German Companies Ready to Hire Refugees, Survey Says

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

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

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

Jim Estill, CEO of Danby

Jim Estill, CEO of Danby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part of settling well is finding employment. Good employment.

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

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

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

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

Local business is ready for refugee talent.

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

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

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

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

Why hire?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for Employers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

A Migration Agenda for the Private Sector

By Khalid Koser

This article is reprinted with permission from Project Syndicate.

Khalid Koser speaking at the Cities of Migration Conference in Berlin

Khalid Koser speaking at the Cities of Migration Conference in Berlin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The World’s Most Talent Ready Countries, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Read more

Toronto is diverse but not as inclusive as it could be

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

By Carol Goar, Toronto Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By WIL Employment Connections

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

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

Read more here.

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. 

The Forgotten Person in Today’s Immigrant

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

By Alan Broadbent, Chairman, Maytree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

By GordON Nixon, President and CEO, RBC Royal Bank

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

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

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

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

The Diversity Legacy  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Call to Action

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

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

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

Businesses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business Leaders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Government

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agencies

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

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

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

Immigrants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

Ontario’s Clarion Call for Putting Diversity to Work

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

By Ranjit Bhaskar, Maytree

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

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

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

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

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

The good and the bad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leveraging Immigrant Talent for Business Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more here

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.

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
.

Barrier or Opportunity: How do you Think about Diversity

Clarence Lochhead Senior Manager, Policy and Research, Hire Immigrants Ottawa talks about turning diversity challenges into diversity opportunities. (This article was originally published on February 11, 2013 in the Ottawa Business Journal.)

By Clarence Lochead

In the world of human resources, diversity is a commonly used word. You probably can’t name an HR conference of the recent past that didn’t have at least one session devoted to diversity in the workplace.

A quick Google search of “diversity in the workplace” will give you…just a second….there we go, 5,530,000 results, in 0.23 seconds no less. Scanning the search results you’ll find that references to diversity specialists and diversity managers are ubiquitous, that CEOs in Canada and elsewhere are becoming diversity champions, and that yes, bloggers are blogging about diversity! Even the most unlikely (and perhaps funniest) of workplaces are beginning to talk about diversity.

Diversity refers to many things: cultural, linguistic, sexual orientation, age, gender, cognitive facilities, and so on. It’s a long list, and ah-hem, very diverse.  But what I’m focusing on here is the diversity we see in Ottawa’s labour force as a result of immigration.

In the past 10 years, Ottawa has received a total of about 64,000 immigrants. That’s almost equivalent to the total population of Barrhaven!  Immigrants represent an incredibly diverse set of cultures, languages, skills and experiences. According to the Census, 22% of Ottawa’s residents are immigrants, and projections by Statistics Canada suggest this could rise to 29% over the next 20 years.

Diversity is not a new topic, but it seems pretty clear that interest in diversity is growing rapidly. We’re also starting to see a change in how we think about diversity: what it means to our workplaces, and importantly, how we “situate” diversity within organizational and business strategies.

It was only about ten years ago that research based on 2001 Census data began to document the deteriorating labour market outcomes experienced by new immigrants.  At that time, the diversity within and among immigrant populations coming to Canada was largely viewed as a barrier to successful labour market integration. Diversity was associated with lack of language skills, or with religious and cultural practices that had to be accommodated. Diversity meant educational credentials attained from an unfamiliar university from another country. It meant, as it still does, great pot-luck dinners, but the top level view of diversity was largely that it created challenges for the workplace. And more, the challenges of diversity were typically cast as deficiencies of the new immigrants themselves (sub-par English or French skills, no Canadian work experience, etc.), while the perceived “solutions” were largely seen as the domain and responsibility of the immigrants themselves.

Managing diverse teams is not without challenges. The truth is, a diverse labour force does, and likely always will, present challenges for any workplace. But the new and much more powerful thinking is that diversity represents opportunity: to incorporate different perspectives, to gain access to highly skilled internationally educated and trained workers, to better understand and respond to a diverse customer base, to expand markets, and so on. It’s an important change of viewpoint, for what used to be seen as the immigrant’s problem is far more likely today to be seen as the organization’s responsibility to seize the opportunities presented by diversity; to support and sustain inclusive and dynamic workplaces through sound practice and policy. For many organizations today, strategically managing diversity is simply a business imperative.

Of course, not all businesses and organizations think this way. But there are great examples of workplaces making real systemic change based on this far more astute view of diversity. Many of these organizations are members of the Hire Immigrants Ottawa initiative. The engagement of these organizations suggests to me that Ottawa’s employers are finding ways to turn diversity challenges into diversity opportunities.

So how do you think about diversity: barrier, opportunity, or both?  I hope you’ll reflect on that question, and maybe share your thoughts.

Five Reasons Canada Leads the World on Immigration

Alan Broadbent and Ratna Omidvar from Maytree on why they think Canada are leaders in immigration including how immigrants achieve long-term success.

