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 Impacts of outdated strategies are felt at both at the sourcing and interviewing stages.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

 

 

Getting Started: Investing in Refugee Talent (Canada)

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

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

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

Resources to support you find refugee talent

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

Resources to support you assess and select refugee talent

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

Resources to support you onboard and train refugee talent

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

Resources to support you prepare your company

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

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

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

By Ratna Omidvar, Executive Director, Global Diversity Exchange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Search somewhere new

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

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

Set an interview target

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

Make CVs anonymous

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

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

Use new language

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Related

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. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more here.

Moving Beyond Headlines Towards a More Diverse Judiciary

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

By Ranjit Bhaskar, Maytree

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

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

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

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

More open and transparent process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Ratna-with-Gord-Nixon

By Sandhya Ranjit, TRIEC

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

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

TRIEC would like to thank him for his partnership.

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

Investing in Internships

Exploring the business case for paid internships.

By Sydney Helland, Career Edge Organziation

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

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

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

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

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

Read more here.

Related

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more here.

Look out for Hidden ‘Mediterranean’ Noses

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

By Ranjit Bhaskar, Maytree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deadly Gender Bias

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

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

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

Outsmarting the Brain

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

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

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

Related Resources

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

emergiTEL – 2013 RBC Immigrant Success Awards Winner

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

By TRIEC

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

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

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

immigrant employment is a core value for emergiTEL.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related

Learn more about IS Awards

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

A 10-year Record of Immigrant Success

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

By Bob Hepburn, Toronto Star

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

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

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

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

As well, TRIEC has developed resources that help employers effectively hire skilled immigrants. Started in 2005, hireimmigrants.ca 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 hireimmigrants.ca 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

Ontario Charts its Own Course with Proposed Ontario Immigration Act

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

By Bonnie Mah, Maytree

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valuing immigrants’ contributions to Ontario

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

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

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

Related:

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.

Related:

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.

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

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

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

Results, Results, Results

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

Innovative Use of Technology Yields Great Results

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

Boldly Playing the Global Talent Game

IEC-BC argues it is a critical time close the skills and labour gap by thinking differently about attracting and retaining skilled talent from around the world — seeing skilled immigrants as the solution.

By IEC-BC

As we move further into the second decade of the 21st century, the years ahead promise more than a few surprises on the human capital front due to a perfect storm of factors.

For all countries, including Canada, it’s not a matter of if we address the skills and labour shortages but how urgently we take action. Failing to act will, at best, leave our businesses, industries and communities ill-equipped to remain competitive. At worst, without actual skilled workers, employers may struggle to keep their doors open. What’s driving us to this point?

In short, demographic shifts coupled with a growing skills mismatch mean the global marketplace is headed for a perfect storm — a world where talent shortages and a lack of skilled workers are the norm, as seen already in the BC construction and trucking industries, and in BC’s northwest. There, the region is poised to gain between 6,000 and 13,000 jobs between now and 2020 due to large-scale projects such as liquefied natural gas (LNG), pipeline and marine expansion. The reality is the northwest region’s local labour force will be unable to meet the labour requirements demanded by these projects as we heard at the Northwest Regional Forums on Immigrant Employment we held in August.

At the broader provincial level, with more than one million job openings expected across BC by 2020, and not enough students expected to graduate from K–12 to fill those openings, surviving the skills shortage is about ensuring BC’s industries and businesses have the necessary skilled workers to meet demand.

As countries around the world vie for the brightest and best workers, skilled immigrants are set to become a sought after talent pool in an aggressive global recruiting competition.

Though this coming storm transcends Canada’s boundaries, our governments, industries, businesses, post-secondary institutions and other organizations such as IEC-BC must work together to take bold, decisive steps.

It starts with being far more strategic about closing the skills and labour gap by thinking differently about attracting and retaining skilled talent from around the world — seeing skilled immigrants as the solution.

We’re a country built on immigration, and Canada will always embrace new immigrants thanks to our longstanding policies of openness and welcome. The way ahead is about everyone — business, government and communities — recognizing that attracting skilled immigrants will be one of the keys to our success.

It’s also about turning dialogue into rapid action, so we can get there before others do. Our businesses and industries must be faster and more strategic at closing the gap between
what they have, what they need and the talent that’s out there.

As we navigate the coming competition for talent, it’s a real waste for us not to tap into the expertise of our skilled immigrants in BC.  Moreover, from an economic well-being perspective, now more than ever it’s critical that we do — as communities, as a province and as a country.

Expression of Interest: What Employers Need to Know about Canada’s Proposed New Immigrant Application System

The federal government will be introducing a new application management system that will aim to reduce application processing times and prevent backlogs. This system is currently being referred to as the Expression of Interest (EOI) model.

Updated: On December 10, 2013, hireimmigrants.ca hosted a webinar on the proposed Expression of Interest model. Questions # 1, 3 ,4, 6, 7, 8 and 10 in this article have been updated to reflect new information from this webinar.

By Bonnie Mah, Maytree

Background – Immigration to Canada

Immigrants come to Canada in one of three streams: economic, family reunification and humanitarian. The majority arrive through the economic stream. This stream includes the Federal Skilled Worker program, the provincial nominee program, the Canadian Experience Class and business class programs (such as programs for investors and entrepreneurs).

In the past few years, the Canadian government has made changes to all of these immigration streams. Nearly all of the programs under the economic stream have seen changes – for example, changes to the “points system” that determines who qualifies as an immigrant under the Federal Skilled Worker Program, to the size of the Canadian Experience Class as well as who is eligible to apply, and to business classes such as how applicants qualify for the entrepreneur program.

The federal government has indicated that it will also introduce a new application management system that will aim to reduce application processing times and prevent backlogs. This system is currently being referred to as the Expression of Interest (EOI) model. . Former immigration minister Jason Kenney has described the web-based system as being “like a dating site.”

1. What is the Expression of Interest (EOI) model?

The Expression of Interest model is a new immigration application management system that has been proposed by the federal government. It is a two stage model. First, a potential candidate expresses interest in immigrating, and, if qualified, is placed in a pool of qualified people. Next, federal and provincial/territorial governments will pick candidates out of this pool who will then be invited to submit a full application to immigrate.

The EOI model is not currently in effect.

2. Is EOI a new immigration stream/program or an application management system?

EOI is not an immigration stream or an immigration program. It does not replace immigration programs such as the Federal Skilled Worker program or the Provincial Nominee Program. EOI is an application management system for those who want to immigrate under an existing immigration program. For example, someone who wants to immigrate under the Federal Skilled Worker program will submit their expression of interest using the system. If they are selected and invited to apply, their application will then be assessed using the criteria of the Federal Skilled Worker program.

3. Which immigration programs will EOI affect?

The government has indicated that initially it will implement EOI for the Federal Skilled Worker program, the Federal Skilled Trades program and the Canadian Experience Class. Later, it could be used for other immigration programs (such as the Provincial Nominee Program) as well. Quebec, which has a special agreement with the federal government on selecting immigrants, will not participate in the EOI system.

4. How will EOI work?

Not much information is available yet. However, in very general terms, this is how it is expected to work (this example uses the Federal Skilled Worker program):

People who want to immigrate as a Federal Skilled Worker will submit an “Expression of Interest” with information about how they meet the Federal Skilled Worker program criteria. If they meet the criteria, they will be placed in a “selection pool” of candidates. Then, the government will select candidates out of this pool. These candidates will be issued an “Invitation to Apply” – that is, they will be invited to submit an application to immigrate.

After a specified period of time, candidates who are not chosen from this pool will be expunged from the pool.

5. What is the difference between EOI and the current way of processing applications?

Currently, people who want to immigrate submit an application to the Canadian government. The applications are placed in a queue and are processed in the order in which they are received. All complete applications must be processed and a decision made. This has resulted in long processing times and the creation of a backlog.

One aim of EOI is to speed up application and processing times and prevent backlogs. Because applicants are picked out of a pool, they can be picked in any order, not just the order in which they applied. And because candidates who are not chosen are expunged from the pool, EOI will not create a backlog.

6. Who will be able to choose immigrants out of the pool of applicants?

Few details are available at this time. However, the government has indicated that federal and provincial/territorial governments will choose immigrants out of the pool of applicants. In addition, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has indicated that employers will play an indirect role in selecting applicants from this pool.

7. What role will private employers play in the EOI model?

The government has indicated that EOI is an opportunity for employers to play a role in selecting immigrants to Canada. This could mean that employers will have more opportunity to communicate with the federal government about skill shortages and their challenges finding talent within Canada. Or, it could mean that the government facilitates or promotes ways to match employers with people who have expressed interest in immigrating to Canada. For example, in our hireimmigrants.ca webinar on December 10, Citizenship and Immigration Canada suggested that existing job-matching services, such as Job Bank, Workopolis, Monster or LinkedIn, might be used to connect EOI applicants with job openings. At this time, few details are available about how exactly this will work.

In addition, Citizenship and Immigration Canada said that employers will not have direct access to the pool of applicants.

8. When will the EOI model come into practice?

The government has indicated that the EOI system will come into effect for the Federal Skilled Worker program, the Federal Skilled Trades program and the Canadian Experience Class in early 2015. Later, the EOI might be applied to other immigration programs as well.

9. Do other countries use an EOI or selection pool model?

New Zealand and Australia use selection pool models that are similar to the one that the Canadian government proposes. Experts indicate that Canada’s proposal is part of a trend towards selection pool immigration models in Anglophone countries.

10. Where can I find more information about EOI?

Anonymous Job Applications Help Overcome Hiring Biases

Both employer and applicant win when using an anonymous job application process.

By Cities of Migration

Do hiring managers really need to know how old a job applicant is, or if she has children? What about where the applicant was born or what he looks like?

Anonymous job applications, which exclude personal information that is not related to an applicant’s qualifications or experience, are one way that leading employers are trying to focus on choosing the best person for the job.

Various forms of anonymous job application procedures have been tried in many places around the world, including in the public sector – for example, in the local governments of Helsinki (Finland) and Gothenburg (Sweden). Both Canada and Belgium prohibit the inclusion of personal information on applications for public sector jobs.  And it is a particularly welcome innovation in German cities.

In Germany, job applicants traditionally list a number of personal characteristics in their applications that are not related to their qualifications, such as place and date of birth, nationality, and marital status. In addition, it is common practice to attach a photo, which makes characteristics like race, gender and age quite obvious to potential employers.

In 2010-11, the city of Celle was one of eight public and private sector employers that took part in a pilot project initiated by the federal government’s Office Against Discrimination. The pilot project aimed to test how anonymous job application procedures could reduce biases in hiring.

Previous research conducted by the Office Against Discrimination indicated that bias in hiring was most likely to happen in the initial stages of the hiring process. Often, a brief glance at an applicant’s name, gender or age was enough for human resources staff to discard an application. In particular, these biases affected people with a migrant background, women with children, and older workers. This confirmed studies conducted in other countries showing that employers are influenced by these types of biases. The pilot therefore focused on the initial stage of hiring – the job application.

During the pilot, the participating employers tried a variety of methods to try to prevent these biases from influencing the review of applications – including blacking out personal details such as name, age, gender, and marital/family status, or using standardized application forms developed for the project. In the end, using standardized forms proved to be the most efficient method.

“The anonymous application process means that whether you will be invited for an interview depends only on your qualifications and not looks, gender, age or background,” says Christine Lüders, head of the federal government’s Office Against Discrimination.

Indeed, this pilot showed results similar to those conducted in other parts of the world – ethnic minorities and women are demonstrably more likely to be invited to an interview. “I was skeptical at first,” says Jockel Birkholz, the head of Celle’s human resources department. But he admits, “In the traditional process, I glanced at the photo, the CV, the marital status – there were biases despite all attempts at objectivity.”

Anonymous job application procedures are being credited with improving the hiring process. Mayor of Celle, Dirk-Ulrich Mende says, “We are now looking more at qualifications during the hiring process. This is the case for both leadership and apprenticeship positions. Many people who we’ve hired [with anonymous job applications] wouldn’t have been chosen before. And all of them have succeeded.”

It has been embraced by the human resources department, which finds the process more efficient. The standardized application forms make it easier for human resources staff to review the applications. “We can narrow down the candidates faster because we concentrate on a few important criteria,” explains Birkholz. This has become increasingly important as the city is often flooded with job applicants. Mayor Mende believes this is because the anonymous procedures have helped the city improve its reputation as a good employer.

The pilot was so successful that the city of Celle decided to continue using anonymous application procedures after the pilot ended. And this good idea has now spread to Göttingen, Hannover, Mainz, Mannheim, Offenbach and Nürnberg and to eight German states.

“The anonymous application process clearly leads to more transparency, objectivity, and equal chances during the decision-making phase and is an important building block towards a workplace without discrimination. We will continue with this process,” pledged Mayor Mende.

For further reading :

Canadian Work Experience Is Important And This Is Why

In this article Evelina Silveira examines Canadian work experience and provides practical advice to employers on how they can hire more effectively and useful tips to skilled immigrant candidates on how they can find work.

By Evelina Silveira, President Diversity at Work in London Inc.   

The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s (OHC) paper “Policy on removing the ‘Canadian experience’ barrier” speaks to the challenges many New Canadians face when they are seeking employment. Citing careers in teaching, counselling, project management, medicine, customer service among others as those requiring Canadian experience.

Opponents of the requirements will argue that it is discriminatory. However, this is too simple of an explanation.

While there will be employers who use this as a reason to discount New Canadians others
may doing so for some very valid reasons.

Let’s take a look at both sides of this issue in a more balanced way.

When I have looked at a resume and see an individual who has spent 5 years in English as A Second Language (ESL) classes and has never worked in Canada or been involved in any community service, this is a red flag for me. I ask myself: How much does this applicant contribute to their community? How integrated are they if their only responsibility is to go to school? Venturing out of the sterility of ESL classes and getting a paid survival job or helping out in the community makes you a richer person and a better prepared future employee. It shows engagement, flexibility, resourcefulness, adaptability, commitment and most of all contribution. These opportunities lead to practicing newly found English speaking skills in a more realistic setting.
Canadian experience can be obtained in many ways. The reason why employers like to have it is because it is easier for employees to integrate into a Canadian workplace. It often means that New Canadians will have some understanding of the soft skills that are required to be successful.

Requiring Canadian experience is not racist. Consider this. If those of us who were born in Canada and were hired to do a job in China, Saudi Arabia, India or other countries how long would we survive? Chances are unless we have a designated employee or mentor helping us out, we wouldn’t understand the workplace culture well enough to last.

Canadian experience is a two-sided responsibility that the Ontario Human Rights Commission doesn’t understand. Both employers and applicants have responsibilities.

For the New Canadian:

  • If you cannot find work in your field, try to find any job. Believe it or not, you are learning and gaining new skills. When I think of all of the survival and student jobs I’ve done over the years, I learned a great deal of skills, some of which I use every day in my business. Listing a survival job on your resume is better than not having one at all. As I have mentioned to ESL students I have mentored in the past, use these opportunities to listen with both your ears and eyes. If you are observant there is much you can learn from any workplace experience. These days there are a lot of people working below their skill levels because of the high unemployment. Employers understand this and will look more positively on you than not working or volunteering at all.
  • Volunteer in your professional associations where you will gain more contacts and networks. You’ll also learn more about how work is delegated, how different issues are handled and the latest information to make you more competitive in your field. You will certainly grow to understand the Canadian workplace landscape better and enhance your soft skills.
  • Become part of your community. Backlash against immigrants is often related to the belief that immigrants are not integrating enough. There is so much need in your community and your skills are surely required. Research what causes interest you and get involved. While going to school each day to learn English is important, if you have been doing this for more than a couple of years you may need to ask yourself if you are hiding behind the security of school, fearing getting a paid or volunteer position? The longer you are away from working the sooner you will lose your skills. Depression can easily settle in. Getting out and having responsibilities outside your family will make you feel better especially when you see that you can help others out.
  • Ask for feedback and be willing to take it. Whether you are working in a survival job or volunteering ,make a point of asking for constructive criticism. This is a great opportunity to find out how you are doing and to learn new skills and understand Canadian culture better.

For employers:

  • Be more flexible when it comes to Canadian experience. Consider survival jobs and community service engagement.
  • List required soft skills instead of asking for Canadian experience. Some applicants will have similar experiences working in multinational organizations with policies and procedures that are similar to North American standards. Canadian experience is less of an issue.
  • Take responsibility for helping New Canadians get experience within your company. You can offer paid internships, unpaid work placement and more. Don’t over look the impact that a buddy system, coaching and mentoring can have on an enthusiastic employee. Be prepared to explain why things are done the way they are in your workplace and the beliefs behind them.  Understanding the “whys” help us to understand the culture better.

Connecting Talent to Opportunity

The Halifax Connector Program helps immigrants build a professional network and connects them with job opportunities to help in their settlement. The Program has now expanded across the country. (This piece was originally published in The Maytree Blog).

