishes an organization as all-inclusive, relevant and truly understanding of what customers want and need. In essence, it is a treasure trove of customer and business intelligence.

Internally, the more leaders understand and respect their employees’ differences, the easier it will be to make seemingly difficult conversations more comfortable. This is critical when serving a religiously, culturally or otherwise diverse customer base.

2. Create a visual of your team: Keep ethnicity and gender data on hand so that hiring managers can create a visual picture of the individuals on each team. When numbers and percentages fail, this mental image of who is on the team can help senior leadership see where diverse populations are underrepresented or underutilized and especially compare them to the customer population. Of course, this comes with the need to reassure the team that only the most qualified candidates should be hired.

3. Build a hit list of superstars: Ask existing staff to refer potential recruits, since great employees usually associate with one another or can easily spot a top performer. Not hiring immediately? Collect and build a list of superstars to hire in the future. Keep in touch with them in the meantime.

4. Network with diverse organizations: Develop relationships with ethnically diverse professional associations and organizations, as well as local community boards and civic associations. Attend their conferences, speak at their functions and reciprocate by inviting them to company open houses and job fairs. Also, connect with vendors and suppliers who share a value for diversity and alert them to job openings for which they may have a candidate.

5. Set diversity expectations with recruiters: When using outside recruiters, ask for a diverse set of candidates and examples of high-caliber recruits they have recently placed. If they cannot easily rattle off a litany of names, then find another recruiter.

6. Invite staff into the inner circle: Create an environment of inclusion where all staff members feel valued, embrace the company’s mission, feel part of its vision and are fully tuned in with the organization’s business strategy. Help them understand just how important diversity is to serving customers best and that every individual is a big part of that. It’s easy to lose top performers because they feel detached, especially in large organizations.

7. Let your employees shine: Acknowledge — and celebrate — your staff’s accomplishments and set them up for success. This small step goes a long way in engaging employees and encouraging them to go the extra mile. Give opportunities for employees to demonstrate excellence. Assign them projects that suit their skills, recognize their achievement and celebrate it in a public way — either inside or outside your organization. In this recognition, make a point to celebrate them as a diverse individual, not just their work.

8. Mentor and shadow: The best learning happens in the field, so develop a mentoring and shadowing program that pairs hiring managers with employees of different cultural or ethnic backgrounds or genders. This creates a trusted, educational environment where employees can feel safe about asking questions regarding different backgrounds, and also lets them see different cultural styles at work.

9. Achieve employees’ dreams: Encourage leaders to know the career desires of the staff who report to them. This puts them in the position to always know when a promotional opportunity might be the best fit and help further their career goals. It also gives the opportunity to challenge employees with new assignments that broaden their skills and expose them to different chances for success.

10. Over-communicate: Relationships matter, and they are only built with repeated communication. This could mean deliberately initiating a conversation with an employee, listening to what they say, providing feedback and calling their attention to your follow through. Or, it can mean brief acknowledgements of their work, which add up and make a difference over time. On the other end of the spectrum, it should take the form of an internal communications plan that, from an HR perspective, tells employees what positions are open, how to apply, updates from HR, etc.

A key to all these steps is relationships — inside and out — with those already hired and targeted to join your team. No matter the industry — be it health care or another — businesses can use focused attention on recruitment of minorities as a way to build culture, morale and the strength of the entire business.

Coaching Connects Immigrants to IT Jobs and Closes Skills Gap

The Coaching to Career pilot program matches immigrants with senior executives in the IT field to help them find jobs commensurate with their skills and experiences.

Canada is falling behind in the technology sector because the demand for information technology professionals is outpacing supply.

The problem is two-fold, according to John Pickett, Principal and Chief Information Officer and Community Advocate at the IT Media Group.

First, there are not enough people going into IT programs in Canadian schools, and second, those who are don’t have the skills required for the jobs that exist, he says.

“It makes a big difference to a company’s ability to compete and to Canada’s ability to compete,” he says.

The Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) estimates that by 2016 about 106,000 ICT jobs will need to be filled in both traditional and emerging ICT industries — an annual hiring rate of nearly 17,000.

Many newcomers have the right skills for the jobs but lack the Canadian experience and networks to help them land these jobs, says Mr. Pickett.

“That, to me, is a waste,” he says.

That’s why Mr. Pickett was keen to take part in ICTC’s pilot bridging program, Coaching to Career, which launched in May 2012 in Toronto.

The program, aimed at internationally educated professionals (IEPs) in the IT sector, provides three weeks of employment training, including workplace culture, competencies and communications.

The IEPs are then matched with a senior industry executive who provides personalized coaching for six months to help them find a job that is commensurate with their skills and experiences.

Once employed, the IEPs receive extended training and support from ICTC for the first three months in their new job.

“I see the Coaching to Career program to be a positive step in closing the skills gap by helping professionally qualified new Canadians adapt culturally to the Canadian workplace and acquire the social and communication skills that will enable them to contribute fully to the Canadian workforce and economy,” says Mr. Pickett.

Industry coaches currently participating in ICTC’s pilot program have:

  • Decision-making power inside his or her organizations.
  • A strong network of colleagues to make connections for IEPs.
  • A drive to take risks and instigate change.
  • A passion for life-long learning.

As a coach, you’re helping to make a positive contribution to the Canadian economy, says Mr. Pickett. But it’s also professionally and personally rewarding.

The coaches all receive training at the beginning of the program on how to coach, a valuable skill they can apply in the professional lives, says Mr. Pickett.

The program is also an opportunity for those who have succeeded to pay something back, he says.

“These are people who have really good, solid qualifications, more so than I’d anticipated. I think it’s a crying shame if we’re not able to help and do something to get them meaningfully employed. Not just for them but for the benefit of the companies who are currently lacking those kinds of skills.

Coaching to Career is delivered in partnership with JVS Toronto and One Million Acts of Innovation and is funded by the Ontario and federal governments.

The pilot project has two more rounds in Toronto and ICTC would like to see the program go national. To become involved, contact [email protected].

Human Rights in the Ontario Workplace: What You Need To Know

A summary of Ontario’s Human Rights Code and how it applies to employees and employers. (This blog post originally appeared on the Maytree Blog on July 16, 2012.)

By Bonnie Mah

On June 19, we attended a human rights training workshop delivered by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (thanks to the Beyond Canadian Experience project for including us). Here’s a summary of some of the important things about human rights, and how they apply to employers and employees in Ontario.

Please note: This summary is based on a training session delivered by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC). It is not an exhaustive review of Ontario human rights law, policy or practice. For more information, please visit the OHRC website.

Ontario Human Rights Code – the Basics

What areas does the Code cover?

The Code covers five areas:

  • Services (for example, government services, hospitals, schools, public transit)
  • Accommodation (for example, housing, hotels)
  • Contracts
  • Employment
  • Vocational association (for example, regulatory bodies, unions)

What aspects of a person’s identity (grounds) does the Code protect?

The Code protects 15 grounds:

  • Citizenship
  • Race
  • Place of origin
  • Ethnic origin
  • Colour
  • Ancestry
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Creed
  • Sex / pregnancy / gender identity
  • Family status
  • Marital status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Receipt of public assistance (in area of accommodation)
  • Record of offence (in area of employment)

How can you tell if something is covered by the Code?

Try using this sentence: This is discrimination based on  ______ in the area of ______.
Example: This is discrimination based on ethnic origin in the area of employment.

What is discrimination?

Discrimination is treating somebody differently because of his or her race, disability, sex or other personal characteristics. Discrimination has many different forms. The key is differential treatment.

Interestingly, the Code considers effect, not intent. This means that intent is not required – if the result is differential treatment, it might be considered discrimination.  In other words, a person or organization can discriminate against someone even if he or she doesn’t mean to.

There are three types of discrimination:

  1. Direct – may be subtle or covert
  2. Indirect – uses a third party (for example, using a temp agency to discriminate against a certain type of worker)
  3. Constructive/adverse – systemic discrimination, might not be intentional, but has an adverse impact on members of that group

The OHRC Human Rights 101 learning module has useful overview information and examples of discrimination.

Structure of the Ontario Human Rights System:

Ontario’s Human Rights system is made up of three separate organizations.

Each organization has a different role:

  1. Ontario Human Rights Commission: Develops policies, provides public education, monitoring and community outreach, and initiates or intervenes in inquiries. Deals with the “responsibilities” side of human rights.
  2. Human Rights Legal Support Centre:  The Centre can help you file an application and may represent you at the Tribunal. Deals with the “rights” side of human rights.
  3. Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario: Deals with complaints.

