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


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.

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).

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.


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.

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.

Understand Career Goals and Learning Needs

Ongoing talent development is essential to retaining employees. For skilled immigrants, especially those not yet working to their full capacity, employers should be especially sensitive to both their professional needs as well as cultural differences.

In many cultures, workplace harmony is valued over competitiveness and ambition (pursuing job promotions is frowned upon), and hard work is understood implicitly to lead to a future promotion. For skilled immigrants working in progressive employer environments that value professional development, this could pose a dilemma – the pressure to participate in training in conflict with a desire to work well at one’s job.

Some employers interpret a lack of enthusiasm towards professional development to passivity when it is merely a cultural difference.

Tips to Understanding Career Goals and Learning Needs

  • Assess the current skill sets of skilled immigrant employees to identify untapped expertise as well as areas requiring improvement.
  • Provide occupation-specific skills training (including specialized language classes), job-sharing, job-shadowing and mentorship opportunities to help skilled immigrants develop the competencies required for promotion. Consider using a non-profit employment service agency for the training. This will also ensure that your organization is on the road to creating a more inclusive work environment for all employees.
  • Identify paths to grow into other opportunities in the organization.

Regular Two-Way Feedback Boosts Employee Performance

Effective employee performance management is essential to ensuring all employees, including skilled immigrants, are performing at their best.

The first step is to ensure your performance management policy has clear guidelines to address all employees’ performance, including skilled immigrants.

Performance appraisals are an integral part of any performance management program. These appraisals are opportunities to provide constructive feedback and are essential to managing performance. For skilled immigrants, this feedback should demonstrate how they can progress in their position and gain new skills.

While annual performance appraisals are important, you shouldn’t wait until then to give employees feedback on their performance. Instead, incorporate two-way feedback into daily operations and ensure positive and constructive feedback is a natural and frequent aspect of the work environment.

This may be difficult for members of some cultures who are not accustomed to providing critical feedback to management, whether actual or perceived. And be sensitive to differences in employee attitudes, perceptions, experience and culture so you can position your feedback as effectively as possible.

Ultimately, the purpose of giving feedback is to direct behaviour, motivate employees and improve performance, not to comment on personality or style.

Additional resources

Human Rights Legislation Across Canada

Canada is a country that respects and protects its citizens’ human rights. The Canadian Human Rights Act ensures equality of opportunity and freedom from discrimination in federal jurisdiction, while the provinces and territories have similar laws governing their jurisdictions.

The idea behind the various human rights acts and codes is that people should not be placed at a disadvantage simply because of their age, sex, race, country of origin or any other protected characteristic.

As an employer, that means you cannot discriminate against an employee, or a job candidate, based on one or more of these characteristics. When considering skilled immigrants for a job, or in working with skilled immigrant employees, the most applicable protected characteristics often include race, country of origin and religion.

While the human rights laws across the country are very similar in scope, there are differences between the federal act and the provincial/territorial acts, as well as among the provinces and territories.

The Canadian Human Rights Act applies to the following federally regulated employers:

  • federal departments, agencies and Crown corporations
  • chartered banks
  • airlines
  • television and radio stations
  • interprovincial communications and telephone companies
  • buses and railways that travel between provinces
  • First Nations
  • other federally regulated industries, such as certain mining operations

For examples of private sector employers under federal jurisdiction, please see the list compiled by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

Provincial and territorial laws apply to the following types of employers:

  • retail and hospitality businesses, such as a store, a restaurant, a hotel, etc.
  • hospitals or health care providers
  • schools, colleges or universities
  • most manufacturers

To find out more about your obligations as an employer, visit the federal, provincial or territorial human rights body that applies to your organization:

Development Opportunities Boost Engagement and Performance

Training and development is a critical component to ensuring all employees are able to perform effectively and continue to grow their skills and careers. It also helps boost employee engagement and loyalty because they feel the organization is taking an interest in their development.

Along with the regular training and development opportunities you provide employees, skilled immigrants will also benefit from specific programs geared to providing the Canadian framework that will help them put their international experience into context.

The following initiatives provide that Canadian context as well as opportunities for skilled immigrants to enhance their skills so they grow their careers in your organization:

Job-sharing and job-shadowing: Give skilled immigrants opportunities to see and learn about what other areas of your organization are doing. They gain a deeper understanding of their specific career goals in the context of your organization.

Skill-set maximization and development: Provide opportunities for skilled immigrants to work on special projects in the organization that can tap unused skills or develop others, such as including their perspectives in implementing new techniques or methods for organizational problem solving as well as innovative product or service development.

Internal mentoring: Introduce skilled immigrants to others within the organization who can serve as career touchstones, providing a real understanding of skills and competencies required for positions that skilled immigrant employees may want to play in the future.

External mentoring: Consider external mentoring opportunities that will serve as a development opportunity for your skilled immigrant employees. External mentoring is collaborative agreements between non-profit employment service agencies and employers, such as The Mentoring Partnership in Toronto or the Mentoring Collaborative in Calgary, that bring together skilled immigrants (mentees) and established professionals (mentors), who are often skilled immigrants themselves, in occupation-specific mentoring relationships. Mentors develop their coaching, communication and leadership skills, which are transferable to many social, academic and professional situations.