By Fred Morley, Executive Vice President and Chief Economist, The Greater Halifax Partnership 

Business needs talent and talent needs opportunity. Both need the Connector Program. As part of a mantra for connecting immigrant professionals to local industry professionals, the Halifax Connector Program has been running since 2010 and has already been replicated in over a dozen communities across Canada.

This spring we were fortunate to receive funding from Citizenship and Immigration Canada to lead a National Connector Program Secretariat. This project recruits, engages and supports new potential connector communities as well as build a Community of Interest among existing connector programs across Canada.

Our goal is to work with 13 new communities across Canada, coast to coast. Three of those programs will be industry specific, such as our first new connector program under the national project, the CGA/CMA Connector Program launched this summer in Calgary, Alberta. A Connector Program Portal and Learning Exchange will contribute to building this national community of connectors and connectees.

The Connector Program is a simple yet highly effective free networking program that puts newcomers directly in touch with local business people, civil servants and community leaders who volunteer as Connectors – people who are in the habit of making introductions and connecting others to opportunities. Through one-on-one meetings with several connectors who work in their field, participants:

  • Learn about the local job market;
  • Enhance their networking skills;
  • Build a professional network; and
  • Improve their job search.

Business and community leaders who volunteer as Connectors benefit from:

  • Access to local talent;
  • Increased awareness about their organization and industry;
  • Knowing they are opening doors for people and helping them succeed in Halifax; and
  • Making their communities more welcoming and diverse.

If your community is interested in adopting a Connector program, please contact Fred Morley at the Greater Halifax Partnership at (902) 490-6000 or [email protected].

Related:

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 hireimmigrants.ca that is dedicated to finding and describing these practices. In a way, this platform helps employers borrow proven ideas from their competition.

A few examples of strategies that employers are using:

  • Husky identifies top engineering universities from immigrant source countries to screen in candidates from these institutions.
  • 3M uses a five-minute language exercise for its hiring managers and supervisors that sensitizes them to the challenges that speakers of English as a second language face. Supervisors sit in a circle and are challenged to replace every verb with a synonym. So for instance if you want to say “I went to a movie yesterday,” you have to challenge yourself to replace the verb “went” with another verb.
  • And from as far away as Germany comes this idea that employers will agree to accept and assess resumes that are filed without names or place of education.

Each of these examples has the seed of a policy that could govern the way corporations and public institutions source and identify talent, or how they allocate precious training resources. By translating good practices into policy, we can ensure larger scale impact.

Read other excerpts from this speech
Read the full speech.

Managing Inclusion from the Middle

In this article Lisa Anne Palmer provides useful  tips for organizations to support middle managers to create culturally-inclusive work environments. (This article was originally published in the Ottawa Business Journal.)

By Lisa Anne Palmer

Many organizations invest a great deal of time and effort in the hopes of creating an inclusive work environment. They have top down initiatives to assess organizational maturity, communicate corporate values and highlight senior management commitment. They have bottom-up initiatives led by employee councils to promote and celebrate the spirit of diversity. These efforts make a great deal of business sense and are important elements of a sound Inclusion Strategy.

Then, why is it that HR and senior management within these same organizations are so often left scratching their heads to figure out why they are not achieving the desired results?

Support ‘Managers in the Middle.’

Middle managers are the ones who have to juggle competing priorities and oversee operations while fighting day-to-day fires. What’s more, times of fiscal restraint are placing added pressure on Ottawa’s managers with regards to employee motivation and engagement.

Overworked middle managers are the people that senior management, HR and employees rely on to implement the lion’s share of inclusion initiatives.  They are the gateway to the organization as they do the majority of hiring, communicating, requesting of accommodations, and managing of performance, etc.

At the end of the day, middle managers can have the greatest impact on the success of initiatives designed to effect cultural change. Over the years, I’ve worked with hundreds of managers at all levels from a range of organizations. The vast majority are on side with creating inclusive work environments and leveraging diversity. By the same token, many are still at a loss for how to accomplish this while they meet pressing demands.

Concentrate meaningful levels of effort and resources to support middle managers to integrate diversity.

It is not enough to ‘sell’ managers on the benefits of implementing diversity for their organization – organizations need to make it easier for middle managers to create inclusive work environments. Managers not only need the proper skills and personal attributes, but also tools and strategies that simplify integrating diversity management into their daily human resources and business activities.

How can organizations support middle managers so that they have the knowledge, tools and strategies they need to create inclusive work environments?

They can begin by ensuring that the proper infrastructure is in place to support managers as they strive to create a culturally-inclusive work environment. Progressive policies and senior management commitment provide a solid foundation. However, simplifying related processes so that managers can more easily integrate key elements into their daily operations is what will lead to desired results.

Here are 7 tips for organizations to support middle managers to create culturally-inclusive work environments:

1.    Provide useful and easy-to-access resources: Introduce managers to excellent resources that can connect them with a pipeline of diverse candidates such as theOttawa Job Match Network. Added benefit – this service is free, which can help defray costs during times of fiscal constraint.

2.    Work with recruiters to get strategic:  Engage those who have expertise in outreach to diverse audiences and provide an easy way to post job ads using media geared to qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds. Your organization can also work with Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Federal Internship for Newcomers Program to source highly-qualified job-ready candidates..

3.    Make it easy for Managers to raise their own awareness and that of their employees. Refer your managers to free-of-charge cross-cultural training through Hire Immigrants Ottawa (HIO). In addition, provide them with available on-line training resources and videos through the Cross-Cultural Teamwork Series.

4.    Have key contacts within the organization that can provide managers with additional support: Ensure that managers have access to advisors with the necessary skills to help them raise awareness and address challenging situations. For instance, HR representatives and leaders within your organization can receive advanced training as Facilitators of Cross-Cultural Change (FC3), also offered through HIO.

5.    Simplify cultural accommodation processes: Review existing related processes and establish the necessary infrastructure for requesting accommodation. Ensure that middle managers and employees are well aware of accommodation processes and how to use them.

To find out more about tools and strategies that can help you support managers to create inclusive work environments, you can visit the HIO website. A good place to begin is HIO’s Tools and Resources page, where you can access excellent, free-of-charge tools and strategies to suit your needs.

Lisa Anna Palmer is Principal and Owner of Cattelan Palmer Consulting. Lisa is also Ottawa’s 1st Passion Test Facilitator and helps individuals from all diverse backgrounds who face job loss or who feel stuck in their jobs to better align their career to what is most important to them. Lisa continues to be an avid supporter of HIO where she served as an employer council representative (2009-2011).

Cultural Competence & Diversity Management

In this article Adeeco talks to TRIEC’s Rose DeVerya  about steps Canadian employers can take to transform their organization’s culture and talent management practices in ways that work across cultural differences.

As touched on in our April 7, 2013 article, “The Power of Workplace Diversity“, despite being one of the most multicultural countries in the world, Canada still presents significant obstacles to those who are not of the longstanding western European, particularly British, heritage that characterized the country for much of its history.

Such cultural prejudices prevent organizations from having diversity in the workplace, which means they can’t take advantage of the benefits that come with it, such as appealing to more demographics in what is obviously an increasingly cosmopolitan marketplace. But what about when a new immigrant is hired, particularly one who’s from a very different culture? Are they over the largest hurdle? Or do they face even higher ones once they’ve entered the Canadian workforce?

According to Rose De Veyra, Manager of Learning Initiatives at the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), a multi-stakeholder council that brings leaders together to create and champion solutions to better integrate skilled immigrants in the Toronto Region labour market, there are concrete steps Canadian employers can take to transform their organization’s culture and talent management practices in ways that work across cultural differences. Ultimately, this would enable them to make the most of what true diversity in the workplace has to offer.

Diversity management and management styles

Many people see jobs as stepping stones within a career. Each new position is an opportunity to gain experience, grow one’s skillset, and move on to a new role of higher authority. Unfortunately, for many new immigrants, the gap between that first and second stepping stone can be too wide to surmount, particularly because of differing, culturally driven ideas about what makes a good leader.

“What we in Canada perceive to be the behaviours of a leader might not be what a new immigrant’s behaviour demonstrates”, says De Veyra. Studies have shown that while some personality traits and management styles are perceived positively in one culture, they may be perceived negatively in another. “For instance, while we might appreciate humility in our leaders in Canada, in some cultures, humility might not be perceived as a desirable trait for a leader because the expectation is for the leader to be a stronger, more out there personality.”

Cultural competence starts with communication – about communication

There are many culture-based discrepancies in the Canadian workplace about what constitutes an effective leader: while those born and raised in Canada may view a supervisor who provides a lot of detail and direction in their instructions as intrusive and distrustful (a “micromanager”), people from other cultures may simply see that supervisor as being thorough; while some Canadians may view an overtly passionate leader as lacking a cool head, new immigrants may see that same leader as resolute and rousing.

Most troubling about these differing ideas of what makes an effective leader is how they can impede many immigrants’ potential to climb the corporate ladder. According to De Veyra, leadership styles are demonstrated through different communication styles, which are themselves heavily influenced by cultural norms. “Communication style is one very visible way that culture becomes evident in the workplace”, she says. “How you correct your peers; how you answer a peer’s question; who asks questions and who doesn’t ask questions: these are all elements of performance within a workplace that every employee is expected to understand. But they’re often not defined.” De Veyra points out that employees who intuitively understand those undefined expectations, by virtue of being more familiar with Canadian corporate culture, have an easier time being promoted. For example, those who question various practices and speak up are often seen as contributing to continuous improvement, thereby exhibiting leadership potential.

But there may be new immigrants on the same team who, as De Veyra notes, “are very knowledgeable, but would never speak up, would never challenge an instruction, would never ask a question because in their culture, that would be disrespectful. Because they’re not the boss, it’s not their place to question what they’re told to do.” This respect, however, is often mistakenly perceived by Canadian employers as a lack of understanding or concern. “If you look at a lot of the postings for more senior positions,” continues De Veyra, “communication skills are valued because your ability to build teams hinges on your ability to communicate; your ability to cultivate relationships also relies on being a powerful communicator. But communication styles and preferences are culturally driven – they’re shaped by culture. If the employee shares similar expectations and norms with their supervisor, then there’s no issue. But if the person evaluating the employee’s performance doesn’t see what fits with their cultural norms and expectations, the employee misses out on the opportunity to be identified as high-potential.”

Diversity management strategies to promote cultural competence

Unless diversity in the workplace also includes diversity in the upper echelons, the benefits that cultural diversity can bring to an organization are much harder to realize. So the question is: How can Canadian employers overcome their own cultural biases and provide new immigrants better opportunities for promotion – especially when they’re often not even aware that they’re being biased? De Veyra suggests two types of strategies: process or policy strategies and interpersonal strategies.

  • Process/policy strategies
    According to De Veyra, the most powerful factor in affecting the development of cultural competence in the workplace is education, particularly when it comes to surfacing some of the unspoken expectations around performance and making them transparent. For instance, when communications skills are cited on a performance appraisal, they should include examples so that employees can better understand what kind of behaviour is expected of them. De Veyra says that such learning needs to be part of the employee’s development plan and should be part of a robust orientation/onboarding program. “The more an individual understands not just what needs to be done, but also how it’s expected to be done”, says De Veyra, “the more equitable opportunities there will be for people to move up into leadership roles.”
  • Interpersonal strategies
    Diversity management should not be purely institutional; supervisors also need to take an active, firsthand approach to teaching new immigrant employees about Canadian corporate cultural norms. De Veyra recalls how a supervisor she once worked for on a very multicultural team took notice of how some new immigrant employees didn’t make morning small talk because they came from cultures where it was normal to work straight through the day without any sort of socializing. Such reticence, of course, would impede those employees’ ability to get promoted. So, to help acclimatize them to the Canadian workforce, De Veyra’s former supervisor set aside time during regular team meetings for everyone to share what terms like “hardworking” and “respect” meant to them. They would also talk about one interesting thing with the rest of the group. “You could talk about your family, your work, something you wanted to learn about, or something you experienced,” says De Veyra. “By promoting that openness and providing opportunities for that kind of communication to happen, he provided an example in action of how the employees in question can interact with their peers and supervisors.”

As effective as these strategies are, De Veyra stresses that they take time to affect change. “It’s unrealistic to expect that just because you said something, a change will happen,” she says. “I think that through different strategies, like assigning an onboarding buddy, providing feedback and coaching as part of performance evaluations, the change will happen eventually. Change in any way, but particularly with cultural norms, takes a long time. Cultures are often compared to icebergs: they move extremely slowly, but when two of them collide, they start to shape each other.” That mutual change is one of the reasons De Veyra suggests organizations educate not only new immigrant employees about the corporate culture they’re coming into, but also longstanding employees about the social norms of the country their new teammates are coming from.

However, De Veyra warns against placing too much emphasis on country culture when trying to teach people about newly-hired new immigrants. “To say all people of a certain culture are like this or like that is risky because it leads to stereotypes,” she says, and that point only underlines people’s unfortunate tendency to judge. “Human nature is to jump to judgment when you’re faced with an unexpected situation, such as those that arise with culture shock. It’s human nature. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just a response. But the key is to condition your response. Identify what’s problematic for you about what you’re seeing. That will open up the kinds of conversations employers need to have, particularly with regard to things that might fall within the realm of human rights, such as an individual’s need for accommodations.”

To access free learning and development tools to help you build cultural competency in your organization, visit the TRIEC Campus.

Anonymous Job Applications: The Next Step Towards Bias-Free Hiring

What can employers do to find the best talent while avoiding discrimination or bias in their hiring practices? This article looks at evidence of subconscious bias in hiring and what employers around the world are doing to circumvent these biases. 

By Bonnie Mah, Maytree

Last month, the Ontario Human Rights Commission confirmed that requiring a job applicant to have “Canadian experience” is discriminatory. This has prompted a renewed discussion on discrimination in hiring, and what employers can do to find the best talent while respecting the rights of job applicants.

anon-jobs-postIt’s time to consider anonymous job applications.

Unconscious bias based on applicants’ names

2011 Canadian study (PDF) found that resumes with English-sounding names were 35% more likely to get call-backs from employers than resumes with Chinese- or Indian-sounding names, despite having identical qualifications and experience.

In the same study, when recruiters were interviewed about their choices, many pointed to concerns about the language and social skills of applicants with non-English names, even when a resume showed Canadian education and work experience. The study suggests that non-English names triggered the recruiters’ implicit or subconscious biases about “foreign” applicants. This led recruiters to overweigh their concerns without fully considering the applicants’ qualifications or information that would offset those concerns.

Anonymous job applications can help

The good news is that employers can reduce subconscious biases in their hiring processes by using anonymous application approaches. In this approach, applicants do not provide personal information on their job applications, or it is hidden from reviewers.

A Swedish study looked at the outcomes of an anonymous applications pilot program (PDF) at a large public sector employer. In this pilot program, the employer asked applicants to certain positions to complete an anonymous application form.

The form instructed the applicant to provide information on education, work experience and current employment, but not to include any information that would reveal their ethnic origin or their gender. The form specifically instructed applicants not to identify the university they attended, as this could indicate ethnic origin or immigrant status.

The study found that when the employer used these anonymous applications, ethnic minorities and women were substantially more likely to be selected for an interview.

Similarly, “blind” audition processes for orchestras – where the musician-applicant performs behind a screen – have been a boon for women. One study (PDF) found that since the widespread adoption of blind auditions in the 1970s and 1980s, the number of women in orchestras has increased significantly, and that the screen increases the chance that a woman will advance out of the preliminary audition rounds by 50%.

For online applications, it is easy to remove personal information such as names and street addresses and replace these with a number or other unique identifier for the first round(s) of screening. For “paper” or email applications, applicants could be asked to put personal information at the end of the resume, so that it will be the last, rather than the first, thing that the employer sees.

These practices aren’t perfect. Candidates will eventually meet the employer in person (or by video), at which point overt or subconscious biases can come into play. But getting past on-paper first impressions is a step in the right direction.

Focus on what matters

By helping employers focus on what matters most – the applicant’s ability to do the job – anonymous job applications can circumvent subconscious biases that can get in the way of good decision-making.

In some places in the world, applicants list their age, marital status, political affiliation and attach a photo with their resume. Canadian employers already recognize that this kind of personal information will not tell them anything meaningful about how the applicant will do the job.

Leading employers around the world are starting to test anonymous job applications, and diversity experts are calling for their use.

It’s time for Canadian employers to take the next step. Anonymous job application processes can help employers overcome subconscious bias to find the best, most qualified person for the job.

Related:

With the new Ontario Human Rights Commission’s policy on removing the “Canadian experience barrier” Ratna Omidvar, President of Maytree, provides practical examples that employers can use to assess competencies of a potential candidate.

Tips for Effective Cross-Cultural Interviewing

In this article Marianne Kayed provides advice on how to get the most out of a newcomer candidate during the interview process . (This article was originally published in the Ottawa Business Journal.)

By Marianne Kayed

Looking to hire? How do you avoid missing out on great talent?

Let’s look at this scenario… the pressure in the room is palpable – both parties are exchanging information and assessing their ‘fit’ for an employer-employee relationship.  The recruiter– we will call her Barbara , says, “Tell me about yourself.”