Ontario Human Rights Code and Employment

Much of Maytree’s work focuses on the integration of skilled immigrants into the Canadian labour market. Do you know how the Ontario Human Rights Code applies to skilled immigrants and temporary foreign workers in Ontario?

What aspects of employment does the Code cover?

The Code covers all stages of employment processes and practices (recruiting, hiring, promotion, etc.).

Which employers does the Ontario Human Rights Code cover?

The Code covers all employers in Ontario – except for federally-regulated employers, which are covered by Canadian Human Rights Code.

An employer cannot contract out their responsibilities – temp agencies and head-hunters must also abide by the Code.

Are temporary foreign workers in Ontario covered by the Code?


What is discrimination in employment?

Discrimination means not assessing an individual’s unique merits, capacities and circumstances.

What could be considered systemic discrimination in employment?

Policies, practices and patterns of behaviour and attitudes (including organizational culture) can be considered discriminatory.

Factors that create barriers to achievement or opportunity, and are not bona fide requirements, may be discriminatory. They might not appear openly discriminatory, but have the effect of discriminating against members of a protected group. For example, if promotion practices based on the organizational culture and experiences of white managers result in lower numbers of racialized people promoted to leadership roles, this might be discrimination.

How do you determine what is a bona fide requirement of the job?

The Code uses a high standard to determine bona fide requirements. A bona fide requirement must be:

  • Adopted for a purpose rationally connected to the job function; and
  • Adopted in good faith; and
  • Reasonably necessary.

What does the OHRC recommend to avoid discrimination in hiring?

The Commission recommends basing hiring decisions on tests, rather than on interview questions.

Additional Resources

From the Ontario Human Rights Commission:

More resources:

HR 101: Creating Diversity Plans

LCBO’s Janet Naidu and KPMG’s Michael Bach talk about the importance of strategic diversity plans and how organizations can create them. (This article was originally published in the February/March 2009 issue of HR Professional Magazine, the official publication of the HRPA. Please note that as of February 2013, Michael Bach left KPMG to create the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion – CIDI.)

By Duff McCutcheon

Here are two good reasons for implementing a diversity plan in your organization: It’s good for business and it’s a tremendous boon to attracting and retaining talent.

The fact is you can’t afford not to have one. And if you don’t, you can be assured your competitors do. HR Professional talks to LCBO’s Janet Naidu and KPMG’s Michael Bach on the whys and wherefores of strategic diversity plans.

Mirror Your Customers

The first question you must answer in selling the idea of a diversity plan to your senior management (and you’ll need their buy-in) is “why?” Fortunately, it’s easy to answer.

From a business perspective, it makes sense to leverage diversity — new Canadians, gays and lesbians, aboriginals, persons with disabilities — in your workplace. These people mirror your customers. If you’re selling consumer goods and services, these groups make up huge markets that your diverse employees can help you reach.

“Here’s a great example I always trot out when I’m making the business case for diversity,” says KPMG Canada’s director of diversity, Michael Bach. “A few years ago, Frito-Lay was struggling with the launch of a new product — a guacamole-flavoured tortilla chip. It consulted with its Hispanic employees, reformulated the product, tinkered with the branding and boom — it resulted in the company’s most successful product launch ever. They sold $5-million worth of guacamole tortilla chips in the first year.”

Building Your Brand

Then there’s the HR rationale. If you want to attract the best and brightest — from around the world — you need to show that you’re an employer that embraces everyone. Leveraging diversity into your employer brand shows new Canadians that your company is a good place to work.

And once you’ve got them, it helps to keep people happy and engaged. “An inclusive workplace means people from all walks of life can bring their whole selves to work and not leave anything at the door,” says Bach. They’re more engaged, and therefore more productive and ultimately the company becomes more profitable.

Your diversity business case should address how diversity fits the needs of the organization (recruiting and retention, new markets) and what shape it will take.

“Getting buy-in is critical. It means the difference between having a plan with teeth, and being seen as a soft, ‘nice to have’ initiative,” says Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) diversity manager, Janet Naidu.

First Steps

Once you’ve got senior leadership buy-in, Naidu suggests testing the workplace waters with an employee survey on diversity, gauging interest, general knowledge and thoughts on hiring and accessibility. It provides an idea of where your employees’ heads are vis-à-vis diversity and can be done via employee focus groups or anonymous e-mail surveys.

Naidu also suggests undertaking an employment systems review to ensure existing policies and practices are barrier-free and equitable.

Getting ownership from staff is key to success and Bach says forming an employee diversity advisory board early on in the process is a good way to provide guidance on diversity strategy and take diversity ownership out into the business and become diversity champions in the office.

“They’re the salesmen of diversity. They help ensure the naysayers are converted,” says Bach. “Plus, these people can advise as to what the need is in the business. They provide shape in what you’re trying to pursue — what the diversity agenda looks like, programs, initiatives. This is especially true if you don’t have full-time resources (e.g., a full-time diversity manager) for your diversity strategy — they do the work and drive it.”

Education and Communications

Education should be a huge piece of your diversity initiative, especially in the first year or two.

This means hosting a company-wide introductory session on why you’re rolling out a diversity program, the initiatives you’re working on and what it means for your organization, says Naidu.

Education is also an opportunity for your organization’s various diversity groups to showcase their culture and traditions.

“We do Celebrate and Educate,” says Bach. “Four times a year we pick a celebration and do a two-hour presentation on it. We provide food specific to the culture and celebration, and bring in a speaker who answers the whys and whats. What is Ramadan? What is LBG Pride? What is Black History Month?”

As a consequence of these events, KPMG has seen diversity networks sprout up: pride, international employees (those on secondments), parents of children with special needs, Muslim employees and East Asian employees.

The networks are split into two groups: clubs, for social support (as in the case of the network for parents of special needs children) and groups, which must have a business development component (e.g., Chinese employees looking for ways to promote KPMG within that community).

Keeping Momentum

So how do you embed diversity in your organization? Don’t let up. “You have to keep people focused on the different aspects of diversity. Keep doing events, try new things and listen to your people,” says Naidu.

You’ll know you’ve achieved some success when people start accounting for diversity in their decision-making.

KPMG’s recruiters are now actively seeking out new candidates via non-traditional routes, such as the Canadian Immigrant magazine’s Hire Board, the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) and the Job Opportunity Information Network (JOIN) — an Ontario job resource for persons with disabilities.

“Our recruiters started sourcing these communities independently,” says Bach, “and that’s success, when you’ve got your people t hinking about incorporating diversity in what they do in the business.”

Online Tool Helps Employers Determine an Immigrant’s Eligibility to Work

A free online learning tool details the different immigrant categories and helps employers determine if they can legally hire a newcomer.

Employers sometimes wonder whether a job candidate’s immigration status allows them to work in Canada.

The answer is simple, according to a new online learning tool from LASI World Skills. If a newcomer has a Social Insurance Number (SIN), then he is eligible to work in Canada.

In fact, more than 90 per cent of Canada’s 1.1 million newcomers are eligible to work in Canada, according to the 2006 Census.

The free e-learning tool “This applicant is an immigrant. Would the person be eligible to work here?” explains the difference between permanent residence status and temporary work permits.

There is also a diagram that details the different categories of immigrants by permanent residence status (economic immigrants, family-class immigrants and refugees) and work permit status (live-in caregivers, temporary foreign workers, international students and inland refugee claimants).

When you click on the different immigrant classes, the diagram shows which different potential immigrants (such as university students or educated professionals) move through the class and how they can potentially achieve permanent resident status.

Go to the online learning tool.

Assessing Language Proficiency

Essential skills profiles and assessment tools can help hiring managers determine if a candidate has the appropriate level of communication skills for a specific position.

When considering skilled immigrants for job openings, many hiring managers worry about their communication and language skills.

However, it’s important to remember an accent or unfamiliar expression isn’t a reflection of poor language skills. Therefore you should focus on the content of what the candidate’s saying, rather than how he’s saying it, to properly assess his English proficiency.

There are several resources to help HR professionals and hiring managers ensure a candidate’s English-language skills are at the appropriate level for the position.

Communication Skills: Essential or Nice-to-Have?

First, you need to determine what level of language and communication skills are required for the job. Some highly skilled positions, such as those in information technology or science, don’t require a high level of language skills. In these cases, remember to hire the candidate with the right essential skills for the job and then offer additional training to improve communication skills as needed.

For other jobs, such as business services or public relations, where communications is an essential skill rather than a nice-to-have, candidates will need a higher level of English-language skills.

To help you determine the language skills needed for a specific job, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada has developed essential skills profiles for all of the occupations on the National Occupational Classification (NOC) list. You can access the complete list of occupations or the searchable database. Even if the position you’re hiring for isn’t on the NOC list, you can find a comparable occupation to determine the level of language proficiency required.