There are other mentoring programs across the country. The Local Resources section has links to immigrant employment councils across Canada that offer mentoring programs as well as links to local services that can help you find other mentoring programs in your area.

Outline all available training opportunities: Share information about your organization’s training budget for occupation-based skills training without waiting for skilled immigrant to ask. This tuition reimbursement policy template can be adapted to suit your organization’s needs.

Identify high-potential employees: Develop a formal leadership development program that includes skilled immigrant employees.

Leverage cultural knowledge that skilled immigrants have: Recognize and make use of the cultural intelligence, language skills and international networks among skilled immigrants to develop international business or marketing programs aimed at local ethno-specific markets.

Tools for Enhancing Skills

  • Calculate the return on investment of employee training to make a business case for providing professional development opportunities.
  • Support employees — including skilled immigrants — through processes for licensure/certification in their professions (e.g. financial support for exams, paid time-off for study, etc.).

The Meaning and Value of Diversity

Skilled immigrants bring new ideas and new perspectives to organizations, helping them succeed in ways they never have before. They help organizations look outside what they think of as normal solutions to find innovative ways of tackling increasingly complex challenges.

In fact, workplace diversity is among the most important predictors of an organization’s sales revenue, customer numbers and profitability, according to the 2009 report “Does Diversity Pay? Race, Gender, and the Business Case for Diversity,” published in the American Sociological Review.

Companies reporting the highest levels of racial diversity brought in nearly 15 times more sales revenue on average than those with the lowest levels of racial diversity, found the study by sociologist Cedric Herring.

While not all skilled immigrants are visible minorities, in 2006, 54 per cent of all immigrants in Canada were visible minorities and 75 per cent of those who arrived between 2001 and 2006 were visible minorities, according to The Importance of Diverse Leadership in the Greater Toronto Area, a report by Ryerson University’s The Diversity Institute in Technology and Management.

Herring’s study found for every percentage increase in the rate of racial diversity, up to the rate represented in the population, there was an increase in sales revenue of about nine per cent.

And companies with the highest rates of racial diversity reported an average of 35,000 customers compared to 22,700 among those companies with the lowest rates of racial diversity.

Diversity isn’t only important in the rank and file of an organization, it is also critical at the leadership level, according to the 2008 Conference Board of Canada report The Value of Diverse Leadership.

Diverse leadership has many benefits, including:

  • Increased financial performance.
  • Greater employee productivity and organizational performance.
  • Greater ability to attract and retain talent.
  • Enhanced creativity and innovation.
  • Increased civic engagement.

When managing a diverse workforce, you shouldn’t focus solely on the differences. Instead, you should find the shared values of all employees. This is how you turn diversity into value for your clients or customers, employees and the organization.

Understand Your Accommodation Obligations and Opportunities

As an employer, you have a legal obligation to ensure your organization provides reasonable accommodation to people in equality-seeking groups, such as those based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, marital status, family status or disability.

However, accommodation isn’t only a legal requirement. It’s a good human resource practice that can enhance employee satisfaction, success on the job and, ultimately, success for the organizational as a whole.

Many organizations have formal accommodation policies to address the needs of their diverse workforce. However, even small organizations can take steps to meet the specific needs of your employees.

Accommodation Tips

Dietary: Provide alternatives for individuals whose religion or other imperative restricts them from eating meat.

Religious: Designate a private space within the workplace for personal activities, such as prayer. It’s a simple but important way of cultivating a culture of inclusion.

Training: Build cross-cultural competencies among management and staff. Mentoring is a good way to build these skills.

Demographics: Do you know the ethno-cultural makeup of your organization? Take steps to understand your employees. Then, consider how this knowledge is reflected in your policies, practices, customers, and environment.

Networking: Host a diversity networking event to provide participants and invited speakers with an opportunity to share personal experiences, career development advice, challenges and successes.

Environment: Create a welcoming environment by connecting skilled immigrant employees with people and programs providing settlement help. This can strengthen their likelihood of staying. This is particularly important in smaller communities with fewer immigrants and support networks.

Dialogue: To understand what is reasonable in terms of religious and cultural accommodation, establish relationships with your local religious and cultural centres for an open dialogue on customs and their importance.

Additional Resources

  • Religious Accommodation Webinar: Religious accommodation is an important topic for anyone with HR responsibilities. Learn what you need to know about reasonable accommodation and listen as lawyer Sandeep Tatla explains how you can use a Religious Accommodation Checklist.
  • Duty to Accommodate: The Canadian Human Rights Commission has a variety of resources on the duty to accommodate, including guides, fact sheets and frequently asked questions.
  • Creating an Inclusive Workplace: This guide from the Canadian Human Rights Commission will help you understand your legal obligations and create workplace accommodation policies and procedures.
  • Sample Accommodation Policy: Tyco’s accommodation policy can be adapted to suit your organization’s needs.