Across the table, Samir, an expert civil engineer and a newcomer to Canada begins his response with “Sure… well… I am the youngest of six children, married and have two young children.  I was raised in the outskirts of Tehran…”

After learning the details of Samir’s ancestry and family life, a discouraged Barbara glances down at the interview guide in front of her.  She has written nothing on her paper.  The interview concludes shortly thereafter, and Samir doesn’t receive a call back.

Everyone involved in a job interview strives to get it perfect. As an employer you obviously want to hire the right person for the job. Current demographic trends indicate that immigration is increasingly accounting for net growth in the Canadian labour force. This presents opportunities for employers but at the same requires that employers review their recruitment processes and tools in other that they do not miss out on great talent.

As an employer/recruiter it is important to recognize that:

  • Some newcomer job-seekers have never been in a job interview before.

A job interview can be daunting for even the most experienced job seeker, but for many new immigrants, responding to interview questions is a brand new skill that has to be learned.

  •  Interviewing may be a language minefield for the interviewee.

Just think of the difficulties you might have trying to understand questions and ’sell’ yourself quickly in such a stressful environment using a language that is not your mother tongue.

  • Culture can have a strong influence on the way someone responds to an interview question.

Some of the information that interviewees are typically asked to provide may be considered inappropriate in certain cultures. For example, identifying personality traits or promoting oneself may be seen as impolite, even as bragging. Likewise, identifying a weakness could be seen as losing face.

Here are a few tips and resources that you can use:

  • Review your interview guides for unintended bias
  • Rephrasing interview questions can help unearth the potential of candidates
  • At the beginning of the interview, take time to provide thorough information about the scope of the interview
  • Avoid using jargon or acronyms
  • Note that nonverbal signals vary across cultures. For example, nodding in some cultures, signals disagreement (Greece, Iran, Turkey)
  • Eye contact patterns vary by culture and should not be used to assess truthfulness
  • The Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks has practical employer resources covering a wide range of topics including occupational language analyses (OLAs), cross-cultural interviewing, and more
  • Hire Immigrants Ottawa delivers employer-oriented Cross-Cultural Competency training sessions for employers, managers and human resources staff

So let’s consider an alternate ending to Samir’s interview…

After realizing that Samir hails from a culture that is collectivist, where family lineage, status, and composition weigh heavily in a candidate’s character assessment, Barbara revisits her interview questions and recalibrates… “How did you become interested in engineering?”

Samir responds with excitement, sharing how in his first year of university, he handily won a bridge design contest that he had entered on a whim, “My design was selected in first place, ahead of 300 other entries.  I have loved my work ever since.” Barbara smiles, struck by his passion, and notes the impressive accomplishment on the sheet in front of her and continues with the interview.

I invite you to visit www.language.ca/ and explore a world of employment-based resources that will help you to avoid missing out on great talent.

Marianne Kayed is a Senior Manager at the Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks in Ottawa. She has experience in integration, professional regulation and second language acquisition of immigrants and helping build the supports to enable successful transitions.

Hire Immigrants Ottawa works with local employers to help them effectively hire and integrate skilled immigrants into their workplaces.

End the Call for ‘Canadian Experience’

Ontario Human Rights Commission makes right move in putting onus on employers to prove it’s a bona fide occupational requirement.

By Todd Humber, HR Reporter

If your job posting calls for “Canadian experience,” it may now be discriminatory — at least in Ontario.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) unveiled its new Policy on Removing the ‘Canadian experience’ Barrier on July 15, and it came out swinging against employers who may not be giving immigrants a fair shake at job opportunities.

“The OHRC’s position is that a strict requirement for ‘Canadian experience’ is prima facie discrimination (discrimination on its face) and can only be used in very limited circumstances,” it said in the 16-page policy. “The onus will be on employers and regulatory bodies to show that a requirement for prior work experience in Canada is a bona fide requirement, based on the legal test this policy sets out.”

When I read the OHRC’s policy, I started with a cynical eye — can this really make a difference?

If an employer doesn’t want to hire a certain group of people — say, minorities — it doesn’t need to put “no minorities need apply” in the ad. It can just not hire minorities. It’s racist. It’s discriminatory. It’s illegal. But it’s hard to prove that in the absence of a smoking gun.

Same with asking for Canadian experience. You don’t need to put it in a job ad if you only want workers who have proven themselves in Canada — you can just skip the resumés that don’t have it, or perhaps even bring in a few token candidates who don’t fit your bill to help with the optics. That tactic is reminiscent of the National Football League’s Rooney rule, which requires NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching and other senior positions and has led to complaints among some minority candidates that they’re being brought in and used only to satisfy the rule.

Plus, employers don’t seem to be calling for Canadian experience— at least not blatantly.

An unscientific search of job board Workopolis on the morning of July 15 revealed just 59 postings with the phrase “Canadian experience.”

Then my cynicism faded and I donned my “left alone people will do the right thing” blinders. Is this even necessary in modern Canada?

While nobody would suggest every employer understands the economic benefits of hiring immigrants, that tide has certainly turned.

It’s safe to say the majority get it — and we’ve covered our share of great stories highlighted at the annual Immigrant Success (IS) Awards in Toronto, of which Canadian HR Reporter is a key sponsor and a strong believer.

But those blinders were quickly knocked off by a survey the OHRC did in 2012 on Canadian experience. It received more than 1,000 responses from jobseekers, regulatory body applicants, employers and others. It proved that newcomers face Canadian experience requirements from employers at the job search stage.

It also showed that professional regulatory bodies need to find a way to smooth the path to membership for new Canadians without Canadian experience — so there’s work for those bodies to do as well.

With all that in mind, there’s only one way to view this new OHRC policy: It’s laudable and it’s helpful to employers and jobseekers alike.

Any move that helps new Canadians find work in their fields can only be met with open arms. In nearly all cases, a call for Canadian work experience is arbitrary at its root. And in positions where it is absolutely critical, employers will still be able to call for it. They’ll just have to clear the bona fide occupational requirement hurdle, which was spelled out in the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling in Meiorin. Essentially, employers must prove the decision was:

•adopted for a purpose or goal that is rationally connected to the function being performed

•adopted in good faith, in the belief that it is needed to fulfill the purpose or goal

•reasonably necessary to accomplish its purpose or goal, because it is impossible to accommodate the candidate without undue hardship.

The Meiorin bar is a high one, so employers will need to ensure the position truly requires Canadian experience before making it a requirement.

While some may argue the real problem is a lack of jobs, not the wording chosen by employers in job postings, the fact remains that we need talented immigrants coming to Canada, en masse, in order to maintain our standard of living and grow the economy.

“If Canada is seen as a place where it is impossible to find a good job, a job in your field, or where, as an engineer or PhD graduate you are likely to end up driving a taxi, it will no longer be a desirable destination for many of the world’s most skilled immigrants,” the OHRC said in the policy. “They will simply choose to go elsewhere.”

The message from the OHRC is simple: Canada is an attractive destination for immigrants. But that shine can easily come off — and some may argue it’s already starting to fade and peel as statistics show new Canadians face higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.

We don’t want the world’s best and brightest going elsewhere. We want them here in Canada, swimming among our talent pool and the OHRC policy will help ensure the water looks inviting.

Other jurisdictions should follow suit.

Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. 


Best practices

In the policy, the OHRC included a list of best practices for employers.

Employers, representatives of employers and regulatory bodies should:

Examine their organizations as a whole to identify potential barriers for newcomers; address any barriers through organizational change initiatives, such as by forming new organizational structures, removing old practices or policies that give rise to human rights concerns, using more objective, transparent processes, and focusing on more inclusive styles of leadership and decision-making.

• Review job requirements and descriptions, recruitment/hiring practices and accreditation criteria to make sure they do not present barriers for newcomer applicants. Take a flexible and individualized approach to assessing an applicant’s qualifications and skills.

• Give an applicant the opportunity to prove his/her qualifications through paid internships, short contracts or positions with probationary periods.

• Provide newcomers with on-the-job training, supports and resources that will enable them to close “skill gaps” (i.e. acquire any skills or knowledge they may be lacking).

• Use competency-based methods to assess an applicant’s skill and ability to do the job.

• Consider all relevant work experience – regardless of where it was obtained.

• Frame job qualifications or criteria in terms of competencies and job-related knowledge and skills.

• Support initiatives designed to empower newcomers inside and outside of their organizations (for example, formal mentoring arrangements, internships, networking opportunities, other types of bridging programs, language training, etc.).

• Monitor the diversity ratios of new recruits to make sure they reflect the diversity of competent applicants overall.

• Implement special programs, corrective measures or outreach initiatives to address inequity or disadvantage affecting newcomers.

• Supply newcomers and social service agencies serving newcomers with information about workplace norms, and expectations and opportunities within the organization.

• Retain outside expertise to help eliminate barriers to newcomer applicants.

• Form partnerships with other similar institutions that can help identify additional best practices.

• Provide all staff with mandatory education and training on human rights and cultural competence.

Employers, representatives of employers and regulatory bodies should not:

• Require applicants to have prior work experience in Canada to be eligible for a particular job.

• Assume that an applicant will not succeed in a particular job because he or she lacks Canadian experience.

• Discount an applicant’s foreign work experience or assign it less weight than their Canadian work experience.

• Rely on subjective notions of “fit” when considering an applicant’s ability to succeed in the workplace.

• Include a requirement for prior Canadian work experience in the job posting or ad, or a requirement for qualifications that could only be obtained by working in Canada.

• Require applicants to disclose their country of origin or the location of their work experience on the job application form.

• Ask applicants questions that may directly or indirectly reveal where their work experience was obtained.

• Ask for local references only.

Removing the “Canadian Experience” Barrier

On July 15, Ratna Omidvar, President of Maytree, addressed the attendees at a launch event of the new policy, “Removing the ‘Canadian experience’ barrier,” by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The policy addresses the issue of employers requiring “Canadian experience” which can create barriers for newcomers looking for jobs or professional accreditation.

By Ratna Omidvar, Maytree

The discussion over removing the “Canadian experience” barrier has an extremely personal context for me. When I arrived in Canada in the early 1980s, Canadian work experience was a much more openly articulated criteria. And, of course, as an immigrant you can’t buy it for love or money. It took me and my husband roughly eight years to find a location in the world of work, and I believe we lost some of the best years of our working lives.

Since that time, while much has changed, much has stayed the same. Canadian work experience is still a barrier – and even when employers don’t ask for it overtly, I think that covertly it is a consideration.

In the years that I have worked on this issue, I believe that employers use Canadian work experience as a proxy for mitigating risk – a sort of shorthand for figuring out whether someone will fit into the workplace.

Bigger employers though are recognizing that this proxy of Canadian work experience is impractical. It is unlikely to tell them what they really want to know, leading them to develop other forms of testing competency. They are therefore breaking down job requirements into specific competencies and striving to ask candidates to demonstrate their experience in these. This is part of the larger bias-free movement to assess skills and competencies. Others are no longer asking for place of education at the onset of the hiring process and on online applications. Still others openly welcome international experience by considering this facet in salary considerations.

The truth is, of course, that while there are enlightened employers, they are still few and far between. Part of the solution must be to grow the tent of enlightened employers and make the case that if corporation A can do this, so can corporation B. Maytree has taken on this challenge and regularly engages with close to 150 employers nationally through best practice, tips and tools and webinars through our work with ALLIES and hirimmigrants.ca. Slowly but surely, we are building a community of practice. And much as we think that Canada is the leader in all things immigration-related, the truth is that we can learn from other jurisdictions. In Germany, a campaign has been launched to encourage recruiters and candidates to accept anonymous job applications – so dealing directly with the bias around names, credentials, etc.

However, an essential part of the solution is policy. The power of policy is enormous. It can change attitudes, approaches and behaviours. Federal employment equity policies changed radically who got to work for nationally-regulated employers. Federal bilingual policies changed the face of the public service. Demographics too play a role. The massive entry into the workforce by women had a profound effect on gender neutral hiring systems and policies.

Today there is another demographic train bearing down on us. Good practice by a few employers or institutions is encouraging, because it can show what success looks like. But for large-scale change one needs to consider the translation of some of these efforts into policy.

When we think of policy, we usually think only of governmental policy – be it federal, provincial or municipal. And because of the regulating authority of governments, government policy can have enormous reach. For instance, a policy coming out of the Ministry of Labour to formalize bias-free hiring processes for employers of a certain size is imaginable with a “comply or explain” mechanism. The difficulty may well arise in actually implementing and monitoring the policy. The OHRC policy proposal that we see before us today could result in a series of complaints that are resolved one way or another, and if there is enough scope and scale to these complaints, it is possible that a case can be made for the strong arm of government. However, I don’t think that there is either political or public will to take on more regulations at this time.

So while we build the public and political will at the governmental level, we must also remember that policy exists in every corner of our society, not just in the corridors of government. Just as we encourage progressive policy proposals at the governmental level which would deal with the Canadian work experience conundrum, we should also consider a range of proposals coming from industry and business themselves, or their industry associations to ensure that progress is made. These policy initiatives may well stick stronger because they will be industry-led and -owned. Many large employers are aggressive on diversity and have instituted new processes and approaches that can feed the policy imagination. For example, I can imagine a voluntary move by the financial services industry or the insurance industry or even the University Health Network to remove “place of education” from job applications or even accept anonymous job applications. Or I could see them move towards a self-regulated and self-monitoring approach towards bias-free hiring with systems developed by them for application for their members and member organizations.

I welcome this report as a catalyst towards larger policy improvements and greater policy imagination.

Related

With the new Ontario Human Rights Commission’s policy on removing the “Canadian experience barrier” Ratna Omidvar, President of Maytree, provides practical examples that employers can use to assess competencies of a potential candidate.

In the second part of Ratna Omidvar’s remarks on the new Ontario Human Rights Commission’s policy on removing the “Canadian experience” barrier she also talks about the larger role employers can play in ensuring bias free hiring practices.

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?

mivokologo

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.

Related:

York Region Ensures Effective Hiring with Foreign Credential Process Guide

The Regional Municipality of York was awarded the 2012 Toronto Star Award for Excellence in Workplace Integration as part of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council’s IS Awards. Read more on why they won the award with their innovative practice. This story was originally published by TRIEC.

The Regional Municipality of York wanted to be inclusive to all applicants, including skilled immigrants who possess foreign credentials and experience. Not able to find a tool elsewhere to help them, the Region developed one of its own – a foreign credential process guide with a flowchart, scenarios, templates and other resources.

What:

  • A foreign credential process guide with a flowchart, scenarios, templates and other resources

By the numbers:

  • 27 per cent of the Region’s employees are born outside of Canada
  • The Region’s employees speak more than 60 languages
  • Employees list ‘support for diversity’ among the Region’s top five internal strengths

Why:

To promote an effective hiring process that leads to hiring decisions based on merit and is inclusive of all candidates

What else:

The Region partners with a series of internship and bridge programs, such as the Professional Access and Integration Enhancement (PAIE) program, to recruit and integrate skilled immigrants

Profile

A major barrier to employment for new immigrants is recognition of foreign credentials and experience. Wanting to diversify the workplace, The Regional Municipality of York developed an innovative tool to help its recruiters and hiring managers overcome this barrier.

“Many new immigrants are choosing to live in York Region. As the Regional government, we need to take the lead and develop a workforce that reflects the community we serve,” says York Region Human Resources Acting Director Beverley Cassidy-Moffatt. “To support this goal, we developed the foreign credential process guide to ensure consistency in our hiring practices among both Canadian and internationally trained candidates.”

The innovative foreign credential process guide was developed following research among other Toronto region municipalities that did not have anything similar. The guide consists of a flowchart for when and how to assess foreign credentials, scenarios, templates for assessment requests and other resources. Easy to use, the guide is designed to promote an effective hiring process that leads to hiring decisions based on merit and does not exclude diverse candidates. The process is working.

York Region is seeing an increasing number of skilled immigrants within its workforce but the foreign credential process guide is only one of its initiatives to facilitate this process. In particular, the Region has targeted new immigrants for some of the hard-to-fill positions through internship and bridge programs with partner organizations. For example, the Region is a leading employer partner with the Professional Access and Integration Enhancement (PAIE) program. Through this program, the Region has first provided internships to and subsequently hired internationally-trained engineers.

“At the Region, I’ve been able to transfer some of my skills and technical background from the Philippines,” says Leany Moreno, an industrial treatment engineer who first joined York Region through the PAIE program. “There is great opportunity here for me and I am always looking forward to coming to work because of the supportive environment.”

The Region’s efforts to diversify its workforce are starting to show results. A 2011 demographic census shows that 27 per cent of the workforce was not born in Canada. Speaking even more to the impact of the human resources initiative, in a 2011 survey, employees rated support for diversity as one of the Region’s strengths.

Watch the video below to learn more about the Region of York’s efforts to implement an effective hiring process that led to hiring decisions based on merit and inclusive to all candidates.