The profiles detail the complexity level (from one to five) for each essential skill (including reading, writing and oral communication) required for each occupation. For example, the most important essential skills for an accounting clerk are numeracy, oral communication, problem solving and job task planning and organizing.

The profile states the complexity level for oral communication ranges from one to three and then gives examples of typical tasks (such as listening to simple messages on voicemail) and the corresponding complexity level (one).

Assessment Tools

The Readers’ Guide to Essential Skills Profiles can help you better use the profiles and there are free assessment toolsto help you evaluate a candidate’s proficiency.

The Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks has also developed national standards for measuring an individual’s English or French language proficiency. The benchmarks provide descriptions of twelve communicative proficiency levels in four skills: speaking, listening, reading and writing. The twelve levels are divided into three stages:

  • Basic Proficiency (Stage I – CLB Levels 1-4): Able to communicate in common and predictable settings to meet basic needs and to carry out everyday activities.
  • Intermediate Proficiency (Stage II – CLB Levels 5-8): Able to participate more fully in social, educational and work-related settings. The settings where English is used are less familiar and predictable and the individual is able to function more independently.
  • Advanced Proficiency (Stage III – CLB Levels 9-12): Able to communicate effectively, appropriately, accurately and fluently in most settings. Individuals communicate using language features such as appropriate style, register and formality.

Job candidates can have their language skills assessed at an assessment centre, which use CLB certified assessors. The CLB also sells a manual that provides organizations and HR professionals with a framework for assessing the language demands of a job and then developing a tool to assess candidates’ language abilities.

Building Language Skills

Keep in mind that a good candidate’s language skills can be improved through training or on-the-job experience and there are resources available to employers who want to provide additional English or communication training.

Many community agencies and schools provide free language courses for newcomers, especially through the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program. Citizenship and Immigration has a searchable database of services for newcomers, including language classes, as does the Settlement Road Map.

What You Can and Can’t Ask In an Interview

Country of origin is a protected characteristic under human rights legislation, which means employers can’t ask questions about a candidate’s nationality or immigration status during the recruitment process.

Under human rights laws in Canada, employers can’t discriminate against a job candidate based on a protected characteristic — such as race, sex, religion or, most importantly in the case of immigrant candidates, country of origin.

As such, certain questions in the hiring process — on applications and in interviews — are considered discriminatory and can’t be asked.

While human rights laws vary slightly from province to province (and for federally regulated employers), they are very similar when it comes to discrimination in employment.


Generally, you can ask a candidate, on an application or in an interview, if she is legally entitled to work in Canada. However, you cannot ask if she is a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident, has a work permit or ask to see her social insurance number. You also can’t ask about place of birth, refugee status or religion.

Other questions to avoid include inquiries about Canadian experience, mother tongue or the name and location of schools the candidate attended. At this stage, questions about education should be limited to information about the level of education, degree, diploma or professional credentials received.

Conditional Offer of Employment

Once you have made a conditional offer of employment, then you can ask for proof of eligibility to work in Canada, such as a social insurance number or a work permit. This is also when you can ask for copies of diplomas, degrees, certificates or professional credentials.

If the new employee’s social insurance number starts with the number nine, then she has a temporary work permit and you have an obligation to ensure the permit hasn’t expired. For more information, visit the Service Canada website.

At this stage you can also ask your new employee about her religion to determine when a leave of absence may be required for the observance of religious holidays (as required under human rights laws).


There can be exceptions to these general rules if there is a bona fide occupational requirement that the employee be a Canadian citizen.

A bona fide occupational requirement (BFOR) is a standard or rule that is integral to carrying out the functions of a specific position, according to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. For a standard to be considered a BFOR, an employer has to establish that any accommodation or changes to the standard would create an undue hardship.

In Ontario, for example, there are three instances when citizenship is considered a BFOR and questions about citizenship can be asked during the interview process:

  1. A citizenship requirement is imposed or authorized by law for the particular job.
  2. A requirement of Canadian citizenship or permanent residence has been adopted to promote participation in cultural, educational, trade union or athletic activities to other citizens or permanent residents.
  3. Your organization has adopted a requirement that senior executives be Canadian citizens or live in Canada with the intention to get Canadian citizenship.

For more information on exceptions, you will need to review the human rights act that applies to your organization.

Additional Resources

Diversity: Mindsets to Markets

Ernst & Young’s Eric Rawlinson talks about the value of diversity and offers advice for other employers on how to leverage diverse talent to drive organizational success. (This article was originally published on the DiverseCity Blog as part of the Leaders in Action series.)

By Tina Edan

Eric Rawlinson, Managing Partner, GTA, has been with Ernst & Young for over 20 years. During this time he has applied his skills and talents to various departments, always with an open ear, commitment to facilitating debate and openness to new ways of doing things. For him, business is about innovation – critical to that is differentiating yourself from your competitors.

Difference Can Open a Window to a Unique Vantage Point

As a native Anglophone in Quebec, Mr. Rawlinson spent his early years as a cultural and linguistic minority. This was the beginning of his understanding of diversity as an advantage.

Counting is Critical

At Ernst & Young, nearly half of its employees are visible minorities or immigrants. Within the management ranks, 35 per cent are visible minorities. Because they are conscious and counting, they have created a baseline for action and a measure for success.

The qualitative value of these numbers translates to increased networks and innovation. According to Mr. Rawlinson, engaging people with a global perspective can lead to increased creativity and problem solving. For him, “diversity is a real strength for Canada, particularly in our increasing globalized marketplace. You need to be conscious of the demographic you live and work in and who your customers are, otherwise you could be missing business opportunities. It is important that diversity is reflected in leadership.”

Lessons for Other Corporations

Even with the best intentions, reflecting the diversity of your customer-base or population can be challenging for any employer.

The publication, The new global mindset: Driving innovation through diverse perspectives, outlines Ernst & Young’s commitment to diversity. It is a sophisticated account of how “cultural diversity offers the flexibility and creativity we need to recreate the global economy for the 21st century.”

The document reveals “four imperatives for success,” including:

  • Stir the pot. Research shows that diverse viewpoints generate the lively debate that can create new ideas.
  • Anticipate the Next Big Thing — or better yet, drive the Next Big Thing! Diversity powers innovation, helping your business generate new products and services.
  • Nurture a spectrum of talent. Expect to find talent in unexpected places.
  • Get the mindset. Focus on transformational leadership.

Final Words of Advice

According to Mr. Rawlinson, companies need to start their diversity journey by understanding why diversity is important and by establishing practical goals and programs that reinforce key messages. For individuals from diverse communities he suggests understanding what networks are available and getting involved.

In brief: Don’t be shy — volunteer your skills. Hard work pays off. Just start.

Finding and Keeping Top Talent Big Concern for Employers

Immigrants accounted for two-thirds of Canada’s population growth from 2006 to 2011 and are one solution to the skills shortages facing many Canadian organizations.

Even in the face of tougher economic times and belt-tightening, one of the biggest concerns for most Canadian organizations is finding and keeping the right talent.

One-third of employers say a shortage of talent at all levels is their most pressing HR challenge for 2012, according to a survey by Right Management, the talent and career management experts within ManpowerGroup.

Another 23 per cent of the 182 senior executives and HR professionals surveyed say a lack of high-potential leaders is their top concern, while 20 per cent say their biggest challenges is the loss of top talent to other organizations.

Not only is this skills shortage a concern for individual organizations, it’s threatening Canada’s competitiveness and ability to keep up in a global, knowledge-based economy, according to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

“Canada is developing a desperate labour shortage, and resolving it is key to the continued success of Canadian businesses and the economy,” states the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s report Top 10 Barriers to Competitiveness.

The skills shortage is being driven by two phenomena:

Skilled immigrants are one solution to Canada’s skills shortage and are vital to ensuring Canada’s global competitiveness, as seen in the latest census figures. While Canada’s population grew by 5.9 per cent from 2006 to 2011, surpassing the growth of other G8 countries, it was immigration that accounted for 67 per cent of that growth.

With immigration expected to account for 80 per cent of Canada’s population growth by 2031, the importance of immigrants to Canada’s economy will only increase.

Guide Helps ICT Managers Create Effective HR Strategies and Programs

Companies that are fully aware of the value of their staff, invest in their development and take steps to retain skilled and diverse employees are often those that are most successful.

The Human Resources Management Guide for Canadian Information and Communications Technology Companies is a practical tool designed to expand on human resources management principles. It is primarily intended for front-line managers (immediate supervisors) in the information and communications technology (ICT) industry.

The guide helps organizations establish effective human resources management strategies, programs and mechanisms.

The guide consists of 12 chapters, called modules, with practical information on various HR topics, including diversity, hiring, retention, compensation, performance evaluation, training, time management, drafting employee manuals and occupational health and safety issues.

Each module contains downloadable tools to help managers make the most of the information. The information and tools can be used immediately or adapted to suit your organization’s requirements.

In creating the guide, the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) consulted a dozen companies in the industry to ensure it addressed their specific needs, provided concrete explanations for how to implement HR techniques and took into account industry-specific trends and language

Download the guide.

Why Hiring Immigrants Is Good for Your Business

Innovation, access to global markets, diverse languages and critical skills are among the top 10 reasons small and medium-sized enterprises should hire skilled immigrants.

ALLIES recently published a new report, Global Talent for SMEs: Building Bridges and Making Connections, highlighting the findings of a year-long study of new, innovative and promising initiatives that can help connect small and medium-sized enterprises with skilled immigrants.

The report identifies 10 reasons why hiring immigrants is good for your business:

  • Skilled immigrants boost innovation by bringing new perspectives to your business. Diverse experiences and approaches improve problem-solving and can bring fresh new ideas to your team.
  • Skilled immigrants can help you access global markets. Many immigrants speak other languages and have lived and worked outside of North America. Their knowledge of international business practices can help you do business and build relationships around the world.
  • Skilled immigrants give you insight into local ethnic markets. Nearly 1 in 5 Canadians are immigrants – in Calgary it’s almost 1 in 4, and nearly half of all Toronto residents were born outside of Canada. Skilled immigrant employees can help you serve these large – and growing – markets.
  • Skilled immigrants speak English or French and can communicate with your team and your clients. More than 90% of recent, working age immigrants speak English, French, or both.
  • Skilled immigrants are well-educated. More than 35% of recent immigrants have a Bachelor’s or higher degree.
  • Skilled immigrants can fill difficult-to-fill positions. They arrive in Canada with high levels of education and work experience. Recent immigrants make up 7% of our national workforce. In Calgary, nearly 10%, and in Toronto almost 20% of the workforce are recent immigrants.
  • Skilled immigrants are flexible and adaptable. They have recognized an opportunity for a new life in Canada and seized it. They can do the same for your business.
  • Skilled immigrants are loyal employees. Keeping good employees is a challenge for many small businesses. Employers report that when employed at the right level for their education and experience, skilled immigrant employees are very loyal.
  • Skilled immigrants are all around you, and they’re easy to hire. Contact your local immigrant employment council to find local skilled immigrants who want to work for you. Visit for tips and tools on hiring, integrating, and retaining top immigrant talent.
  • Having a diverse workforce enhances your business and makes you an employer of choice. Annual awards such as the national Best Employers for New Canadians, and many local awards recognize the good work that employers do to capitalize on skilled immigrant talent.

Read the full report.

Award-Winning Employers Help Newcomers Overcome Employment Barriers

Lack of Canadian work experience is one of the biggest barriers many skilled immigrants face when looking for jobs in Canada. To help newcomers overcome that hurdle, seven of the 2012 Best Employers for New Canadians have partnered with Bow Valley College in Calgary to provide newcomers with their first Canadian work experience.

AltaGas Ltd., CH2MHillTransCanada CorporationRoyal Bank of Canada, TD Bank GroupEnergy Resources Conservation Board and TELUS have all provided several six-week work experience placements to skilled newcomers through the college’s Corporate Readiness Training Program (CRTP).

The CRTP combines a 10-week classroom component, which prepares newcomers for the Canadian workplace, with a six-week work experience with employer partners. This work experience helps newcomers overcome barriers to employment in three important ways, says Katalina Bardell, the Mentoring Project Lead for the CRTP. The work placement:

  • Provides a first Canadian work experience
  • Provides a first Canadian reference
  • Builds the newcomer’s professional network

In the video below, Ms. Bardell talks about the program and the role employers play.

Enhance Skilled Immigrants’ Essential ‘Soft’ Skills to Boost Success

Resources that build on essential skills, such as communication and teamwork, can help you make the most of the technical skills your skilled immigrants already possess.

Finding and keeping workers with the knowledge and skills needed to get the job done is critical for today’s businesses. Learning more about the nine essential skills that are used in nearly every job in Canada can help you reap the benefits of effectively engaging immigrants at work.

Many employers recognize that immigrants possess the technical skills required for their businesses and have much to offer to their organizations. However, employers often find that newcomers lack “soft skills” such as communication, problem-solving and teamwork skills that are often valued more than technical skills.

A pilot project led by Bow Valley College, Success in the Workplace: Essential Skills Training for Immigrant Professionals, found that the “disconnect” between the skills workers thought they needed (technical) and those their employers wanted (soft skills) often faded away once both learned the importance of essential skills.

Essential skills offered employers and foreign trained professionals a common language that allowed them to recognize an individual’s strengths and to develop a focused training plan that would lead to improving skills needed on the job.

Both employers and workers indicated that they felt more confident in their skills at work and foreign trained professionals increased their ability to more effectively interact with clients, deliver presentations and work with colleagues.

Integrating essential skills into business practices does not have to be time consuming or complicated. For example:

  • The Vocabulary Building Workbook can be used to help new recruits to improve communication skills, both oral and written, by helping immigrant professionals boost vocabulary commonly used at work in Canada.
  • The Working with Others Tip Sheet can also be drawn on to offer workers practical tips to help improve teamwork skills when interacting with co-workers.

Canada’s aging population and slowing labour force growth have positioned skilled immigrants as a vital source of talent and skills needed by new and growing enterprises. Businesses that effectively attract, retain and engage these workers benefit from increased innovation, productivity and overall competitiveness.

For more information on essential skills and to access helpful guides, checklists and worksheets, check out the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills‘ website.

Best Employer Competition Recognizes Firms for Career Development

Desjardins Group is committed to career development and promoting from within, which helps keep the turnover rate at just 4.6 per cent, according to the 2012 Financial Post’s 10 Best Companies to Work For.

This commitment extends to supporting skilled immigrant employees and is one of the reasons Desjardins is one of the winner’s of this year’s competition, a subset of Canada’s Top 100 Employers that is limited to fast-growing, private-sector employers that offer opportunities for rapid career advancement and cutting-edge employee perks.

Sandeep Munshi, an engineer from India, started working at Desjardins’ insurance division in Mississauga, Ont., in 2004, two years after immigrating to Canada.

Over the years, Mr. Munshi has worked his way up from sales agent to field claims advisor with the support of Desjardin’s internal career counsellors and training and education support.

That education support, which includes tuition subsidies and bonuses for the completion of certain professional accreditation, paid for Mr. Munshi to become a chartered insurance professional.

His ultimate career goal is to become a commercial property appraiser, combining his engineering background with his Canadian insurance experience, a goal that Desjardins fully supports, according to the Financial Post article.

The company also offers other resources to help employees grow their careers within the credit union, including resumé-writing and interviewing support.

All of the winners of the 2012 Financial Post’s 10 Best Companies to Work For have substantial hiring needs, despite the slower economy, mostly due to retiring baby boomers, says Richard Yerema, Managing Editor of Canada’s Top 100 Employers.

While the national unemployment rate is at 7.5 per cent, a high concentration of the unemployed are unskilled workers with most professions and trades near full employment, says Mr. Yerema.

Opportunities for career advancement, competitive compensation, retirement plans, benefits programs and work-life balance set apart this year’s winners and help them attract and retain top talent in a competitive labour market, he says.

Financial Post’s 10 Best Companies to Work For (in alphabetical order):

New Guide Helps Employers Hire and Integrate IEHPs

In the first three months of 2011, Ontario’s health sector grew by nearly 47,000 jobs, according to the province’s Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

With the health care sector expected to continue to grow, and with immigrants projected to make up one-third of the workforce by 2031, internationally educated health professionals (IEHPs) are an increasingly important source of talent.

“With an aging (nursing) workforce and the threat of nursing shortages, effective management and retention of internationally educated nurses is a priority,” says Dr. Andrea Baumann, Scientific Director at the Nursing Health Services Research Unit at McMaster University in Hamilton.

IEHPs can be key players in mainstream care, as they contribute to workforce renewal and bring valuable experience, skills and innovative ideas to health care employers in Canada.  They also enable hospitals and other health care facilities to better reflect the diversity of the patient population, which can improve patient health outcomes.

Unfortunately, these highly skilled professionals also face barriers to employment in Canada.