Diversify Your Team: Looking Beyond Recruitment

Law firm Stikeman Elliot recognizes the value of hiring a diverse staff but they also realize the need to also invest, mentor and engage these new staff members to develop a productive working atmosphere. This article was originally published by HRM Online oJune 13, 2013

Canada’s population is becoming increasingly diverse, so your customer base and talent pool are likely a mix that wouldn’t have been seen 20 years ago. There are plenty of soft reasons for increasing diversity, but if you still need to be convinced, how does an increase in sales and revenue sound?

Companies with teams are likely to have better results, according to a University of Illinois study, which found that for every percentage increase in the rate of racial or gender diversity up to the rate represented in the relevant population, there was an increase in sales revenues of approximately 9% and 3%, respectively.

It’s an area that law firm Stikeman Elliot has been focused on for 15 years, starting with an ad hoc, grass roots system and building to today’s organized process for hiring, developing and promoting staff.

A focus on diversity gives the company two advantages, according to Anne Ristic, the Assistant Managing Partner Toronto. One is in recruitment – a focus on diversity gives a broader pool of candidates and therefore a better opportunity to hire the best talent. Secondly, as the firm, like many companies, increases its global client base a diverse team is an advantage for building relationships and understanding other culture groups.

“Having diversity in our workforce helps us increase our cultural fluency and our ability to connect with clients from different cultures whether in Canada or internationally,” Ristic said. It’s also  a recruitment tool as diversity becomes increasingly important for attracting top candidates.

Over the past 15 years the company has seen a big increase in diversity at every level, learning that simply hiring a more diverse group is not enough.

“When we started our focus tended to be on recruitment. We thought we just need to recruit people from different communities and then the problem would take care of itself,” Ristic said. “We realized we needed to do more on both sides – community outreach to get people applying in the first place, and then on the other side, once people are working with you, investing in mentoring and engagement. It’s important to look at what you’re doing at every stage along the pipeline.”

So how did they do it? First was to analyze every step of their employee’s lifecycle, from hiring to partner, and developing clear, objective, written criteria for every stage so everyone from new candidates to the hiring team to the executive branch understood the criteria and expectations.

They also expanded the mentoring program so each junior staff member had more than one mentor, ensuring a more diverse mentor group which gave all the employees more opportunities to learn, grow and take on more advanced assignments.

But sometimes it’s the small thing that counts. If you have ever attended an event where there was nothing you could eat or had someone repeatedly butcher your name you know how demoralizing that can be. “We ask about dietary restrictions and religious observances. They sound like small things but I think taken together it has made our workforce feel that a broad range of communities recognized within the firm,” Ristic said. “We probably get more feedback on the small things than any of the big things.”

For example, Stikeman’s “Hear my name” initiative allows co-workers to listen to a recording of an individual saying their own name before calling them. This broke down barriers where team members might resist asking for help or collaboration out of fear of mispronouncing a name.

There’s also a reflection room available for religious observances, and the company’s Outlook Calendar includes multi-faith holidays to help accommodate any potential conflicts.

It’s made a difference to engagement at the company, with the last few years’ surveys showing Stikeman staff feel welcomed and supported by the company.

“You need to keep moving forward and keep engaging people. We’re not resting on our laurels and thinking we’ve got it all under control,” Ristic said
.

The Top Five Ways for an Employer to Leverage International Talent

The Waterloo Immigration Partnership provides useful tips on how you can maximize immigrant talent. Check out hireimmigrants.ca 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 International.ca into your company’s recruitment practices

SkillsInternational.ca 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 www.SkillsInternational.ca

4) Conduct mock interviews and/or resume critiques for internationally trained professionals

Internationally trained professionals, while bringing valuable skills and experiences to Canadian employers, often face barriers in getting their foot in the door.  Professional resume development and interview practice are opportunities to better prepare newcomers by building confidence, understanding behavioural and situational interviewing techniques and ensuring their resume meets employer expectations.  While employment specialists in the community assist job seekers, meeting an employer face to face and gaining their perspective can be invaluable to assisting newcomers to become professionally established in our community.

If you are interested in offering your expertise please contact Lil Premsukh at 59.748.5220.2387 or [email protected]

5) Participate in organized networking and recruitment opportunities and in employer learning seminars

The Immigration Partnership provides opportunities for international talent and employers to connect by organizing and presenting networking and recruiting events. These events provide an opportunity for employers to have a complimentary exhibit space to meet immigrants, promote job opportunities and give an overview of their business. In addition, the Immigration Partnership also presents learning seminars for employers i.e.: business owners, human resource professional and hiring managers. Such seminars (usually a lunch and learn) would cover such topics as: how to offer an inclusive workplace, cross-cultural understanding, how to interview and hire immigrants and other topics which employers may indicate as a knowledge/information.

For more information contact Nora Whittington at 519.575.4757.3173 or [email protected]

Check out the hireimmigrants  local resources section to find  immigrant talent and related programs.

Speed Career Networking: Ready, Set…Network!

Speed Career Networking builds relationships and provides informational opportunities for skilled immigrants, while at the same time Canadian professionals use their expertise to support global talent.

By ERIEC

The Speed Career Networking (SCN) event is divided into six, 15-minute sessions. Groups of two to three mentees (internationally trained professionals) are paired with a mentor (local professional) to ask questions and pick up job search and career tips. Every 15 minutes, the mentees move to a different mentor for another round of networking. An informal, open networking follows where participants continue with discussions started during the speed networking session.

The first SCN event for this fiscal year was planned for internationally trained Engineers and took place on May 16th in Matrix Hotel, Downtown Edmonton. There were 31 mentees attending the event and 14 mentors representing Enbridge, Worley Parsons, Stantec, Capital Power, Jacobs, City of Edmonton, Pentair Thermal Management and the Immigrant Access Fund (IAF).

Employers shared with the event organizers that they had “enjoyed the event not only as a networking opportunity but also as a learning experience”. One evaluation read: “The event was valuable to me as a mentor as I came to realize the expertise and potential of many people looking for work”.

One of the mentee participants wrote, ”Having helpful and nice persons like you makes Edmonton a nice place to live in. The inspiration and motivation, which you and all volunteers shined with, have reflected positively on all of us and have made Thursday one of the happiest days in my life in Canada”.

The second SCN event held this year was for internationally trained Science Professionals took place on May 23rd at the Natural Health Practitioners of Canada office building on 124th Street in Edmonton. Twelve internationally trained environmental professionals, microbiologists, chemists and geologists attended the event, and two mentors representing Paragon Soils and Environmental Consulting Inc. and The City of Edmonton participated in the event. Many of the mentors invited were not able to attend as spring is the busiest season for their staff, “everybody is out in the field” said one of the HR Managers. The event was still highly appreciated by mentees as participants had an opportunity to learn a lot about the real labour situation in their field of expertise.

These events are not intended to be a career fair or job recruitment opportunity. However, the practical information and career tips provided by professional insiders can help you build and develop your future career in Canada.

Making Connections – Halifax Regional Municipality and Greater Halifax Partnership

Business needs talent. Talent needs opportunity. A networking program completes the equation. This story was originally published by The Cities of Migration.

Most highly skilled newcomers face a common challenge when looking for work – a lack of local connections and networks. How can a city help its newcomers quickly leap over this hurdle? By keeping it simple. The Connector Program in Halifax, Nova Scotia starts from a simple premise: connect established community, business and government leaders with new talent and help them build professional networks.

For cities, the potential is obvious. Newcomers get jobs, cities get skilled residents and thriving labour markets. Recognizing that the availability of jobs is the primary factor in a newcomer’s decision to stay or leave, Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) has made workforce recruitment and retention a primary goal of past (2005-10) and current (2011-16) economic plans. To put good policy to work, HRM engaged the Greater Halifax Partnership (the Partnership), the city’s lead economic development organization, to deliver the Connector Program.

The program’s innovation lies in its simplicity. Its approach:

  • Taps into a willingness among knowledgeable business and community leaders to share their professional networks with newcomers;
  • Uses face-to-face interactions – 30 minute meetings – and networking events such as speed interviewing to facilitate connections between employers and newcomers;
  • Provides newcomers with opportunities to learn about the local job market, enhance their networking skills, build a professional network, and improve their job search

A Multiplier Effect

The Connector Program was designed to meet recruitment and retention goals by building and expanding networks between newcomers to Halifax and established members of the community.

Partnership President and CEO Paul Kent explains: “Connectors meet one-on-one with participants, at their office or for coffee, to share their knowledge about their organization or industry sector and current labour market demands. And then they give the participant referrals to three other contacts in their network.” Because Connectors are employers as well as established community members and business leaders, when the professional network of the newcomer grows, “the potential job pool for the Connector also expands” (HRM Council report).

This multiplier effect addresses local labour needs, by connecting newcomers with opportunities to contribute and settle in their new community and by enriching the talent pool available to employers. The Program has ambitious objectives: to raise awareness and change perceptions on the benefits of hiring immigrants; help newcomers establish a professional network and find employment in their field; connect local employers to skilled, employment-ready newcomers; and establish Halifax as a welcoming city and make it the destination of choice for talent.

While the challenge is complex, the program provides a simple solution. Dick Miller, a Connector from The Shaw Group, explains: “Businesses connect with immigrants to try to develop business leads for them, employment opportunities, talk to them about the benefits and to also help them develop a network. It creates an opportunity for an immigrant to engage with the business community.”

Don Sinclair of Halifax insurance company Fraser & Hoyt recently met with newcomers interested in the insurance industry and came away both impressed and committed to help: “I met a group of “ very bright, focused and keen young men and women who see a positive future for Nova Scotia. I’ll be chatting with my contacts in the local insurance industry this week.”

The low tech, high touch approach is working. Prasad Ranay, a program participant, says: “For me, being a person from outside of Halifax it makes a lot of sense for the initial touch and contact with the community. It’s expanded my network as well as expanded my skills and reach in the community.”

Success

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.

Changes to Temporary Foreign Worker Program a Small Piece of the Big Picture

By Bonnie Mah, Maytree

On April 29, the government announced changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program and encouraged employers to “triple” their efforts to find workers in Canada. The changes follow recent controversies over temporary foreign workers and increased public scrutiny of this program. While they might address some pressing issues, they focus on a small portion of the TFW program. Many issues with the program remain.

Adding checks on employers

The government has billed the changes as ways to ensure that employers use the program only when they truly cannot find workers in Canada. Many of the proposed changes focus on the Labour Market Opinion (LMO), which approves an employer to hire a temporary foreign worker and is issued by the Canadian government.

Some of the changes are effective immediately. Others will be introduced through legislation.

The following changes are effective immediately:

  • The Accelerated LMO, which allowed certain employers to get an LMO in as little as ten business days, is suspended.
  • Employers must pay temporary foreign workers the prevailing wage for that occupation in that region. (Previously, employers could pay temporary foreign workers 5-15% less than the prevailing wage.)

Other changes will be introduced through legislation:

  • Employers will have to answer questions on the LMO application to confirm that they are not using the program to facilitate the outsourcing of Canadian jobs.
  • Employers will need to have a plan in place to transition to a Canadian workforce over time.
  • Employers may not require language skills other than English or French in their job description.
  • Employers will start paying fees for LMO applications.
  • The government will have increased authority to suspend and revoke LMOs if the program is being misused.

Interestingly, some changes target the temporary foreign workers themselves. For example:

  • Applicants will have to pay increased fees for work permits. (Unlike employers, workers have always had to pay a fee to apply.)
  • The government will have increased authority to suspend and revoke work permits if the program is being misused.

Many issues remain

About 40% of temporary foreign workers come to Canada with an LMO. The above changes focus only on these temporary foreign workers (the Seasonal Agricultural Worker program will be exempt from some of these provisions).

In other words, the changes don’t address the majority of temporary foreign workers. About 60% of temporary foreign workers come through streams that do not require an LMO. These include youth exchange programs, intra-company transfers, post-doctoral fellows, spouses of international students and temporary foreign workers, and those who come under international agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

And many issues facing our TFW program remain. For example:

  • The program continues to lack targets or caps on admission.
  • Many temporary foreign workers continue to pay taxes and contributions, but cannot access the services and benefits they pay for (such as Employment Insurance special benefits).
  • The “four-in, four-out” rule continues to require some temporary foreign workers to leave after four years and remain outside of Canada for four years before being eligible to return. Meanwhile employers can apply to hire a new temporary foreign worker right away.

Perhaps most importantly, the trend towards the temporary and away from permanent immigration will continue, untouched by these changes.

This is just one piece of Canada’s immigration system

Some level of temporary foreign workers, both with and without LMOs, is necessary and desirable. We should welcome changes that, if implemented effectively, will ensure that the TFW program fulfills specific, short-term purposes.

However, we must consider these changes as one small piece of the TFW program, which is, in turn, one small piece of Canada’s larger immigration system. Traditionally, our immigration system has been built on the foundation of permanent immigration. As we turn our attention to the TFW program, we must look beyond tweaks and towards the growing role that temporary residence is playing in our immigration system, and what this means for Canada.

Related links

RBC Career Bridge Associate Program

Program support RBC’s small and medium-sized GTA-based business clients in connecting with high-potential, internationally qualified candidates to fit their employment needs.

By Sydney Helland, Career Edge

RBC Royal Bank has further enhanced its partnership with Career Edge Organization by developing the RBC Career Bridge Associate Host Program. This unique program is designed to support RBC’s small and medium-sized GTA-based business clients in connecting with high-potential, internationally qualified candidates to fit their employment needs.

The primary benefit to RBC’s business clients is that the cost of hiring a candidate under this program is covered for the first four months entirely by RBC Royal Bank. This significant subsidy allows for small and medium-sized organizations to grow their business while realizing the benefits of hiring highly skilled, internationally qualified professionals.

Many of RBC’s business clients have already successfully leveraged this program to connect with talent. We had the chance to sit down with Aneela Zaib of emergiTEL Inc. to learn about her experience with the RBC Career Bridge Associate Host Program.

aneela_zaib

What is the story behind starting emergiTEL?
“Coming from a telecommunications and IT background, we saw a gap in technical hiring. The gap was detailed and accurate screening of candidates based on job requirements. What we saw was the “keyword-based search” on resumes, and not a lot of effort was being made by traditional recruitment companies to qualify whether the resume is a true reflection of the candidate or not.

EmergiTEL was formed based on a solid qualification process to find the right candidate fit for the job as well as the client’s job environment. The model is called Technology Strategy Productivity (TSP).”

How has the RBC-sponsored internship helped your business?

“RBC is clearly aligned with the commitment and the initiative to support newcomers. RBC provided the sponsorship for the first four months to support financially the hiring of these individuals, and EmergiTel eventually decided to offer a regular, full-time position instead of a short-term internship role, which is a great demonstration of our commitment to the longer term retention of good talent.

The subsidy that was provided by RBC has mitigated the inherent risk of a new hire as they move through the probationary period, and on top of that we had those funds that we saved that we can spend on other initiatives, for example maybe the hiring of a few more resources. For a small business like emergiTEL, this subsidy helped with some of the costs for the period when these individuals were being trained for the technical recruiter job, which otherwise would have to be absorbed by emergiTEL.”

What are some of the ways that newcomers contribute to growing Canadian businesses?

“Every year, tens of thousands of newcomers create new economic opportunities for themselves and for Canada by joining the country’s labour force. They not only bring the skills and experience, which might not otherwise be available right away, and they make themselves useful by applying their experience immediately for Canadian businesses, as well as training the rest of the workforce so that – maybe in a few years or maybe in a few months – that workforce again becomes useful for Canadian businesses. This is just one aspect.

The other aspect is that newcomers are a major portion of the technology upgrade of Canadian businesses. We all know the IT and telecommunications field is evolving constantly; it’s growing, the technology is becoming more and more complex. I cannot emphasize more than this, that this is a great channel that we have available in our country to get ourselves an upgrade in technology and knowledge transfer through the immigrant workforce.”

What kind of support does RBC and Career Edge offer small and medium businesses, like emergiTEL, through the Associate Host program? What is really the most valuable to you?

First and foremost, I would really like to thank RBC and Career Edge for being there for us, not only in terms supporting our growth, but also aligning their company’s values and initiatives to businesses like emergiTEL and mobileLIVE. Most of the small to medium-sized businesses have tight budgets, and programs like RBC Career Bridge Associate Host program provide the initial push needed to go through the ramp-up period until the new employee becomes well assimilated with the workforce. This is a very important point; this is the risk mitigation that this program has provided us, for us to be able to hire new immigrants with the peace of mind that this is not going to cost, or put a huge impact on our financial situation. This is a double-fold advantage; these newcomers that we hire prove themselves throughout that probationary period of time and become useful ultimately for the long-term retention of the company.

What value do you see in the relationship between Career Edge and emergiTEL?

As far as Career Edge is concerned, I believe that Career Edge has provided a very strong channel and platform for businesses like emergiTEL and mobileLIVE to get the talent and further place them with our clients. We see Career Edge as one of the important sources of talented newcomers and will continue to work with Career Edge and RBC to find the right place for the new talent.

People with Jobs – Jobs with People

In this article, Ratna Omidvar, comments on how the changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program presents an opportunity and a challenge for all stakeholders involved in immigrant employment.

By Ratna Omidvar, Maytree

The recent and relentless coverage of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program has focused national attention on an issue that has silently crept up on us. The truth is that the program has grown at a rapid and exponential rate over the last few years without much public dialogue or consultation. At the same time as employers are looking overseas for talent that they believe they cannot find at home in Canada, we know that there are many thousands of immigrants, refugees and other Canadians who cannot find a job suitable to their skills and experience. As Rick Miner noted in his landmark 2010 study (PDF), it is the classic conundrum of “People Without Jobs; Jobs Without People.”

The changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program that the federal government announced on April 29 will make it more difficult and more expensive for Canadian employers to overlook talent on the ground.

This presents both an opportunity and a challenge for the ALLIES community.

The opportunity

It calls on us, employers, community agencies, government, and post-secondary institutions, to strengthen our relationships. It calls on us to understand employers’ hiring needs and realities, to identify local talent and showcase it to employers in different ways. Minister Kenney urged employers to “triple” their efforts to find local talent. Let’s make sure we triple our own efforts in serving and connecting our local communities of employers and immigrants.

The challenge

Some habits are hard to break. The affinity for the easy route of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program may have become just such a habit. But the larger community of trainers, educators, NGOs and immigrant-serving agencies may also have fallen into some bad habits by failing to correctly identify the skills, competencies and attributes that today’s labour market demands, or to appropriately prepare, train and coach our job seekers to demonstrate these to employers. Here, too, we must triple our efforts to bridge whatever gaps exist.

Are we up to the challenge? I believe we are. ALLIES’ partners in cities across Canada have their ears to the ground and are connected with both local employers and with immigrant talent. These excellent relationships have brought us solutions such as the Internationally Educated Engineers Qualification program in Winnipeg, along with many other successful bridging programs.

Employers, too, have taken great strides in immigrant employment. Some of these leading employers have been recognized with RISE Awards in Edmonton, Immigrant Success Awards in Toronto, Employer Excellence Awards in Ottawa, and the Best Employers for New Canadiansaward among others. In addition, the hireimmigrants.ca website highlights promising practices from employers across the country.

We have the opportunity and responsibility to turn the situation around to “People with Jobs; Jobswith People.” If we continue to open the lines of communication and develop trust between us, ultimately, we will reap the results.

The Canada Job Grant: Challenges and Opportunities for Immigrant Employment

The Canada Job Grant was recently announced in the 2013 federal budget. As a new initiative, it presents both challenges and opportunities for the immigrant employment sector.

By Bonnie Mah, Maytree

The Canada Job Grant is a new initiative that the federal government announced in its 2013 Budget. It has piqued a lot of interest in the immigrant employment sector, and for good reason. The Canada Job Grant could present both challenges and opportunities for our sector. At this time, it exists as an announcement only; however, a few details in the announcement give some indications of how the program might be implemented.

The grant will provide up to $15,000 to individuals for short-term occupational training.

Employers can apply for the grant to train unemployed or underemployed workers. The maximum federal contribution of funds will be $5,000, which must be matched by $5,000 in provincial/territorial funds, and $5,000 from the employer.

The government funds will come from the federal-provincial Labour Market Agreements (LMAs). The federal government plans to negotiate implementation with provinces and territories in 2014-15, and fully implement the program by 2017-18.

Challenges

Eligibility requirements, shifts in funding, and a shift in approach to training could present challenges for immigrant employment programs and services.

We do not yet know many details about the individuals or employers who will be able to use the grant, nor about the kinds of training and organizations that will be considered eligible. The Budget document indicates that eligible training institutions will include “community colleges, career colleges and trade union training centres,” but we do not know whether programs delivered by community organizations will be eligible. If they are not, this might drive skilled immigrants and employers to programs offered by “approved” institutions.

Further, the Canada Job Grant will be funded through federal-provincial Labour Market Agreements (LMAs), which fund programs and services for people who are not eligible for Employment Insurance (EI). When fully implemented, 60% of LMA funding will go towards the Canada Job Grant, leaving only 40% for everything else that is currently funded through LMAs. This could leave proven programs – such as mentoring for skilled immigrants – vulnerable to funding cuts.

The grant also represents a shift in approach to skills training. It relies on the participation and, by extension, the direction of the employer. Some argue that employers are likely to focus on training for immediate needs, which means that broad-based training that might bring longer-term benefits to workers and the labour market could suffer. In addition, employers might tend to rely on training and institutions that they are already familiar with, which might not be targeted at the specific needs of skilled immigrants.

Others question whether employers will be willing to pay $5,000 for training a new worker in the first place, or in the case of small businesses, whether they will have the resources to do so. If employers are allowed to apply for the Canada Job Grant for training programs that they are already running, then this grant might not actually impact how employers hire or encourage them to consider under-employed workers, such as skilled immigrants.

Opportunities

Since we don’t have many details on how the Canada Job Grant will be implemented, we might have opportunities to share our ideas on how to make it most effective. The federal government has indicated that it will consult with stakeholders such as employer associations, educational institutions and labour organizations. In fact, the first consultation was held on April 19 in Brantford, Ontario. It might be possible to encourage federal and provincial/territorial governments to consider the work that we do with skilled immigrants. Perhaps this is a time to consider whether fees for community-based programs are appropriate, if individuals and employers can use the grant to pay them.

If implemented in a way that makes sense for employers, the Canada Job Grant could encourage employers to take risks on candidates who they wouldn’t normally hire. This could benefit many workers, including skilled immigrants. Targeted outreach about the grant and how it could help them hire skilled immigrant talent could nudge employers in that direction.

It is important for those of us working with skilled immigrants and employers to take part in this conversation. We must monitor and share information about the consultations and possible directions for implementation. We need to provide evidence of the success and potential of our work, and consider how to make the Canada Job Grant work for skilled immigrants and employers.

Related links

Temporary foreign workers are a concern for all Canadians

The number of temporary foreign workers living in Canada has tripled over the past decade. Reliance on these workers interferes with market forces that would otherwise improve working conditions and spur investment in training for Canadian citizens and permanent residents according to this new Maytree article. However, the recent federal budget signals that the government is reconsidering how the temporary foreign worker program works.

By Bonnie Mah, Maytree

Last year, nearly 215,000 people entered Canada as temporary foreign workers in half a dozen program streams.

In comparison, in the same year, Canada admitted a grand total of 257,500 people as permanent residents – a number that includes all immigrants and refugees, spouses and children.

Those numbers are not an anomaly. Rather, they reflect a trend that has been quietly gaining momentum. The number of temporary foreign workers living in Canada has tripled over the past decade. From 2002-2010, numbers for every temporary foreign worker stream (both high-skilled and low-skilled streams) have increased. In 2012, nearly 340,000 temporary foreign workers lived in Canada.

Temporary foreign workers influence the labour market

Unlike permanent immigration programs, temporary foreign worker programs have no targets or caps on admissions. The number of temporary foreign workers admitted each year is subject to demand from employers and people applying for work permits. Our top five source countries are: Philippines, the United States, Mexico, Australia and France. About 40% come with a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) from the Canadian government, which approves an employer to hire a temporary foreign worker. The remaining 60% do not require an LMO.

Over the past few years, the federal government has made a number of changes that make it easier for employers to hire temporary foreign workers. For example, it shortened processing times for the LMO. In addition, employers are now allowed to pay temporary foreign workers 5-15% less than the prevailing wage for that occupation in that region.

Economists argue that the use of temporary foreign workers interferes with market forces that would otherwise motivate employers to raise wages and improve working conditions. Further, relying on workers that have been educated and trained abroad removes the incentive for employers and the government to invest in training Canadian citizens and permanent residents for available jobs. Some employers even hire successive temporary foreign workers, which suggests that these jobs are not truly temporary. Why spend time and money on job training for Canadian-born workers, or on employment support for new immigrants, when you can import short-term workers and pay them less?

Temporary foreign workers also give a few unscrupulous employers the opportunity to circumvent our labour laws by maintaining sub-standard working conditions for workers who are unlikely to complain or exercise their rights. And while temporary foreign workers pay taxes and contributions, they often cannot access the government services or benefits that these taxes and contributions pay for. Some temporary foreign workers, for example, are not eligible to collect Employment Insurance (EI) special benefits (such as maternity, parental, and compassionate care benefits), even though they are required to pay EI premiums. In other words, the government collects from these temporary foreign workers without fulfilling its end of the bargain.

At the same time, changes to our immigration system, such as the introduction of the Canadian Experience Class for select temporary residents, indicate that the government increasingly sees temporary residence as the first step before permanent immigration. Compared to Canada’s tradition of direct permanent residence, this extra step can mean delaying attachment to Canada and “being Canadian,” as well as prolonged family separation.

Reconsidering the role of temporary foreign workers

The government has recently signaled that it is reconsidering how the temporary foreign worker program works. Following recent public uproar over foreign mining workers in British Columbia, the government has undertaken consultations on this program. And while the federal budget allocates $42 million to meet the growing demand of temporary resident programs, it also proposes to:

  • Introduce fees for employers applying for a Labour Market Opinion (LMO)
  • Restrict the use of non-official languages as job requirements when hiring through the temporary foreign worker process
  • Increase the requirements for employers to try to recruit workers within Canada
  • Help employers that legitimately rely on temporary foreign workers to plan to transition to a Canadian workforce over time

These proposed changes might provide a needed check to ensure that employers reconsider their use of the temporary foreign worker program. At the same time, the fees will presumably facilitate processing of LMOs and work permits.

Certainly, some temporary foreign workers are necessary and desirable. But not at this scale. Not if the system works to the detriment of citizens and permanent residents already living in Canada. And not at the expense of our successful tradition of permanent immigration and naturalization.

We cannot let more time pass without a serious discussion about what this program does to and for Canada, and to and for foreign workers and future Canadians. We need to have a national conversation about the role of temporary foreign workers in the Canadian labour market and in Canada’s immigration system.

Related:

Internships in Ontario: A Checklist for Employers

In this article, George Vuicic talks about some of the regulations which govern organizations as they plan an internship for newcomers to Canada. George is an Ottawa based partner with Hicks Morley LLP, a law firm specializing in human resources law and advocacy for employers.

By George Vuicic, Ottawa Business Journal

Internships are playing a growing role in the skills development and integration of our city’s labour market entrants.  These experiences offer advantages to job-seekers as well as host- organizations, presenting an excellent opportunity for highly skilled newcomers to gain familiarity with the Canadian workplace culture, and strengthening host-organization mentoring culture and training programs, while bolstering the talent pipeline.

In human resources lingo, internships tend to be loosely classified as ‘formal,’ ‘informal,’ ‘paid,’ and ‘unpaid’.  Organizations can sometimes be perplexed when it comes to understanding their responsibilities when entering into an internship relationship, especially with regards to compensation.

I was recently approached by Hire Immigrants Ottawa (HIO) to clarify some of the regulations which govern organizations as they plan an internship for newcomers to Canada, as well as what factors can contribute to a successful experience for both parties.

Here are some of the basics, and some resources to consult for more information.

Most employment relationships in Ontario are regulated by the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA).  Under this legislation, an internship is considered a paid employment relationship and entitles the intern to minimum wage payments unless all six of the following conditions are met:

1) The training is similar to that which is given in a vocational school.

This requirement indicates that in order for an intern not to be considered an employee, they must be learning employable skills or a caliber comparable to vocational schools – extending beyond errands and small tasks.

2) The training is for the benefit of the individual.

3) The person providing the training derives little, if any, benefit from the activity of the individual while he or she is being trained.

Requirements two and three infer that an intern who is not receiving remuneration cannot perform work which would otherwise be paid.  The intern must be taken for their own proper benefit and not for that of the employer.

4) The individual does not displace employees of the company providing the training.

The ‘unpaid’ intern cannot take the place of a current employee or act as a substitute for hiring a new employee.

5) The individual is not accorded a right to become an employee of the company providing the training.

This requirement outlines that the ‘unpaid’ internship may not automatically end with a guaranteed position.  Hiring of interns may occur on a contingent basis dependent on assessment at the end of the internship program.

6) The individual is advised that he or she will receive no remuneration for the time that he or she spends in training.

It is important to note that although a newcomer may agree to partake in an unpaid internship program, they may still qualify as an employee for the purposes of the ESA, and therefore be entitled to remuneration.

While remuneration is the final item addressed on the list of requirements above, one of the first things a host-organization should determine and communicate to a potential intern is what training will be provided and whether/how they will be remunerated.

If your organization is considering taking an intern for the first time, I would advise you to have an internship agreement in place.  This document should outline the objectives of the internship, the duties and responsibilities of both parties, and the organization’s HR policies with regards to privacy, confidentiality, intellectual property, and termination.

It is also essential to ensure compliance with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, as well as the Ontario Human Rights Code – two other pieces of legislation which have a bearing on employment in Ontario.

In 2011, HIO recognized Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) with an Employer Excellence Award for their paid Immigrant Internship Pilot Program (now called Federal Internship for Newcomers Program with Citizenship and Immigration Canada).  Janice Charette, Deputy Minister of HRSDC at the time shared that, “This pilot has created an opportunity for HRSDC to recruit and mentor Foreign Trained Professionals, not only increasing the diversity of our workplace, but providing them with a quality work experience that will help them to better integrate into the workforce.”

If you are considering bringing a newcomer intern aboard, I would encourage you to get involved with HIO for cross-cultural training and referral to organizations in Ottawa that can help your organization source candidates.

George Vuicic is an Ottawa based partner with Hicks Morley LLP, a law firm specializing in human resources law and advocacy for employers.  George thrives on helping employers to achieve their workplace objectives.

Hire Immigrants Ottawa works with local employers to help them effectively hire and integrate skilled immigrants into their workplaces.

Top 10 Canadian Immigration Stories of 2012

2012 was an exceptionally busy year in the Canadian immigration system. Below are 2 out of the top 10 immigration stories of 2012 that focus on immigrant employment issues. (This article was originally published in its entirety on February 27, 2013 in Maytree Conversations.)

By Maytree

2012 was an exceptionally busy year in the Canadian immigration system. Building on last year’s “Top 10 Canadian Immigration Stories of 2011,” a group of writers including Z Sonia Worotynec, Gregory Johannson, and Bonnie Mah present a similar top 10 list for 2012. For each story, we’ve provided a brief introduction, some background and related links and resources.

This year’s overarching theme: while 2011 was the year of consultations, 2012 was a year of change. It brought an explosive number of changes and proposed changes to the ways that Canada selects and treats immigrants, refugees and citizens as well as how we talk about immigrants and refugees. Multiple announcements and re-announcements from the Minister’s office made it challenging to figure out what changes had been made, what had been proposed only, and when changes or proposed changes would take effect.

Selection of Economic Class Immigrants

The Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), often considered the backbone of Canada’s economic immigration, was the target of many of the proposed changes. The points system is being re-configured to:

  • Increase the number of points for the first official language spoken;
  • Increase points for younger applicants;
  • Decrease points for work experience gained outside of Canada;
  • Require a credential assessment by a third party at the time of application.

While it re-tooled this program, the government stopped accepting applications to the FSWP on July 1, 2012. This program is expected to re-open on May 4, 2013.

Alongside these changes, the government also announced a new stream for skilled tradespersons, who traditionally have had a difficult time qualifying under the FSWP criteria. Like the FSWP, the trades stream will accept applications from individuals with occupations on a predetermined occupations list. The stream will be capped at 3,000 applications for 2013. It opened on January 2, 2013, and has been well-received, despite its small size.

In addition, the Canadian Experience Class, Provincial Nominee Programs, Investor Class and Entrepreneur Class all saw changes or proposed changes this year.

To deal with the long-standing backlog of applicants to the FSWP, the government proposed to return FSWP applications and fees submitted before February 27, 2008. The decision cut off 280,000 applicants, and is currently being challenged in Federal Court.

To prevent the development of future backlogs, the government proposed moving to a selection system similar to New Zealand’s Expression of Interest system. Under this system, applicants are selected from a pool – rather than from a queue – allowing unsuccessful applicants to be removed quickly. Canada’s new system is expected to be implemented in 2014.

Related Resources

Facilitating Temporary Residence and Two-Step Immigration

The trend towards temporary resident growth continued in 2012. In particular, a number of changes made it easier for employers to bring temporary foreign workers (TFWs) to Canada.

In April, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) introduced a ten-day Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (A-LMO) process to approve employers seeking to hire a TFW. At the same time, HRSDC changed the rules on pay for foreign workers. Employers can now pay TFWs in high skilled positions 15% less than the prevailing wage, and TFWs in lower skilled positions 5% less than the prevailing wage.

In July, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) expanded a pilot project that allows employers in Alberta to hire TFWs in some trades, and allows these workers to move between employers without going through the Labour Market Opinion (LMO) process.