Recognizing the value of these professionals and the challenges they face, The Ontario Hospital Association and the Nursing Health Services Research Unit, McMaster site, have created a web-based guide to help employers better hire and integrate internationally educated nurses (IENs) into the workplace.

Internationally Educated Nurses: An Employer’s Guide, funded by the Government of Ontario, provides a wealth of information, including the advantages of hiring IENs, how to create a harmonious workforce, organizational success stories and useful resources.

Employer Stories

There are also videos  in which health care employers who have been successful in integrating and advancing IENs, offer integration tips. Featured employers include the Toronto East General Hospital, Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

IEN Stories

IENs often mention their quest for respect and equal opportunities in promotion and leadership. The website includes stories by IENs about their experiences of becoming nurses in Canada.

For example, Maria Rosalie Rival, who migrated from the Philippines to Toronto in 2007, advises other IENs to research what is needed to register in Ontario before migration.

The result of an initiative like this website is is “not only effective use of human resources but a more diverse healthcare workforce that better reflects the Ontario population and enhances the quality of health care delivery. Language competency requirements, innovation and different approaches to complex situations will be key to the clinical environment,” says Dr. Baumann.

10 Resolutions for Employers in 2012

The start of a new year is the perfect time to take stock of how business is being done in your organization and what changes you can make to be successful in 2012. One of the best ways to make your organization more successful is to ensure you have the best talent, including skilled immigrants, to take your organization to the next level.

Below are 10 resolutions you can make this year to better recruit, integrate and retain skilled immigrants:

1. Mentor

Mentoring programs help skilled immigrants learn the ins and outs of the Canadian workplace and build their professional networks. And the mentors, and their employers, also benefit from the mentoring relationship.

Find out how mentoring is both a recruitment and professional development tool at the City of Calgary. And then learn the four ways mentoring benefits TD Bank Group and its employees.

Ready to start? Check out the ALLIES National Mentoring Initiative, which supports mentoring in: Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Kingston, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver.

2. Provide Internships

Internships provide immigrants with relevant Canadian experience and a better understanding of Canadian workplace norms, while giving employers the chance to “test drive” the skills and experiences of immigrants.

Read how SaskEnergy and the Regional Municipality of Halton make these programs work for their needs. And read how internships for internationally educated nurses helps Providence Health Care cope with a looming talent shortage.

3. Offer Language Training

A Statistics Canada study found immigrant literacy skills can account for most of the wage gap between skilled immigrants and their Canadian-born counterparts. Language training will help skilled immigrant employees contribute more to your organization.

Read how BC Hydro offers occupation-specific language training to employees to ensure employees are able to communicate clearly and safely with team members.

4. Connect With Bridging Programs

These programs, offered by colleges and universities, help skilled immigrants attain their Canadian professional licenses, certificates or designations. As such, graduates are a great source of job-ready, pre-screened immigrant talent.

Find bridging programs in your area by searching the Settlement Roadmap for employment programs in your city.

5. Look Beyond Canadian Experience

The requirement of “Canadian experience” is one of the most significant barriers preventing immigrants from finding jobs commensurate with their skills and experience. Although there are exceptions among some professions, Canadian work experience is hardly a strict requirement to perform most jobs successfully.

The extensive education, skills and work experience that many skilled immigrants bring to Canada are readily transferable, making many of them job-ready. Read how Hummingbird and i3 International focus candidates’ skills and experience, regardless of where they were obtained.

6. Conduct Culturally-Competent Interviews

Skilled immigrants come from many different cultures and backgrounds. Being aware of culture-based differences in communication can help you evaluate skilled immigrant candidates more objectively during the interview.

This online workshop will help you recognize how cultural misunderstandings can occur during an interview and how to avoid them. Read this article for more cross-cultural interviewing tips.

7. Provide Buddies for New Hires

Your organization’s culture and specific way of doing business will be new to new hires, regardless of their country of origin. A “buddy,” usually a peer rather than a supervisor, is someone who can show a new hire the ropes and teach them the unwritten rules for success.

Watch this webinar to learn about Deloitte’s buddy program for all new hires and hear how one skilled immigrant benefited from it. Read how Gennum’s buddy program helps skilled immigrant employees integrate into the workplace.

8. Build Cultural Awareness and Competence

Cultural differences among employees can lead to misunderstandings that affect communication, integration, performance management and productivity. Developing employees’ cultural competence leads to inclusive work environments, helps employees work more effectively across differences on teams and helps employees advance in their careers.

Watch this webinar to learn about the importance of intercultural competence training. Learn more about different cultures and how to reduce your own biases. Get more tips and information about culturally competent sourcing, hiring and retention practices from Hiring and Retaining Skilled Immigrants – A Cultural Competence Toolkit.

9. Recognize Foreign Credentials

Many international schools provide an education that is on par, or better, than Canadian schools but a lack of recognition or familiarity of foreign credentials can lead you to screen-out qualified candidates prematurely. Increasing your comfort with international credentials will help you hire the most qualified candidate for the position.

The Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials has a list of agencies and organizations that provide credential evaluation, assessment and qualification recognition services.

10. Review HR Policies and Practices

Your human resources policies and practices may contain hidden biases that are screening out skilled immigrants or preventing them from advancing to senior positions in your organization.

Understand and evaluate your HR practices so you can ensure equal opportunities for all people, whether they were trained in Canada or abroad. Read how to create an inclusive recruitment strategy and watch this webinar to learn how to focus on competencies and educational qualifications when screening resumés.

Moving Beyond Diversity to Inclusion (Guest Column)

This guest column by Ratna Omidvar, President of Maytree, was originally published in Canadian HR Reporter on July 18, 2011. Watch the video at the end to hear more about Ms. Omidvar’s views on diversity and inclusion in Canadian workplaces.

Diversity is a big word. It’s about all of us. Increasing diversity in an organization means being open to people who are different, who come from different places, who have different life experiences and different perspectives, who may think differently and, therefore, look at issues and problems differently.

Difference is an asset to be nurtured because it is an important element to an organization’s success, creativity and innovation. Many organizations have diversified hiring practices, reaching out to communities and niche recruiters to find excellent talent, no matter where it comes from. They are aware of diversity as a business tactic, market growth strategy, workplace policy and social concept.

There’s no doubt many Canadian organizations, particularly in urban Canada, are increasingly diverse. But are they inclusive?

Inclusion encompasses not just who you are but how you do business and who you do business with. Truly inclusive organizations embed diversity in all aspects of an organization, from recruitment to procurement. In inclusive organizations, diversity is not just located on the shop floor but in the C-suite and boardrooms. It is a subtle but important shift towards embedding diversity in the DNA of an organization and its culture.

As corporate champions of diversity and inclusion have shown, getting it right means growth, new markets, higher profits, better ideas, a more loyal workforce and more loyal customers.

If diversity is about finding and hiring, then inclusion is about retention, loyalty, growth and cultivating leadership. As an organization becomes better at attracting and hiring diverse workers, it’s crucial to eliminate systemic barriers and develop inclusive talent management strategies that retain and promote this diverse talent.

An inclusive culture makes it easier for individuals to fit in and become part of a high-functioning team. An inclusive workplace enables an organization to embrace the diversity and richness of backgrounds and perspectives diverse employees bring and use their diverse talents to achieve business goals.

Make Diversity a Strategic Priority

Creating an inclusive workplace begins with realizing people in other cultures may have different values from the majority.

To successfully bridge cultural differences, managers and employees need to understand and recognize the communication barriers that exist in cross-cultural interactions. These differences can be acknowledged in an organization’s recognition practices, celebrations and retention strategies.

Effective organizations recognize diversity is a strategic priority and leadership reinforces this value. Senior executive commitment to diversity may be the most important factor in influencing organizational commitment and effective practices.

Gordon Nixon, the Toronto-based president and CEO of RBC, is also chair of the bank’s Diversity Leadership Council, which develops and implements diversity strategies and goals.

Diversity should be integrated across all of an organization’s operations. RBC is one of the first financial institutions in Canada, for example, to establish a blueprint for diversity in procurement.

Similarly, the board of directors and the senior management at TD demonstrate their commitment through formal guidelines to ensure they promote diversity, including the advancement of members of visible minority groups.

TD’s Diversity Leadership Council implements enterprise-wide diversity initiatives and embeds diversity across the value chain, including policies and programs related to procurement. TD also attempts to embed inclusiveness within its customer and client communications.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

The business case for diversity and inclusion should be communicated at every opportunity. Communicating an organization’s commitment to diversity enhances its reputation and creates awareness among employees, suppliers, clients, educational institutions, the media and the public.