Just as the year was about to close, the government announced it would table new rules for international students. The rules would designate educational institutions permitted to host international students and remove the requirement for international students who wish to work part-time to get an off-campus work permit. These changes are intended to be part of Canada’s efforts in attracting international students – who are “a great source of potential permanent immigrants.”

In 2012, the government again signaled the growing preference for two-step immigration – that is, permanent residence after temporary residence – by easing requirements of the Canadian Experience Class (CEC). This change means that TFWs in high-skilled jobs will require only 12 months of in-Canada work experience (down from 24 months) to apply for permanent residence through the CEC.

Read the the full list of top 10 Canadian Immigration Stories of 2012

Skilled Immigrants Give Metro Labs A Competitive Advantage

Metro Testing Laboratories uses innovative recruiting and training techniques to grow their company.

By IEC-BC

You’re hiring. Of course, you want the best fit possible. So, ideally, as a BC-based company, you want candidates with Canadian experience and fluent English. Right?

Maybe not. Metro Testing Laboratories is one company that has taken a very different approach — which has paid off handsomely for them in terms of highly successful recruitment and retention.

Metro Testing Laboratories is a 205-employee firm that provides inspection and testing for all phases of construction as well as in-house supplemental testing. They work with local contractors, engineering and architectural firms and municipal and provincial government agencies.

Metro Testing Laboratories doesn’t make Canadian experience mandatory for new hires. “We prefer to train them ourselves into our way of doing things,” says Harry Watson, President, Metro Testing Laboratories. Metro Testing Laboratories also has other techniques for recruiting skilled immigrants. “In our advertising we ask to have a second language. This prompts skilled immigrants to apply,” Harry explains. “We put on free training courses for the type of work that we do, and we also send the applicants out to shadow some of our employees. Then we will often offer them a job.”

Harry notes that his approach of actively seeking out skilled immigrants for its workforce is unusual in his field, where he says most companies tend to be somewhat “tribal” in whom they hire. At Metro Labs, however, the “tribe” is global. “To date we have brought people from 15 different cultures into the group — no small thing for a small company,” says Harry.

Harry admits that it does take some accommodation: “Give the skilled immigrants an opportunity to show they can actually do the work, be patient with them, give them a little bit longer time to adopt the culture,” he suggests. But, he says, the pay-offs are enormous. “Skilled immigrants have definitely contributed to the success of Metro, and they really do feel like a part of the company. I think they feel proud of the company.”

“As BC employers face growing skill shortages, what constitutes the “right fit” is undergoing a transformation,” says Kelly Pollack, Executive Director of the Immigrant Employment Council of British Columbia. “Employers like Harry, who have adjusted their hiring standards and recruitment techniques to include, rather than exclude, skilled immigrants from their talent pool, will have a significant competitive advantage.”

Harry was a presenter at the fall IEC-BC Leader’s’ Summit on Immigrant Employment. Click here to read the Summit Proceedings. Harry and his employee Ali Boromand are featured in an ad which ran in BC Business and in a video on the importance of integrating skilled immigrants into the BC labour force.

Tips for Onboarding Skilled Immigrants

Jill Chesley of the Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council talks about the steps you can take to ensure a new employee will succeed in your organization.  (This article was first published in the Commerce News; The Voice of Business in Edmonton, in December of 2012, Vol. 34 No.11 and republished in ERIEC’s blog- The Wave.)

By Jill Chesley, ERIEC

It is projected that by 2025, immigrants will constitute 100% of the growth in the Canadian labour market. Combine this potential business reality with the fact that recruitment and training of new employees is a significant expense, and you will understand why effective onboarding and retention of internationally educated employees is crucial.

There are steps that employers can take to ensure that the new employee will succeed and contribute to the organization’s goals. Orientation, training/development, setting expectations, and mentoring are important components of a new hire’s first few weeks or months on the job.

Many immigrants come from work environments where orientation is a 2-week long process. Imagine their surprise when they arrive at work in Edmonton and have a one-day orientation. Employers often encourage new hires to make themselves comfortable in their new workspace, and to ask questions when needed, but the immigrant may not know who to ask, or may be hesitant to approach colleagues who are very busy.

Orientation should include a number of topics in addition to the employee’s regular list of job duties and requirements. No orientation for newcomers is complete or effective without addressing workplace culture. What are the norms of behaviour, communication, dress, breaks, social conversation, or meeting etiquette? Cultures vary widely in their approaches to verbal and non-verbal communication, personal space, hierarchy, teamwork, initiative, formality, punctuality and privacy. Employers need to help a new employee understand how things work in their new work environment – help them integrate.

Perhaps most importantly, orientation should involve introductions to colleagues. Many immigrants come from countries where relationships must be developed before work can get done. By facilitating introductions with peers, and it will help them start on the right foot.

Exploration of such cultural issues is often best done through training with an experienced intercultural facilitator over the first few weeks of the immigrant’s employment. It is also effective to have Canadian staff in the sessions; they, too, need to understand cultural differences and how to best work in multicultural teams. Other training topics such English in the workplace and communication can also be useful for the new employee.

Employers need to set expectations with the new employee and provide feedback on their performance. It is important to explain key requirements of the job, key performance issues, and goals of the work team and/or organization. Expectations need to be clear, concrete and timely. Employers need to create opportunities to provide frank and constructive feedback in the first weeks and months. Canadians are often too polite, and couch criticism in a “feedback sandwich”. A newcomer might not hear criticism that is subtly expressed. The skilled immigrant wants to perform well, get along with colleagues and contribute to the team, but needs the information to do so.

Mentorship or a buddy system can be an effective way to address many of the issues described above.  Many organizations have internal mentorship programs that are excellent ways to help a new hire integrate, and to allow the mentor to grow professionally as well. A mentor or a buddy is a colleague who shows the new employee around, makes introductions, answers questions – especially ones that the new employee might be embarrassed to ask anyone else – and provides feedback. This responsibility should be part of the buddy’s job description, and not a task that is piled on top of an already full workload.

One issue not yet mentioned is culture shock. Culture shock can happen at any time, and not just to immigrants who are brand new. Learn the symptoms and signs of culture shock, and prepare organizational strategies to support the employees through it.

What Employers Want When They are Hiring

In the Canadian Immigrant series, “What employers want,” the publication speaks to the people who are instrumental in hiring talent for their companies — human resource managers, recruiters and senior managers who share their insight on what’s affecting the employment of newcomers. (This article was originally published in Canadian Immigrant, September 5, 2012)

By Baisakhi Roy

Much is said about having relevant Canadian experience when applying for a job in Canada. Newcomers also face additional challenges, namely being educated outside Canada, unfamiliarity with Canadian work culture and difficulty in communicating effectively with their colleagues and clients.

Our first interview is with Jason Winkler, chief talent officer, for Deloitte Canada, which provides audit, tax, consulting and financial advisory services through more than 56 offices, and has been recognized for its work in incorporating diversity into its workplace. Winkler speaks candidly of the importance of recruiting immigrant talent, how taking initiative lands you a job and the great Canadian compromise!

CI: What skills should foreign-trained professionals focus on when they come to Canada?

JW: Be a specialist. In Deloitte we have multiple service businesses. So we are always looking for people with well-defined technical skills. People that come in with specific skills like SAP products should make sure that their skills are very well defined.

We are also a professional services firm so we serve clients in many different industries. Therefore, we are always looking for people who are very knowledgeable in a particular industry. We have people from overseas who really understand mining or telecom, so we would actually want their industry expertise. From the perspective of the cultural setup at Deloitte, what is important for us are the candidate’s interpersonal skills — the ability to work with a range of people both with clients on the outside and within the firm. One of our core values is collaboration: with each other and our clients. Regardless of whether they are coming from overseas or not, we look for this skill. A proven record to be collaborative is an important skill.

CI: What are your thoughts on Canadian experience?

JW: All the above skills I mentioned are more important than having Canadian experience with the exception in some areas where we need to understand specific Canadian regulatory or legal requirements; we need candidates to understand that quickly. We value global experience quite a bit. I can think of a number of people that I have hired who have had no Canadian experience, but have wide international experience. It’s not essential, but is it nice to have … people who understand Canada? Sure. But we want to bring global experiences to this marketplace.

CI: What advice can you give newcomers on learning the ropes quickly?

JW: Prepare before you come to Canada. In an area like audit or tax, there are Canadian rules and regulations to be known. It’s an advantage if you can attain that knowledge before you come to Canada. The other way obviously is to get that knowledge quickly when you are on the ground [in Canada] and connect to communities that can help you gain this knowledge. If you are an accountant from another jurisdiction, there are lots of groups and associations where you can start to network and begin to understand the system.

You can also engage in self-training. I’ve met people who have told me that they have actually read the Canadian standards on a particular area. You should know what the overlaps and the differences are. If any recertification is needed, you should know what that process is.

CI: What about the all-important workplace culture? What should immigrants know?

JW: There is the matter of how Canadians are nice and polite; the great Canadian compromise. Some cultures are very direct and for people coming from such backgrounds, it might be difficult to adapt initially. Then again, from the North American perspective, there are cultures that are more indirect and subtle. We are in the middle zone culturally. It is a difficult adjustment, but we try to maintain a balance.

In Canada, we are very diverse, which if utilized properly could be a great asset to the Canadian economy. Our company is more diverse now than it has been in the past 20 years. We see people coming from other countries quickly find their communities here, more easily now. We take that further and are prompt to assign “buddies” who are not your performance manager. He explains to you about how things work here, sort of helps you find your path. For new immigrants, this is important.

 CI: What specific challenges does Deloitte face when recruiting immigrant talent?

JW: Being able to do the due diligence to actually find out if they are a strong candidate is tough. Because we rely on not just what’s on the resumé, but also doing reference checks, getting hold of people can be tricky. When a candidate is from a different place and culture, how do you actually do the assessment fully? We like a new candidate to meet at least six or eight of us so that they get a chance to find out what our firm is like. We like to get a good sense of the candidate because there are multiple people involved in the hiring process. Also, we usually need people quickly so logistics and the immigration process is another issue that we are constantly working on.

CI: What do you think are the biggest barriers that newcomers face when applying for jobs?

JW: This is not specific to Deloitte, but from what I have heard and seen, the first barrier is language. It’s crucial how you communicate and interact in that first interaction. We observe that basic communication skills are fine, but there is a problem getting to the next level — conversing convincingly. There is still a level of bias out there amongst employers who want to hire people who are “like them.” So if they don’t understand your background and where you come from and you don’t look or sound like them, they would be hesitant in hiring you. I think we can still improve on this front.

There are organizations that take the easier route: they hire people whose name is familiar to them, whose education they are familiar with, etc. The way to counter this is that we must make more effort to familiarize ourselves with foreign education and educational institutions. One of my senior colleagues is from India, so he knows all the universities there and if we get a candidate who is educated there, we go over to him to cross check. And he tells us, ”Yes, that’s a top university or not many people get in there!” We are very lucky to be well networked within our organization and so we can always check up on candidates who are educated outside Canada.

CI: Do you believe diversity in the workplace is important?

JW: Our core culture is delivery to our clients. Our clients are diverse, so if we are not diverse, we won’t match up to their needs. We don’t want our clients to face our team and go, “You don’t look like us!” We actually believe that our workplace is fun, more interesting, more valuable because we are all so different from each other. We come up with better ideas from a diverse workforce. It’s actually sound business.

CI: What are your top tips for being considered for a job at Deloitte?

JW: Assuming that they have the tactical skills and are able to demonstrate them, the first thing would be that they should show that they are willing to invest in themselves in terms of language skills — what are they doing to improve their communication skills?

Also, all of us want to work on a certain type of project and a certain type of location, in a certain way. So the willingness to work at something that is not exactly what you are looking for on your first day is a great asset. A candidate should be able to say, “This is my ideal profile, but I am willing to participate and contribute to other tasks.” It gives us the ability to say that we can give them an opportunity. Then there’s collaboration. We are ready to help people and we expect people to ask for help. The lone wolves don’t do well. People need to be strong enough to realize when they need help. When they make it known that they need help, then their colleagues are incredibly supportive.

If you don’t ask for help, almost by definition, you will not be successful. Focus on these two things: how do you make your client successful and how do you make your colleague successful? Everything else is noise. If you let these two things guide your behaviour, you will be successful.

Promoting Diversity in the Office: Tips for Bias-free Hiring

While many organizations may have the goal of creating diverse workplaces through bias-free hiring, they may not have implemented the many elements needed to achieve this goal.

By Tana Turner, Charity Village

With Canada’s increasing diversity, employers are becoming more conscious about their hiring practices and the need to reflect the population served. They are also aware of their obligations under the Human Rights Code to have non-discriminatory hiring practices.

However, women, persons with disabilities, Aboriginal peoples, and racial minorities continue to experience disadvantage in the labour market, resulting in higher rates of unemployment and underemployment – even when they have comparable levels of education and work experience.

So, while many organizations may have the goal of creating diverse workplaces through bias-free hiring, they may not have implemented the many elements needed to achieve this goal.

The challenge for many is understanding the various types of bias in the hiring process. Some agencies may not have considered that their hiring process may be biased. Others may focus on one type of bias, but neglect the others.

Read more here

10 Ways to Diversify Your Workforce

10 Ways to Diversify Your Workforce

Hiring and promoting employees whose cultural backgrounds represent the clients they serve is key for an organization to succeed .Companies seeking to do this should take the following 10 steps. (This article was originally published on April 23 2012 by Peter Fragale from Diversity Executive)

In health care, a diverse staff can provide great value in meeting the needs of patients from a wide range of cultures — a lesson that carries over to other industries.

An immense challenge lies before the nation’s health care sector: diversifying its workforce. A 2012 study by executive search firm Witt/Kieffer, “Diversity as a Business Builder in Healthcare,” found that diversity is lacking in health care leadership. This is unfortunate because industry leaders surveyed in the study believe diversity in the workplace improves patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes. This impact on the customer likely has similar effects in other industries.

A key tenet of excellent health care — like any service-oriented industry that meets a customer’s needs — is the caregiver’s ability to understand patients’ needs. This includes their diverse cultural needs — since, as the study noted, minorities account for 98 percent of the population growth in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas during the last decade.

It’s all part of knowing who you serve. Where does a patient, or customer, come from? How about their culture, values and sensitivities? Are these just as important to how we meet their needs?

Knowing all this begins with hiring — and promoting — employees whose cultural backgrounds represent the patients the organization serves. This takes a commitment both internally with employees and externally in the communities served. Companies seeking to do this should take the following 10 steps:

1. Embrace diversity: This seems basic, but it’s critical and worth noting first. A diverse workforce is a true competitive advantage. Promoting a culture that values employees for unique skills, experiences and perspectives distinguishes an organization as all-inclusive, relevant and truly understanding of what customers want and need. In essence, it is a treasure trove of customer and business intelligence.

Internally, the more leaders understand and respect their employees’ differences, the easier it will be to make seemingly difficult conversations more comfortable. This is critical when serving a religiously, culturally or otherwise diverse customer base.

2. Create a visual of your team: Keep ethnicity and gender data on hand so that hiring managers can create a visual picture of the individuals on each team. When numbers and percentages fail, this mental image of who is on the team can help senior leadership see where diverse populations are underrepresented or underutilized and especially compare them to the customer population. Of course, this comes with the need to reassure the team that only the most qualified candidates should be hired.

3. Build a hit list of superstars: Ask existing staff to refer potential recruits, since great employees usually associate with one another or can easily spot a top performer. Not hiring immediately? Collect and build a list of superstars to hire in the future. Keep in touch with them in the meantime.

4. Network with diverse organizations: Develop relationships with ethnically diverse professional associations and organizations, as well as local community boards and civic associations. Attend their conferences, speak at their functions and reciprocate by inviting them to company open houses and job fairs. Also, connect with vendors and suppliers who share a value for diversity and alert them to job openings for which they may have a candidate.

5. Set diversity expectations with recruiters: When using outside recruiters, ask for a diverse set of candidates and examples of high-caliber recruits they have recently placed. If they cannot easily rattle off a litany of names, then find another recruiter.

6. Invite staff into the inner circle: Create an environment of inclusion where all staff members feel valued, embrace the company’s mission, feel part of its vision and are fully tuned in with the organization’s business strategy. Help them understand just how important diversity is to serving customers best and that every individual is a big part of that. It’s easy to lose top performers because they feel detached, especially in large organizations.

7. Let your employees shine: Acknowledge — and celebrate — your staff’s accomplishments and set them up for success. This small step goes a long way in engaging employees and encouraging them to go the extra mile. Give opportunities for employees to demonstrate excellence. Assign them projects that suit their skills, recognize their achievement and celebrate it in a public way — either inside or outside your organization. In this recognition, make a point to celebrate them as a diverse individual, not just their work.

8. Mentor and shadow: The best learning happens in the field, so develop a mentoring and shadowing program that pairs hiring managers with employees of different cultural or ethnic backgrounds or genders. This creates a trusted, educational environment where employees can feel safe about asking questions regarding different backgrounds, and also lets them see different cultural styles at work.