But don’t assume everyone “gets it” just because senior leaders have stated diversity and inclusion are a priority. An organization needs to make the business case internally and in a way all employees understand.

An organization’s strategy must be clearly understood by all contributors at all levels. Otherwise, they won’t know where the organization is going, what is expected of them, what their opportunities are or how their contributions will help the organization achieve strategic goals. Developing and communicating a strategic plan across an organization is essential to ensure each person understands how they individually and collectively contribute.

Focus more time and energy on educating managers, looking at succession lists and moving diverse employees into managerial positions.

Develop New and Inclusive HR Practices

As organizations become increasingly diverse, talent management strategies must also become more inclusive and consider the needs, values and motivators of diverse groups. Successful organizations create the infrastructure to recruit, hire, support, develop and retain top diverse talent. Good human resource practices include:

  • working with diverse communities
  • committing to bias-free hiring
  • providing orientation to new recruits
  • mandating internal diversity training
  • creating mentoring and sponsorship programs
  • developing networking programs for employees
  • being transparent about all HR processes.

At RBC, an internal mentorship program considers diversity when matching mentors and mentees to promote advancement.

Similarly, making the promotional process more transparent, offering training and development, providing alter-
native pathways to promotion and focusing on competencies (instead of technical knowledge and experience) can result in increased leadership opportunities for visible minority employees.

Develop a Pipeline for Future Leaders

Building a strong leadership talent pool requires an innovative and effective talent pipeline. This can be done by engaging workers in mentoring as well as reaching out to specific communities, specialized media, partners and non-profit organizations (which are sometimes more diverse).

For example, both TD and RBC support scholarships, school-age mentoring programs and youth awards. They also develop the pipeline by offering and promoting workshops and professional development programs.

Set Targets, Measure, Report and Assess Results

In business, what gets measured gets done. As such, organizations that make a point of tracking and reporting results tend to have higher levels of diversity.

Reporting on diversity creates a solid foundation organizations can use to reflect on performance, consider policies and assess what can be done to improve diversity in senior leadership ranks.

For example, using an audit to forecast future openings over a five-year period will allow an organization to define skills and diversity gaps. The organization could then require the nominating committee to present a list of diverse candidates to help fill those gaps.

Creating an inclusive organization, where each and every employee is able to contribute fully, is a journey of many steps. Executive-level support, workforce metrics and progressive recruitment and talent management processes are all steps along that journey, leading to an innovative, successful and inclusive organization.

Additional Resources

  • In the video below, Ms. Omidvar shares her views on diversity and inclusion in Canadian workplaces as part of a panel discussion organized by Stikeman Elliott LLP.


SMEs Benefit From Immigrant Talent But Many Still Face Barriers to Hiring IEPs

Seven hundred resumés. That’s how many Stefan Atton sent out in hopes of landing a marketing position. But lacking Canadian work experience he finally applied for an entry-level position, a delivery job at Steam Whistle Brewing in Toronto. The small brewery didn’t have an HR department so he strategically sent his resumé to Steam Whistle’s director of marketing.

Atton’s experience was through the roof — he’d worked in Sri Lanka and India as a brand and market manager for multinationals. Instead of the delivery job, he was hired as Steam Whistle’s marketing manager in 2002.

Few internationally educated professionals are so lucky. Despite unfilled jobs, 78 per cent of small businesses did not hire immigrants between 2003 and 2006, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

Not only are the immigrants losing out, but so too are Canadian businesses. The small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that tap into this talent pool have reaped great success, says HR consultant Yogesh Shah.

For example, one Waterloo company has grown its business worldwide thanks to its 30 foreign trained employees who know 25 languages and a medical data company hires medical professionals from all over the world for the innovation they bring to the company’s research department.

In 2010, the people at Social Enterprise for Canada (SEC) sat down with representatives from SMEs in Ontario’s culturally diverse York Region to find out what’s stopping them from hiring internationally educated and trained professionals (IEPs). Their research was funded by the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

SEC heard employers’ concerns and published a report with key recommendations, which led to the launch of a new website for SMEs: Think Talent, Think Global.

Barriers to Hiring IEPs

Many employers want to hire immigrants but find it’s easier said than done. Here are some of the top barriers SMEs reported, and how the new website can help employers overcome them:

Credential recognition: Many employers don’t know whether, say, a Masters in Engineering from Singapore is equivalent to the same Masters here in Canada. The Think Talent, Think Global site devotes an entire section to resources that can help employers evaluate foreign credentials.

The problem of non-recognition goes deeper than just the common scenario of engineers driving taxis, says Kevin Kamal, client services manager at World Education Services (WES), a Washington, D.C.-based not-for-profit specializing in foreign credential recognition. “Let’s say a bank were hiring for a position that requires an MBA,” he says. “Of the six candidates who had MBAs, three of them might have an MBA from India. We encourage employers to evaluate those.”

Many foreign-trained professionals have qualifications equivalent to, or better than, their Canadian-trained counterparts. For instance, China has its own brand of Harvard, called Tsinghua University, and Indian schools have one of the toughest grading systems in the world, says Kamal. “A 60-per-cent grade there is equivalent to an A in Canada.”

Language proficiency: While working in Canada requires proficiency in English or French, the level of that proficiency matters more in some jobs than in others. The Think Talent, Think Global site devotes an entire section to the language barrier. It suggests things employers might not otherwise think of, such as paying attention to body language (and not just words) during the interview; interviewing in a culturally competent way; training the other staff on how to help integrate foreign workers; and investing in language training for the new hire.

Time and resources: Smaller businesses say they don’t have time to adopt new and complex HR strategies to hire internationally trained professionals. The Competency Assessment section of the new website offers another perspective on the time factor. Looking at what a candidate can do — rather than just his or her paper credentials — is worth the extra recruiting effort.

“Time was a deal breaker for SMEs,” says Bruce Millar, a consultant with SEC. “But if they actually took the time to deal with competency-based HR and operational systems, it would benefit them almost better than any other system I can think of.”

He suggests employers formally define the competencies they need to make their enterprise successful. Having this “competency framework” in place makes it easier to measure candidates’ ability to do the work they claim to be qualified for. It also helps evaluate staff performance, particularly at probation time.

Overlooking Immigrant Talent Puts Canada at a Competitive Disadvantage

Canadian organizations need to do a better job of recruiting and integrating skilled immigrants or risk losing them to other countries, according to a report from Deloitte.

“It’s really important for Canadian organizations to tap into immigrant talent. We’re overlooking it right now and that’s exacerbating Canada’s productivity problem. It’s also putting Canada at a competitive disadvantage,” says Jane Allen, Chief Diversity Officer at Deloitte.

“The talent pool is shrinking, we know that, and if we can’t provide the jobs that match the education and talents of immigrants that come to Canada, then they’re going to choose to go elsewhere.”

And if Canada doesn’t tap into the skills of immigrants who are already here, it is essentially shutting the door on opportunities for economic growth, states the Deloitte white paper Welcome To Canada. Now What? Unlocking the Potential of Immigrants for Business Growth and Innovation.

Business Case for Skilled Immigrants

For Deloitte, the case for a diverse workforce that includes skilled immigrants is clear. Employees with global experiences and perspectives create more value for the firm’s multinational clients, explains Ms. Allen in the video below.

“It also enables us to attract talent because people want to work in the kind of environment where people come from all different backgrounds and have knowledge and experience from elsewhere. It makes for an exciting and vibrant workplace,” says Ms. Allen.

The white paper, the second in Deloitte’s “Dialogue on diversity” series, builds on the professional services firm’s roundtable discussions with employers, community organizations, special interest groups, government agencies and ministries, and immigrants across the country.

Immigrants Face Barriers to Employment

Skilled immigrants are chosen based on their education and experience. The points-based selection system leads new immigrants to believe they will find work in their field right away but they face several barriers to employment in Canada, says Ms. Allen. These include:

  • employers being risk-averse
  • lack of recognition or familiarity of foreign credentials
  • insensitivity to cultural nuances and lingering biases in recruitment
  • requirement of Canadian experience.

“People like to hire people who are like themselves. They’re more comfortable with people like themselves and as a consequence they will often set the bar higher when it comes to things like language skills or Canadian experience than they would for others that they would hire,” says Ms. Allen. “Not recognizing that experience is really causing employers to overlook a huge skill base.”

In this video, Ms. Allen gives more details on the barriers immigrants face and what employers can do to overcome them.

Internships, one of the solutions recommended in the report and by Ms. Allen, provide immigrants with relevant Canadian experience and a better understanding of Canadian workplace norms, while giving employers the chance to “test drive” the skills and experiences of immigrants.