9. Achieve employees’ dreams: Encourage leaders to know the career desires of the staff who report to them. This puts them in the position to always know when a promotional opportunity might be the best fit and help further their career goals. It also gives the opportunity to challenge employees with new assignments that broaden their skills and expose them to different chances for success.

10. Over-communicate: Relationships matter, and they are only built with repeated communication. This could mean deliberately initiating a conversation with an employee, listening to what they say, providing feedback and calling their attention to your follow through. Or, it can mean brief acknowledgements of their work, which add up and make a difference over time. On the other end of the spectrum, it should take the form of an internal communications plan that, from an HR perspective, tells employees what positions are open, how to apply, updates from HR, etc.

A key to all these steps is relationships — inside and out — with those already hired and targeted to join your team. No matter the industry — be it health care or another — businesses can use focused attention on recruitment of minorities as a way to build culture, morale and the strength of the entire business.

Coaching Connects Immigrants to IT Jobs and Closes Skills Gap

The Coaching to Career pilot program matches immigrants with senior executives in the IT field to help them find jobs commensurate with their skills and experiences.

Canada is falling behind in the technology sector because the demand for information technology professionals is outpacing supply.

The problem is two-fold, according to John Pickett, Principal and Chief Information Officer and Community Advocate at the IT Media Group.

First, there are not enough people going into IT programs in Canadian schools, and second, those who are don’t have the skills required for the jobs that exist, he says.

“It makes a big difference to a company’s ability to compete and to Canada’s ability to compete,” he says.

The Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) estimates that by 2016 about 106,000 ICT jobs will need to be filled in both traditional and emerging ICT industries — an annual hiring rate of nearly 17,000.

Many newcomers have the right skills for the jobs but lack the Canadian experience and networks to help them land these jobs, says Mr. Pickett.

“That, to me, is a waste,” he says.

That’s why Mr. Pickett was keen to take part in ICTC’s pilot bridging program, Coaching to Career, which launched in May 2012 in Toronto.

The program, aimed at internationally educated professionals (IEPs) in the IT sector, provides three weeks of employment training, including workplace culture, competencies and communications.

The IEPs are then matched with a senior industry executive who provides personalized coaching for six months to help them find a job that is commensurate with their skills and experiences.

Once employed, the IEPs receive extended training and support from ICTC for the first three months in their new job.

“I see the Coaching to Career program to be a positive step in closing the skills gap by helping professionally qualified new Canadians adapt culturally to the Canadian workplace and acquire the social and communication skills that will enable them to contribute fully to the Canadian workforce and economy,” says Mr. Pickett.

Industry coaches currently participating in ICTC’s pilot program have:

  • Decision-making power inside his or her organizations.
  • A strong network of colleagues to make connections for IEPs.
  • A drive to take risks and instigate change.
  • A passion for life-long learning.

As a coach, you’re helping to make a positive contribution to the Canadian economy, says Mr. Pickett. But it’s also professionally and personally rewarding.

The coaches all receive training at the beginning of the program on how to coach, a valuable skill they can apply in the professional lives, says Mr. Pickett.

The program is also an opportunity for those who have succeeded to pay something back, he says.

“These are people who have really good, solid qualifications, more so than I’d anticipated. I think it’s a crying shame if we’re not able to help and do something to get them meaningfully employed. Not just for them but for the benefit of the companies who are currently lacking those kinds of skills.

Coaching to Career is delivered in partnership with JVS Toronto and One Million Acts of Innovation and is funded by the Ontario and federal governments.

The pilot project has two more rounds in Toronto and ICTC would like to see the program go national. To become involved, contact [email protected].

Online Tool Helps Employers Determine an Immigrant’s Eligibility to Work

A free online learning tool details the different immigrant categories and helps employers determine if they can legally hire a newcomer.

Employers sometimes wonder whether a job candidate’s immigration status allows them to work in Canada.

The answer is simple, according to a new online learning tool from LASI World Skills. If a newcomer has a Social Insurance Number (SIN), then he is eligible to work in Canada.

In fact, more than 90 per cent of Canada’s 1.1 million newcomers are eligible to work in Canada, according to the 2006 Census.

The free e-learning tool “This applicant is an immigrant. Would the person be eligible to work here?” explains the difference between permanent residence status and temporary work permits.

There is also a diagram that details the different categories of immigrants by permanent residence status (economic immigrants, family-class immigrants and refugees) and work permit status (live-in caregivers, temporary foreign workers, international students and inland refugee claimants).

When you click on the different immigrant classes, the diagram shows which different potential immigrants (such as university students or educated professionals) move through the class and how they can potentially achieve permanent resident status.

Go to the online learning tool.

Assessing Language Proficiency

Essential skills profiles and assessment tools can help hiring managers determine if a candidate has the appropriate level of communication skills for a specific position.

When considering skilled immigrants for job openings, many hiring managers worry about their communication and language skills.

However, it’s important to remember an accent or unfamiliar expression isn’t a reflection of poor language skills. Therefore you should focus on the content of what the candidate’s saying, rather than how he’s saying it, to properly assess his English proficiency.

There are several resources to help HR professionals and hiring managers ensure a candidate’s English-language skills are at the appropriate level for the position.

Communication Skills: Essential or Nice-to-Have?

First, you need to determine what level of language and communication skills are required for the job. Some highly skilled positions, such as those in information technology or science, don’t require a high level of language skills. In these cases, remember to hire the candidate with the right essential skills for the job and then offer additional training to improve communication skills as needed.

For other jobs, such as business services or public relations, where communications is an essential skill rather than a nice-to-have, candidates will need a higher level of English-language skills.

To help you determine the language skills needed for a specific job, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada has developed essential skills profiles for all of the occupations on the National Occupational Classification (NOC) list. You can access the complete list of occupations or the searchable database. Even if the position you’re hiring for isn’t on the NOC list, you can find a comparable occupation to determine the level of language proficiency required.

The profiles detail the complexity level (from one to five) for each essential skill (including reading, writing and oral communication) required for each occupation. For example, the most important essential skills for an accounting clerk are numeracy, oral communication, problem solving and job task planning and organizing.

The profile states the complexity level for oral communication ranges from one to three and then gives examples of typical tasks (such as listening to simple messages on voicemail) and the corresponding complexity level (one).

Assessment Tools

The Readers’ Guide to Essential Skills Profiles can help you better use the profiles and there are free assessment toolsto help you evaluate a candidate’s proficiency.

The Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks has also developed national standards for measuring an individual’s English or French language proficiency. The benchmarks provide descriptions of twelve communicative proficiency levels in four skills: speaking, listening, reading and writing. The twelve levels are divided into three stages:

  • Basic Proficiency (Stage I – CLB Levels 1-4): Able to communicate in common and predictable settings to meet basic needs and to carry out everyday activities.
  • Intermediate Proficiency (Stage II – CLB Levels 5-8): Able to participate more fully in social, educational and work-related settings. The settings where English is used are less familiar and predictable and the individual is able to function more independently.
  • Advanced Proficiency (Stage III – CLB Levels 9-12): Able to communicate effectively, appropriately, accurately and fluently in most settings. Individuals communicate using language features such as appropriate style, register and formality.

Job candidates can have their language skills assessed at an assessment centre, which use CLB certified assessors. The CLB also sells a manual that provides organizations and HR professionals with a framework for assessing the language demands of a job and then developing a tool to assess candidates’ language abilities.

Building Language Skills

Keep in mind that a good candidate’s language skills can be improved through training or on-the-job experience and there are resources available to employers who want to provide additional English or communication training.

Many community agencies and schools provide free language courses for newcomers, especially through the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program. Citizenship and Immigration has a searchable database of services for newcomers, including language classes, as does the Settlement Road Map.

What You Can and Can’t Ask In an Interview

Country of origin is a protected characteristic under human rights legislation, which means employers can’t ask questions about a candidate’s nationality or immigration status during the recruitment process.

Under human rights laws in Canada, employers can’t discriminate against a job candidate based on a protected characteristic — such as race, sex, religion or, most importantly in the case of immigrant candidates, country of origin.

As such, certain questions in the hiring process — on applications and in interviews — are considered discriminatory and can’t be asked.

While human rights laws vary slightly from province to province (and for federally regulated employers), they are very similar when it comes to discrimination in employment.

Pre-Employment

Generally, you can ask a candidate, on an application or in an interview, if she is legally entitled to work in Canada. However, you cannot ask if she is a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident, has a work permit or ask to see her social insurance number. You also can’t ask about place of birth, refugee status or religion.

Other questions to avoid include inquiries about Canadian experience, mother tongue or the name and location of schools the candidate attended. At this stage, questions about education should be limited to information about the level of education, degree, diploma or professional credentials received.

Conditional Offer of Employment

Once you have made a conditional offer of employment, then you can ask for proof of eligibility to work in Canada, such as a social insurance number or a work permit. This is also when you can ask for copies of diplomas, degrees, certificates or professional credentials.

If the new employee’s social insurance number starts with the number nine, then she has a temporary work permit and you have an obligation to ensure the permit hasn’t expired. For more information, visit the Service Canada website.

At this stage you can also ask your new employee about her religion to determine when a leave of absence may be required for the observance of religious holidays (as required under human rights laws).

Exceptions

There can be exceptions to these general rules if there is a bona fide occupational requirement that the employee be a Canadian citizen.

A bona fide occupational requirement (BFOR) is a standard or rule that is integral to carrying out the functions of a specific position, according to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. For a standard to be considered a BFOR, an employer has to establish that any accommodation or changes to the standard would create an undue hardship.

In Ontario, for example, there are three instances when citizenship is considered a BFOR and questions about citizenship can be asked during the interview process:

  1. A citizenship requirement is imposed or authorized by law for the particular job.
  2. A requirement of Canadian citizenship or permanent residence has been adopted to promote participation in cultural, educational, trade union or athletic activities to other citizens or permanent residents.
  3. Your organization has adopted a requirement that senior executives be Canadian citizens or live in Canada with the intention to get Canadian citizenship.

For more information on exceptions, you will need to review the human rights act that applies to your organization.

Additional Resources

Award-Winning Employers Help Newcomers Overcome Employment Barriers

Lack of Canadian work experience is one of the biggest barriers many skilled immigrants face when looking for jobs in Canada. To help newcomers overcome that hurdle, seven of the 2012 Best Employers for New Canadians have partnered with Bow Valley College in Calgary to provide newcomers with their first Canadian work experience.

AltaGas Ltd., CH2MHillTransCanada CorporationRoyal Bank of Canada, TD Bank GroupEnergy Resources Conservation Board and TELUS have all provided several six-week work experience placements to skilled newcomers through the college’s Corporate Readiness Training Program (CRTP).

The CRTP combines a 10-week classroom component, which prepares newcomers for the Canadian workplace, with a six-week work experience with employer partners. This work experience helps newcomers overcome barriers to employment in three important ways, says Katalina Bardell, the Mentoring Project Lead for the CRTP. The work placement:

  • Provides a first Canadian work experience
  • Provides a first Canadian reference
  • Builds the newcomer’s professional network

In the video below, Ms. Bardell talks about the program and the role employers play.

Cross-Cultural Interviewing Tips and Tools

Skilled immigrants come from many different cultures and backgrounds. Some are more and less similar to Canadian cultural norms. Below are some common cultural behaviours that can lead to misunderstandings and how to address them.

  • Silence is not a sign of disrespect or lack of knowledge. Many immigrants speak English or French fluently but it may not be their first language. Silence may simply indicate they need a moment to process the question and formulate an answer in English. Interviewers must understand that when a candidate hears a question, he likely translates it into his own language, and then works to formulate a response in his second language. Should a moment of silence take place, allow the interviewee adequate time to formulate a response.
  • Eye contact may be minimal. Some candidates may avoid eye contact with figures of authority as it is considered disrespectful in their culture. Other examples include differences in perception and understanding of time and personal space.
  • Some immigrant candidates are modest. They can be humble about their accomplishments and are often uncomfortable talking about themselves. Rather than asking specifically for strengths or accomplishments, it may be best to ask candidates how they overcame obstacles or achieved results in previous jobs.

Below are some suggestions to ensure candidates’ talent is recognized during interviews:

  • Interviewers should be trained in cross cultural communication skills. A well-trained interviewer is culturally competent and sensitive to a candidate’s background.
  • Involve more than one interviewer in the process. A small panel of interviewers is preferable to a single interviewer because different people will be capable of assessing a candidate’s various qualities and competencies.

Additional Resources:

Recognizing the Value of International Credentials

Skilled immigrants may have international credentials that are not immediately recognizable to a Canadian employer. Recruiters may skim resumes seeking the names of recognized institutions or face challenges when they try to assess international credentials. Similarly, international experience is often devalued or considered irrelevant in Canada.

According to an analysis of the 2006 Census, only 24 per cent of employed foreign-educated, university-level immigrants were working in a regulated occupation that matched their field of study, compared to 62 per cent of their Canadian-born counterparts.

Of those university-level educated immigrants who weren’t working in their field of study, 77 per cent worked in jobs that don’t require a degree, compared to 57 per cent their Canadian-born counterparts.

Leading companies hire accredited, high-potential candidates. An organization that can recognize the transferability of a skilled immigrant’s training and education can gain a definite competitive advantage. By using Canadian credential assessment services, employers are able to increase their familiarity and comfort level with international credentials.

Setting Expectations Goes a Long Way

A new country, a new organization, a new work environment — it’s a lot for any new employee, regardless of where that person is from.

Setting expectations, from job responsibilities, duties and office culture to performance monitoring and talent development, is your best first way to begin your new employee relationship on the right foot.

When setting expectations for employees, use a mix of communication styles and methods. Describe the organization’s vision for success and how your new skilled immigrant employee fits into that picture.

Coaching them to grow in their new position to reach their goals will benefit the new employees as well as your organization.

It’s also important to remember new employees’ personal needs can be just as important as their professional needs.

Additional Resources

Make Mentoring Part of New Employee Orientation

Consider developing an internal mentoring program to support new employees, including skilled immigrants, in their adjustment to the workplace.

Some of your mentors may also want to develop their coaching, communication, and leadership skills though an external mentoring program, such as The Mentoring Partnership in Toronto or other mentoring programs offered through your local immigrant employment council.

Mentoring programs bring together established professionals (mentors) from all types of corporations and skilled immigrants (mentees) in occupation-specific mentoring relationships.

Additional Resources

  • Apotex: Read about how the pharmaceutical company helps skilled immigrants improve their communication skills.
  • ATI: Read about how the technology company creates a welcoming and inclusive environment for its diverse employees.
  • Gennum: Read about the technology firm’s programs for new employees, including language, communication and social styles classes.
  • Guide to Mentoring: This guide will help you create a structure for mentoring employees, including developing the mentoring relationship, managing the mentoring relationship and evaluating the mentoring relationship.
  • Webinar: Listen to Deloitte and Toronto Community Housing Corporation describe how mentoring skilled immigrants has increased employee retention and boosted morale.
  • Mentoring Stories: Read about mentoring programs at the City of Toronto and St. Michael’s Hospital.

Providing an Equitable Offer

Due to socio-cultural differences, skilled immigrants are frequently less likely to express concerns about an offer package. Misaligned expectations between employers and skilled immigrants can lead to job dissatisfaction and employee turnover.

When making an offer, communicate the details of the offer package clearly, including expectations of the job and of the organization, as well as how the salary meets market value for the position, education and work experience.

Calculate Market Value

Aligning hiring offers with market value ensures fairness in the recruitment process and encourages employee retention.

The Working in Canada Tool, created by the federal government, provides wage information by occupation and location.

The PayScale Salary Calculator provides key salary data based on job title and location.

Base Salary Structures Provide a Framework for Pay Decisions

A recurring complaint among employers is high turnover or lack of retention among skilled immigrant employees. The impression is that a skilled immigrant is only interested in gaining Canadian work experience and will leave as soon as a better offer is available. However, in many instances, the failure to establish a fair and equitable compensation package leads to poor retention.

Establishing base salary structures based on prevailing market rates communicates to employees that the company strives for objectivity and equity in pay decisions. Having a base salary structure also supports employment equity legislation and decreases the likelihood that external factors, such as race or gender, influence pay levels.

Additional Resources

Reducing Bias

Personal biases can unwittingly creep into an interview but there are ways to reduce this risk.

Some tips include:

  • Ask all interview candidates the same questions and then score them against a scale.
  • Establish an interview team to reduce individual biases. Include other skilled immigrants, members of diverse communities or staff with a good understanding of cross-cultural issues to provide insight on socio-cultural responses that others on the panel may question.
  • Be aware of your own personal biases and prejudices to gain greater objectivity during the interview process.

Whether externally with candidates or internally with staff, avoid subjective terms in the recruitment process, such as “best cultural fit.” This can unwittingly exclude qualified candidates without gaining a deeper understanding of their potential contributions to your organization.

Additional Resources

Coordinating or Conducting Interviews by Phone

When arranging or conducting an interview with a skilled immigrant by phone, there are even greater opportunities for cross-cultural differences to lead to misunderstanding.