While foreign-born workers need to understand the Canadian workforce, including its culture and tradition, they shouldn’t be expected to become clones of Canadian-born employees. If they do, then Canada will miss out on the experiences, skills and flavors this person could add to the work environment.

“People from varying backgrounds see problems differently and develop different solutions,” states the report. And this leads to innovation, which companies need in order to be successful.

Creating an Inclusive Environment

HR professionals and business leaders should review their policies and practices through a diversity lens to ensure equal opportunities for all people, whether they were trained in Canada or abroad. Recruiters and other stakeholders should also be given opportunities to develop their understanding of global qualifications and cultural differences.

One way to do this is to have leaders volunteer with different cultural organizations or agencies that help immigrants settle in Canada. This could include volunteering as an ESL coach or as a mentor to an immigrant professional, which also helps the immigrant integrate into the workforce.

Employee resource groups are another way to help immigrants integrate. These groups create an environment where people can connect and interact with colleagues from similar backgrounds. They help newcomers build their professional networks, which help them with career advancement.

In the video below, Ms. Allen talks about Deloitte’s initiatives to help immigrants integrate into the workplace, including a buddy system, employee resource groups and mentoring.

Additional Resources

  • Diversity at Deloitte: This section of the professional services firm’s website features both this year’s and last year’s white papers based on Deloitte’s “Dialogue on Diversity.”
  • Webinar: Jane Allen participated in an online conversation, hosted by Cities of Migration, talking about why diversity is important and how organizations can integrate skilled immigrants to fuel economic growth.
  • Blog: Follow what Jane Allen has to say about diversity on her Deloitte blog.

TalentNet: Develop Inclusive Talent Management Competencies

Immigrant employees are often overlooked and undervalued, resulting in costly turnover. Managers must be able to recognize talent and facilitate social capital for employee retention.

TalentNet is a free, immersive learning game that helps players learn about effective management practices for employee engagement and development in a multicultural workplace.

You will learn how your own cultural orientation affects your perceptions and expectations without your being aware of it.

When you start TalentNet, you will be a new manager of a multicultural team. You will want to develop the ability to recognize the competencies of the employees, and to ensure that they feel engaged and are productive.

Widening your cultural lens will make it easier for you to help them adapt to your organization’s culture, and at the same time, allow you to tap into their competencies and abilities, insuring maximum organizational capacity.

You will learn how to develop develop inclusive talent management competencies for employee engagement, performance appraisal, and identification of high potential employees.

Play the game.

The Local Market is Changing

Major Canadian cities have seen an influx of immigration over the past several years, with minority group populations outpacing Canada’s overall population growth.

Skilled immigrants may prove to be valuable resources for understanding product and service needs in ethno-specific markets. They may also provide a competitive advantage by improving networks and relationships, by speaking a variety of languages and by adding diverse perspectives, experiences and skills sets to the workforce.

Facts from Statistics Canada:

  • From 1986 to 2006, the immigrant population went from 3.9 million to 6.2 million, increasing from 15.6 per cent of the Canadian population to 19.8 per cent.
  • In 2006, the immigrant population was largest in Ontario (28 per cent), British Columbia (27.5 per cent), Alberta (16.2 per cent), Manitoba (13.3 per cent) and Quebec (11.5 per cent).
  • In 2006, immigrants accounted for 45.7 per cent of Toronto’s population, 40 per cent of Vancouver’s population, 24 per cent of Calgary’s population and 20 per cent of Montreal’s population.
  • If current immigration trends were to continue in the coming years, the proportion of immigrants in Canada could reach slightly more than 22 per cent by 2017.
  • If current immigration and birth rate trends continue, South Asians and Chinese would continue to be the two largest visible minority groups in 2017, with a population of just over 1.8 million each.

To gain access to these potential consumers, companies are faced with the challenge of building networks and relationships with customers of diverse cultures. In response, employers should consider:

  • Understanding new product and service needs and opportunities in ethno-specific markets.
  • Increasing their cultural competence for stronger competitive advantage in local sales.
  • Improving their reach and relationships with local communities and networks.
  • Hiring staff with multilingual capabilities.

Larger Talent Pool

Employers commonly draw new staff from a diminishing but known pool of talent.

They may not tap into skilled immigrant pools of talent because they are not aware of these communities and networks and skilled immigrants generally do not have access to the networks used to refer candidates for job opportunities.

But employers who ensure their planning and sourcing strategies reach skilled immigrant communities expand their opportunities to source the best talent.

To do this, some employers develop relationships with community agencies that provide services to skilled immigrants, while others encourage employees to refer skilled immigrant applicants.

It requires creative planning to cast the recruitment net further, but the results can be rewarding.

Cross-Cultural Interviewing Tips and Tools

Skilled immigrants come from many different cultures and backgrounds. Some are more and less similar to Canadian cultural norms. Below are some common cultural behaviours that can lead to misunderstandings and how to address them.

  • Silence is not a sign of disrespect or lack of knowledge. Many immigrants speak English or French fluently but it may not be their first language. Silence may simply indicate they need a moment to process the question and formulate an answer in English. Interviewers must understand that when a candidate hears a question, he likely translates it into his own language, and then works to formulate a response in his second language. Should a moment of silence take place, allow the interviewee adequate time to formulate a response.
  • Eye contact may be minimal. Some candidates may avoid eye contact with figures of authority as it is considered disrespectful in their culture. Other examples include differences in perception and understanding of time and personal space.
  • Some immigrant candidates are modest. They can be humble about their accomplishments and are often uncomfortable talking about themselves. Rather than asking specifically for strengths or accomplishments, it may be best to ask candidates how they overcame obstacles or achieved results in previous jobs.

Below are some suggestions to ensure candidates’ talent is recognized during interviews:

  • Interviewers should be trained in cross cultural communication skills. A well-trained interviewer is culturally competent and sensitive to a candidate’s background.
  • Involve more than one interviewer in the process. A small panel of interviewers is preferable to a single interviewer because different people will be capable of assessing a candidate’s various qualities and competencies.

Additional Resources:

The Value of Diverse Languages and Cultures

Some employers assume skilled immigrants may not have the communication skills necessary to work in their companies, while some immigrants believe that employers seek communication skills beyond what is essential for the position.

Accents may distract from a skilled immigrant’s excellent English or French language skills, and their lack of awareness of Canada-specific technical terms could place them at a disadvantage.

But employers who hire skilled immigrants who are able to communicate effectively in more than one language enhance their business edge within changing local markets and growing international markets.

Similarly, organizations can benefit from including a diversity of cultural perspectives in their workplaces.

Rather than assuming skilled immigrants lack an understanding of Canadian business norms, or simply don’t know the “Canadian way,” smart employers realize skilled immigrants can provide companies with a competitive edge by using their knowledge and experience to serve diverse local and international markets.

And there are local resources employers can access to help acclimatize immigrants to the Canadian workplace or improve their English.

[UPDATE] Communication Barriers: Accents Impact Hiring

While multi-lingual immigrants are an asset to businesses, research continues to demonstrate communication as a primary barrier for newcomers accessing the labour market. Particularly in the interview stage of the recruitment process, newcomers are being unfairly assessed as a result of cultural differences related to communication, and the presence of accents. Often, a foreign accent is perceived as an impairment to effectively communicate, but evidence to support this argument is scarce at best. Furthermore, candidates are disadvantaged when the hiring personnel misunderstand a response or the candidate’s demeanor based on differences of culture, not based on aptitude for the position.

Tips for Overcoming Communication Barriers:
When an individual is selected to be interviewed, it’s important as the interviewer, that you are properly prepared, so to not disadvantage a candidate unconsciously based on his/her accent, or demeanor in the interview. Communication styles differ across cultures, and greater awareness of these differences, coupled with keen preparation, can help you evaluate skilled immigrant candidates more objectively at the interview phase of recruitment.

Here are a few considerations and resources to help:

(1) Cross-cultural differences can lead inadvertently to false assessments of skilled immigrants in interview situations. Read our Cross-Cultural Interviewing Tips and Tools to learn practical tips for understanding cultural differences that may arise in the interview process.

(2) When arranging for an interview with a skilled immigrant by phone – or even conducting an interview with a skilled immigrant over the phone – there are even greater opportunities for cross-cultural differences to lead to misunderstanding. However, there are ways to maximize the value of phone conversations for both interviewers and skilled immigrant candidates:

  • Explain the format, expectations of the interview and any unique aspects of your interview process. Outline the selection process and provide an opportunity for the candidate to ask any questions prior to the start of the interview.
  • Provide all interview questions to the candidate prior to the interview to reduce or eliminate misunderstandings over the phone.