However, there are ways to maximize the value of phone conversations for both interviewers and skilled immigrant candidates:

  • Explain the format, expectations of the interview and any unique aspects of your interview process.
  • Outline the selection process and provide an opportunity for the candidate to ask any questions prior to the start of the interview.
  • Provide all interview questions to the candidate prior to the interview to reduce or eliminate misunderstandings over the phone.

Additional Resources

  • Telephone Pre-Screen Form: This form will help you minimize cross-cultural misunderstandings when conducting telephone interviews with skilled immigrant candidates.

Finding Substance in Every Resumé

It is debatable whether there is a “Canadian” way or template to writing a resumé. However, by and large, there is a common format with expected variability.

You can expect even greater variability with resumés from skilled immigrants. This is not a reflection of their ability to perform the job, but rather a reflection of cultural difference. For example, the norm in many cultures includes the addition of personal information.

You need to see past these types of cultural differences to find the essential information you need to make an informed screening decision. By increasing your openness to international resumés, you can reduce the chance of screening-out high potential candidates.

Competency and Credibility

An inclusive and bias-free hiring process should include assessing all candidates based on their competency and credibility.

Competency refers to training and accredited education from institutions in Canada or abroad. While some recruiters are wary of international qualifications, credential evaluation services, like World Education Services (WES), can help you evaluate degrees attained from international post-secondary institutions.

Employers should implement a policy that deliberately recognizes and values international experience, unless Canadian experience is a bona fide requirement.

Credibility refers to the demonstration of skills in real-world situations. A strong track record, even if that experience and success is gained in another country, will likely be repeated in Canada. Also, assessment and skills-specific tests can help you assess how a candidate will apply those skills in situations related to the job opening.

Additional Resources

  • Guide to Screening Resumés: This guide breaks down resumé screening into two steps to help you focus on the necessary skills you are seeking, while ensuring that you are not unintentionally eliminating candidates based on other factors.
  • Hummingbird: Read how the software company implemented a consistent hiring policy that ensures the resumé screening process is equitable for all candidates, including skilled immigrants.

Overcoming Cross-Cultural Barriers During Interviews

Cross-cultural differences can lead inadvertently to false assessments of skilled immigrants in interview situations.

For example, open-ended or self-reflective questions (such as, “Tell me about a personal career success” or “Describe a time when you disagreed with a supervisor or manager”) are difficult for many immigrants who come from cultures that value teamwork over personal achievements, or that do not question authority figures.

Therefore, responses from skilled immigrants may lead employers to assess them as non-assertive or lacking in initiative, which may not be true.

The Centre for Intercultural Learning’s Country Insights allows users to search by country and region to find information on different countries’ culture, history and politics.

The Immigration and Refugee Board also has national documentation packages, issue papers and country fact sheets that will provide you with some background information on different countries, which can help you improve your cross-cultural understanding  you don’t inadvertently screen-out skilled immigrants during interviews.

Wikipedia’s list of countries links to more detailed information about each country and its history and culture.

Also, this cultural differences worksheet will help you identify how certain verbal and non-verbal behaviours affect you. Gaining this awareness help you manage your reactions and help you look beyond the behavior to the candidate’s skills and abilities.

Over-emphasizing Communication Skills

Some highly skilled positions do not require equally proficient communication skills. In these cases, you may consider conducting the interview in another language (by tapping the services of a staff member who speaks the candidate’s language or by using a translator familiar with the profession).

You may also offer post-hire language support to bridge the language differences of your new employees until their communication skills are further developed.

Additional Resources

Make the Hiring Decision

When making the hiring decision, you need to focus on objective criteria, such as the candidate’s experience, qualifications and competencies. At this stage, it’s important to get feedback from other interviewers to provide a more objective picture of each candidate — and to eliminate subjective “gut feel” or “best fit” judgments.

If more than one candidate meets your hiring criteria, consider holding a second round of interviews or a workplace assessment, where the candidates can demonstrate their skills.

Workplace Assessment

To create a workplace assessment:

  • Identify the many ways that the job or task could be accomplished.
  • Determine whether the assessment questions or situation requires culture-specific knowledge or puts some cultural groups at a disadvantage. For example, subtle word meanings, idioms, colloquialisms or jokes may hold alternate or little meaning for skilled immigrants, leading to an unfair assessment of their skills.
  • Use a variety of assessment tools to ensure candidates have the chance to showcase their competencies in different ways. Plus, ensure the demands of the assessment tool don’t surpass the requirements of the position

Checking References

You should check references, regardless of where the candidate is from.

While a skilled immigrant’s reference may pose some time-zone challenges, this can be easily overcome by building in time in your recruitment process for time-zone differences when checking international references. Also build in time, and budget for language translation, if necessary. To save costs, check references by email.

If you sourced a candidate through a non-profit employment agency serving immigrants, it may help you check overseas references. You could also consider using an international reference checking service.

This guide to checking references has more tips on how to check a skilled immigrant’s references. This reference and criminal checks policy and this Reference Check Form can be adapted to suit your organization’s needs and use this form

If the Decision is No

Give clear, valid reasons to candidates wishing to learn why they were not hired. It’s alright to tell skilled immigrants concrete reasons why you did not hire them, whether poor communication skills, insufficient credentials or other reasons. This gives them an opportunity to fill these gaps.

You may be tempted to turn down a skilled immigrant who is over-qualified for the position. While these candidates often lack the Canadian experience to secure a position matching their level of experience, they may be highly motivated and could be considered for internal fast-tracking or leadership development programs.

Also, turning down a skilled immigrant for being over-qualified can be risky. One over-qualified immigrant, who was rejected for an entry-level position in his field, filed a petition with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Listen to the discussion on the ruling’s impact on HR practices.

Get Help With International Educational Credentials

Many employers cite the time spent on validating international credentials as a deterrent for considering skilled immigrant candidates for employment opportunities. Fortunately, there are several service providers ready to help and steps you can take.

You can work with organizations providing pre-screening and credential assessment services and have them evaluate candidates’ credentials.

You can also ask that applicants verify their international credentials before applying. To help them, link your organization’s careers webpage to credential assessment services such as World Education Services (WES). Doing this will remove this barrier and give you access to a wider pool of qualified talent.

At CIBC, for example, candidates who present an original WES evaluation report do not need to undergo additional international education verification checks through CIBC’s pre-employment screening process.

The Local Resources section has links to local services that can help you find credential evaluation services in your area. And the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials has a list of agencies and organizations that provide credential evaluation, assessment and qualification recognition services.

Regulated Professions

In regulated professions where licensure is required, consider hiring skilled immigrants at an associate level until their licensure requirements are met and they can be employed fully at the appropriate level.

The Ontario government created career maps to describe the steps skilled immigrant employees can take to obtain license and certification. Licensure varies from province to province so if you are located outside of Ontario, the process and requirement may be different.

 

Tap Into the Right Markets

To ensure skilled immigrants are applying for jobs at your organization, you need to market recruitment opportunities directly to them.

One way to do so is to post employment opportunities with ethno-specific professional associations in your community, such as Professional Immigrant Networks, or with Skills International — an online database of skilled immigrant talent where you can create a free employer profile, post employment opportunities and search talent directly.

Bridging programs are another source of job-ready, pre-screened immigrant talent. These programs prepare skilled immigrants for entry into specific industries and occupations. The Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) has two programs that prepare internationally educated ICT professionals for employment in Canada: Integrated Work Experience Strategy (IWES) and Coaching to Career.

The Local Resources section has links to local services that can help you find other bridging programs in your area.

Internships are a low-risk way for employers to find out if a skilled immigrant has the right skills and experience for the job. And they have the added benefit of providing the interns with Canadian experience. The Local Resources section has links to local services that can help you find internship programs in your area.

For example, the Career Bridge paid internship program provides employers with access to a highly qualified talent pool of internationally qualified professionals who have been in Canada less than three years and have been pre-screened for the following:

  • legal entitlement to work in Canada;
  • Canadian educational equivalency; and
  • English language business communication skills.

The internships are mid-level professional positions that last four, six, nine or 12 months and are ideal for project management, contingency staffing and screening potential permanent hires.

Current employees and their networks are also a source of talent. Encourage immigrants in your organization to help you with recruitment efforts and reward them for successful hires with a referral bonus.

You can read Success Stories of how American Express Canada and Duke Energy tapped into immigrant networks to recruit and retain skilled immigrant candidates.

Additional Resources:

  • Recruitment Sources: A list of various sources of skilled immigrant talent, including community agencies, churches and schools.

Orientation Helps New Employees Succeed Faster

Skilled immigrants are not only new to Canada — they’re new to your organization and its unique culture.

When bringing skilled immigrants into your organization, you have a unique opportunity not only to help a new hire feel welcome, but also to introduce professional development opportunities that can strengthen your organization.

Outlining expectations for all employees is a logical place to start and offer specific information and training that addresses cross-cultural differences in business norms. For example, forms of address, meeting customs and adherence to punctuality. Provide examples of situations to ensure that you and the new immigrant employee understand the organization’s culture and expectations among staff — for example, the various ways of addressing an authority figure and the salutations always used in some cultures.

Cross-cultural training will be beneficial to new hires and your existing employees. Sharing information can avoid misunderstandings later. This can include a social styles workshop that will help employees understand cross-cultural differences in communication styles, or a dialogue about Canadian cultural customs and cues (from coffee breaks or group lunches with co-workers to giving and receiving constructive performance feedback).

Internal mentoring, perhaps with a member of the new employee’s culture, can accelerate the new hire’s adaptation with an ally who understands their situation. Mentoring is also a good way for existing staff to gain cross-cultural competencies.

You can also consider offering occupation-specific language training to help skilled immigrants gain aspects of Canadian norms for the industry or profession.

Additional Resources

Use Local Employment Agencies to get Candidates Faster

Non-profit employment service agencies provide many workforce-readiness services for skilled immigrants, including language training and assessment, orientation, career workshops and referral services.

You can also leverage their connection to the skilled immigrant community for your recruitment and assessment needs — all free of charge.

To start out, connect with a job developer at a local employment agency that serves immigrants. It’s their job to connect skilled immigrants with employment opportunities. They are constantly seeking new employer contacts. Most of their services are free.

You can provide these employment service agencies with your employment opportunities. They will then identify any qualified, pre-screened candidates from their database of immigrant clients, saving you time and money on your recruitment and assessment.

Many of these agencies also hold job fairs, which provide another avenue to connect with skilled immigrant talent.

The Local Resources section has links to local services that can help you find agencies in your area.

Creating an inclusive environment

An inclusive environment not only benefits skilled immigrants, but can work to strengthen the organization as a whole. This type of transformation requires the support of senior leaders within the organization and those who can ensure its implementation and longevity.

To start off, you need to educate senior executives about Canada’s changing demographics – and why it is necessary to build cross-cultural competencies. Then, inclusivity and diversity need to become strategic priorities that are communicated to the rest of the organization.

This starts by defining a unifying vision that brings together all employees, including those from different cultures. As part of the diversity strategy, you should develop and implement a program that specifically addresses skilled immigrants.

It’s also important to create opportunities for senior management to move beyond policy to create specific initiatives that instill the value of diversity. This can include hiring a skilled immigrant into your company’s human resources department to demonstrate an open commitment to sourcing, recruiting and integrating immigrants.

Other concrete initiatives senior management can undertake include:

  • Showcasing the value of diversity through posters, social events and newsletters.
  • Observing multi-faith and multi-cultural dates of significance on an organizational diversity calendar. Implement policies that are sensitive to meetings and events scheduled on or near dates listed in the diversity calendar.
  • Promoting and participating in mentoring programs for skilled immigrants (to provide staff with opportunities to work with skilled immigrants and gain cross-cultural competencies). Local immigrant employment councils often provide mentoring programs for skilled immigrants.
  • Hiring a diverse mix of employees that includes skilled immigrants.

Additional Resources

  • Ernst & Young’s: Read how the accounting firm created a new senior role to help develop and implement the firm’s inclusiveness efforts.

Create an Inclusive Recruitment Strategy

Before you start recruiting skilled immigrants, your organization must first ensure it has a recruitment strategy that is inclusive of skilled immigrants.

To do so, you need to establish a recruitment philosophy specifically focused on skills, regardless of where or how those skills were developed.

Based on that philosophy, you can create a clearly stated recruitment policy that ensures capable and qualified individuals are considered, regardless of heritage and experience. The policy should also state the organization’s commitment to creating a diverse and accepting work force

Your policy should then guide how you conduct your workforce analysis, write job descriptions, as well as where and how you advertise employment opportunities to ensure you are reaching out to the broadest possible talent pool.

Additional Resources

Know Your Needs and Your Labour Force

Once you have an inclusive recruitment philosophy and policy, the next step of your recruitment strategy is to clearly understand your hiring needs and the characteristics of your available labour force.

By doing so, your internal and external environments will guide your recruitment decisions.

Conducting a Workforce Analysis

A workforce analysis helps you understand employment needs in light of your internal strengths, thereby informing whether you need to recruit externally.

Ask yourself:

  • In what areas are you under-resourced?
  • To fill these gaps, do you intend to create a new position, fill a vacancy or add to an existing position?
  • If creating a new position, what is the role and responsibilities associated with this position?
  • What are the skills, competencies and qualifications required to perform this job successfully?
  • Can you staff the position internally?
  • What are the long-term objectives for the position?

Measuring Your Needs Against Your Organizational Objectives

If your workforce analysis requires you to tap external recruitment sources, the next step is to weigh the hiring opportunity against your organizational objectives. After all, recruiting a new employee gives your organization an opportunity to move closer towards achieving a business objective:

  • Are you looking to deepen your understanding and engagement with your diverse, multicultural local community (for example, for sales opportunities)? If so, what cultures are represented in your community?
  • Are you seeking to tap international markets for greater operational or supply chain cost-effectiveness and efficiencies? If so, which countries?
  • Does your organization wish to sell its products and services in foreign markets? If so, which markets?
  • Is the available employment opportunity positioned to give others in my organization a chance to leverage that hire’s cultural knowledge?

In asking these questions, you may also examine whether your existing employee base reflects the diversity of your local or international markets. Your next hire may give your organization a unique opportunity to gain a resource that helps meet one or more business objectives.

Once you understand your organizational needs, you can develop recruitment goals for the position.  Labour market information, such as the 2006 Community Profiles from Statistics Canada, provide demographic details that can guide those goals.

Additional Resources

  • Webinar: Listen to a diversity and human rights advisor at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital talk about how you can design and conduct a workforce census.
  • Ottawa Police Service: Read how the police service changed their recruiting goals towards greater inclusion of skilled immigrants and the benefits realized.
  • Sample Workforce Analysis: This sample analysis from Human Resources and Skills Development is designed specifically for employment equity groups. While only federally regulated employers have to follow employment equity legislation, the format is helpful for any employer looking to increase diversity among employees.

Writing a Barrier-Free Job Description

“Canadian work experience.”

It’s a phrase that excludes many skilled immigrants from working in their chosen profession.

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. Often, “Canadian work experience” appears in a job description as a result of complacency and legacy rather than a conscious reflection of an employer’s actual and current needs.

Ensuring your job description is free of barriers to skilled immigrant applicants will ensure skilled immigrants are represented in the pool of qualified candidates you consider for the job.

Job descriptions serve as central documents expressing the employee’s responsibilities, both professional and technical, providing new employees with a solid understanding of expectations for the position. They also inform how job advertisements and interview questions are developed, while providing a foundation for performance management and compensation planning.

Barrier-free job descriptions will ensure that qualified candidates are not eliminated from your recruitment process. For instance, a job description that requests simply experience (instead of Canadian work experience) will greatly increase the pool of qualified applications — giving you greater access to top talent.

You may also include language for “equivalent” Canadian education, experience and skills, giving greater clarity to all applicants — Canadian- or foreign-born. Focus on objective criteria such as education, skills, competencies and experience without making value judgments on the quality of North American credentials versus international credentials.

Use clear and concise language that describes essential professional and educational qualifications for effective and efficient job performance.

Avoid phrases that may lead to subjective interpretation. For example, stating a requirement for “excellent communication skills” without a more objective description (“experience making sales presentations,” or “experience conducting internal and external training”) may encourage unqualified candidates to apply, resulting in more work on your part to assess each applicant.

Barrier-free job description

  • Focuses on what needs to be achieved
  • Lists only education and experience vital to successful job performance
  • Differentiates essential from non-essential qualifications
  • Reads in clear, concise language
  • Highlights interesting aspects of the position, work environment and organization to attract skilled immigrants to the position (for example, describing your organization as “welcoming 30 cultures, speaking 12 languages”).

Traditional job description

  • Focuses on how a deliverable should be achieved
  • May list education and experience not vital to successful job performance
  • May confuse candidates between must-have and nice-to-have qualifications
  • Communicates in exclusionary HR or organizational lingo, North-American or sector-specific terminology
  • Includes language that excludes skilled immigrants, such as “Canadian experience required”

 Additional Resources