Magnet, Ryerson University in partnership with Hire Immigrants produced this article. The article is made possible with the funding from the Government of Ontario.

Recognizing the Value of International Credentials

Skilled immigrants may have international credentials that are not immediately recognizable to a Canadian employer. Recruiters may skim resumes seeking the names of recognized institutions or face challenges when they try to assess international credentials. Similarly, international experience is often devalued or considered irrelevant in Canada.

According to an analysis of the 2006 Census, only 24 per cent of employed foreign-educated, university-level immigrants were working in a regulated occupation that matched their field of study, compared to 62 per cent of their Canadian-born counterparts.

Of those university-level educated immigrants who weren’t working in their field of study, 77 per cent worked in jobs that don’t require a degree, compared to 57 per cent their Canadian-born counterparts.

Leading companies hire accredited, high-potential candidates. An organization that can recognize the transferability of a skilled immigrant’s training and education can gain a definite competitive advantage. By using Canadian credential assessment services, employers are able to increase their familiarity and comfort level with international credentials.

Setting Expectations Goes a Long Way

A new country, a new organization, a new work environment — it’s a lot for any new employee, regardless of where that person is from.

Setting expectations, from job responsibilities, duties and office culture to performance monitoring and talent development, is your best first way to begin your new employee relationship on the right foot.

When setting expectations for employees, use a mix of communication styles and methods. Describe the organization’s vision for success and how your new skilled immigrant employee fits into that picture.

Coaching them to grow in their new position to reach their goals will benefit the new employees as well as your organization.

It’s also important to remember new employees’ personal needs can be just as important as their professional needs.

Additional Resources

Make Mentoring Part of New Employee Orientation

Consider developing an internal mentoring program to support new employees, including skilled immigrants, in their adjustment to the workplace.

Some of your mentors may also want to develop their coaching, communication, and leadership skills though an external mentoring program, such as The Mentoring Partnership in Toronto or other mentoring programs offered through your local immigrant employment council.

Mentoring programs bring together established professionals (mentors) from all types of corporations and skilled immigrants (mentees) in occupation-specific mentoring relationships.

Additional Resources

  • Apotex: Read about how the pharmaceutical company helps skilled immigrants improve their communication skills.
  • ATI: Read about how the technology company creates a welcoming and inclusive environment for its diverse employees.
  • Gennum: Read about the technology firm’s programs for new employees, including language, communication and social styles classes.
  • Guide to Mentoring: This guide will help you create a structure for mentoring employees, including developing the mentoring relationship, managing the mentoring relationship and evaluating the mentoring relationship.
  • Webinar: Listen to Deloitte and Toronto Community Housing Corporation describe how mentoring skilled immigrants has increased employee retention and boosted morale.
  • Mentoring Stories: Read about mentoring programs at the City of Toronto and St. Michael’s Hospital.

Providing an Equitable Offer

Due to socio-cultural differences, skilled immigrants are frequently less likely to express concerns about an offer package. Misaligned expectations between employers and skilled immigrants can lead to job dissatisfaction and employee turnover.

When making an offer, communicate the details of the offer package clearly, including expectations of the job and of the organization, as well as how the salary meets market value for the position, education and work experience.

Calculate Market Value

Aligning hiring offers with market value ensures fairness in the recruitment process and encourages employee retention.

The Working in Canada Tool, created by the federal government, provides wage information by occupation and location.

The PayScale Salary Calculator provides key salary data based on job title and location.

Base Salary Structures Provide a Framework for Pay Decisions

A recurring complaint among employers is high turnover or lack of retention among skilled immigrant employees. The impression is that a skilled immigrant is only interested in gaining Canadian work experience and will leave as soon as a better offer is available. However, in many instances, the failure to establish a fair and equitable compensation package leads to poor retention.

Establishing base salary structures based on prevailing market rates communicates to employees that the company strives for objectivity and equity in pay decisions. Having a base salary structure also supports employment equity legislation and decreases the likelihood that external factors, such as race or gender, influence pay levels.

Additional Resources

Reducing Bias

Personal biases can unwittingly creep into an interview but there are ways to reduce this risk.

Some tips include:

  • Ask all interview candidates the same questions and then score them against a scale.
  • Establish an interview team to reduce individual biases. Include other skilled immigrants, members of diverse communities or staff with a good understanding of cross-cultural issues to provide insight on socio-cultural responses that others on the panel may question.
  • Be aware of your own personal biases and prejudices to gain greater objectivity during the interview process.

Whether externally with candidates or internally with staff, avoid subjective terms in the recruitment process, such as “best cultural fit.” This can unwittingly exclude qualified candidates without gaining a deeper understanding of their potential contributions to your organization.

Additional Resources

Coordinating or Conducting Interviews by Phone

When arranging or conducting an interview with a skilled immigrant by phone, there are even greater opportunities for cross-cultural differences to lead to misunderstanding.

However, there are ways to maximize the value of phone conversations for both interviewers and skilled immigrant candidates:

  • Explain the format, expectations of the interview and any unique aspects of your interview process.
  • Outline the selection process and provide an opportunity for the candidate to ask any questions prior to the start of the interview.
  • Provide all interview questions to the candidate prior to the interview to reduce or eliminate misunderstandings over the phone.

Additional Resources

  • Telephone Pre-Screen Form: This form will help you minimize cross-cultural misunderstandings when conducting telephone interviews with skilled immigrant candidates.

Enhance Retention Through Promotion and Recognition

Seeing a clear path to promotion is one way to increase employee retention. Many Canadian employers are used to employees taking charge of their own career development but in many cultures, it is customary for employees to wait for an invitation for promotion.

To ensure these employees have the same access to career advancement, and thus remain engaged with your organization, there are ways for managers to be proactive and encourage skilled immigrants to apply for suitable opportunities:

  • Show an interest in the employee’s career growth and invite more ongoing dialogue about learning needs, skill development and future career goals.
  • Identify high potential employees that include skilled immigrants and develop them for expanded or more senior roles in the future.
  • Identify lateral employment opportunities to help skilled immigrants tap unused skill sets and develop new skills with a different part of the organization.

There are a number of other ways to ensure employees remain committed to your organization even when new jobs and monetary rewards are not available.

One of these is to provide regular recognition and appreciation for hard work. Taking time to acknowledge efforts publicly can be just as powerful as providing monetary-based bonuses.

Additional Resources

  • Cost of Hiring Calculator: This calculator will assist you in capturing all relevant direct and indirect costs of hiring a new employee. Once you have completed the calculator, you’ll be able to see how enhancing retention can significantly reduce your costs.
  • Guide to Succession Planning: Succession planning enables organizations to grow talent by aligning employees with potential future vacancies. This guide outlines the typical steps in the selection planning process.
  • Succession Planning Position Template: This template allows you to track employees’ development and readiness for senior roles.

Addressing Poor Performance

Addressing poor performance gives employees opportunities for growth.

Express your concerns in productive ways by providing examples and reiterating expectations. Then outline a practical approach with dates and targets.

Additional Resources:

Specialized Language Training

If language is primary barrier holding a skilled immigrant employee from contributing more to your organization, provide specialized language training, which is a proven, successful retention strategy.

The following are some suggestions:

  • Invest in external, occupation-specific language training for skilled immigrant employees who require specialized language enhancement.
  • Help all employees, including skilled immigrants, to develop presentation and business communication skills by offering skills development opportunities, such as Toastmasters or specialized courses.
  • Host a social styles workshop to help new employees understand how colleagues might perceive their communication styles.

Additional Resources

  • Employer Success Stories: Read how Teranet increased employee collaboration, confidence, and performance through an in-house communications program. And read how Iris Power Engineering and Teshmont Consultants are maximizing the talents and skills of immigrants in their organization:
  • Webinar: Learn why and how Algorithmics works with a community agency to develop customized language programs for skilled immigrant employees.
  • Webinar: Learn how business communication classes can help you leverage the talent of your diverse workforce, improve teamwork and increase innovation, morale and employee retention.

Why Hire Skilled Immigrants

Use this workshop to help you involve key strategy influencers of your organization in recognizing the value that skilled immigrants bring to the Canadian workforce.

The PowerPoint presentation will promote discussion of business drivers and analyze strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOTs) to determine if, when and how your organization can benefit from skilled immigrants.

Workshop: Why Hire Skilled Immigrants?

Assessing the Recruiting Process

This workshop will help you use team brainstorming, exercises and discussion to take an in-depth look at the processes you use to source, recruit and hire employees.

The PowerPoint presentation will help you discover where in your process you are potentially screening out skilled immigrant candidates and collaborate on action plans to remove those barriers.