Maytree Opinion, December 2012

By Alan Broadbent and Ratna Omidvar

December 18 is International Migrants Day, a time to reflect on the 214 million international migrants in countries around the world. If migrants all gathered in one place, they would constitute the fifth most populous country in the world.

It is also the eve of a new year, a time when we take stock of what we’ve done over the past months and look forward to what we will do in the coming year. Now might be the right time to take a look at the success that Canada has made out of immigration.

While we are not perfect, Canada has made determined and deliberate efforts to encourage conditions in which newcomers can flourish. We are recognized internationally as a leader in immigrant integration. Here are five reasons why:

1. Immigrants become Canadian citizens at one of the highest rates in the world

Not only has Canada traditionally welcomed newcomers as permanent additions to this country, we have also seen immigrants as “citizens in waiting.” At 89%, Canada has traditionally had one of the highest naturalization rates in the world. High rates of citizenship are associated with better employment rates, and being a citizen is a prerequisite for many aspects of civic and political participation. It also gives immigrants and refugees protection and assurance that their commitment to Canada and being Canadian is reciprocal. Recent changes to our citizenship policies make it more difficult to become a Canadian citizen, which should concern all of us.

2. Immigrants achieve long-term economic success

Although immigrants might initially suffer an earnings penalty, traditionally they have caught up over time, so that the average wage for immigrants comes within a few percentage points of the Canadian-born. Employers report strong satisfaction with immigrants who are chosen for their human capital through the points system. While we must continue to work to shorten the initial period, both of these suggest that once immigrants are able to get into the labour market, many are successful. Similarly, immigrants own homes at nearly the same rate as the Canadian-born – an anomaly among OECD nations. Owning a home is one expression of the emotional and financial commitment that immigrants make to Canada and their local community, and is therefore an important factor in successful integration.

3. The children of immigrants attain high levels of education and earnings

In fact, second generation immigrants outperform children of non-immigrants. Second generation Canadians attend post-secondary education at higher rates than non-immigrant Canadians, which results in higher earnings. One study showed that nearly 55% of second generation Canadians go to university, for example, compared to 38% of non-immigrant Canadians. The second generation also tends to improve on the lot of their parents. On average, they earn more compared to their parents at a similar time in their lives.

4. We get along with each other

Canadians of all stripes go to school together, work together, walk the same sidewalks and play in the same parks. Increasingly, we are seeing immigrants making inroads into leadership positions in our boardrooms, city halls and parliaments. Isolated incidents of interethnic conflict make headlines because they are shocking and contrary to our norms and values.

Another way that we know that we get along is that we marry each other. Mixed unions (in which one partner is a visible minority and the other is not, or between two people from different visible minority groups) are growing rapidly – at more than five times the rate of growth for all couples. While immigrants are not necessarily visible minorities, statistics show that of first generation immigrants who are visible minorities and in a couple, 12% are in a mixed union. By the second generation, that figure rises to 51%, and by the third generation, 69% of coupled visible minorities are in a mixed union.

Further, mixed unions are more likely to have children in their household. These children, even more so than Canadians at large, will grow up with diversity as a simple, given fact of life. And that bodes well for our continued social harmony.

5. Canadians support immigration

Surveys and polls consistently show that the majority of Canadians believe that immigrants make positive contributions to our country and to our communities. Canadians recognize that immigration is not a threat to our jobs or way of life. In fact, our own poll on the meaning of citizenship found that Canadians value being active in the community, volunteering, helping others and accepting others who are different – and that being a good citizen was unrelated to where you were born.

Moreover, while multiculturalism is hotly debated elsewhere in the world, it persists as a foundation of Canadian values. A recent survey suggests that three-in-five Canadians believe that multiculturalism has been good for the country. Younger Canadians believe so at an even higher rate, which, again, bodes well for all of us.

This public support is the result, in large part, of positive messages from our governments over the years about how immigration helps to build our nation, and open discussion about immigration policies that do just that.

We cannot take this support for granted. Negative messages that obsess over marriage “fraud,” “bogus” refugees and “queue-jumpers” needlessly undermine public confidence.

Indeed, we cannot become complacent about any of these achievements. Our nation’s success depends upon our continued deliberate and thoughtful efforts to create conditions where all Canadians prosper.

Finding and Keeping Top Talent Big Concern for Employers

Immigrants accounted for two-thirds of Canada’s population growth from 2006 to 2011 and are one solution to the skills shortages facing many Canadian organizations.

Even in the face of tougher economic times and belt-tightening, one of the biggest concerns for most Canadian organizations is finding and keeping the right talent.

One-third of employers say a shortage of talent at all levels is their most pressing HR challenge for 2012, according to a survey by Right Management, the talent and career management experts within ManpowerGroup.

Another 23 per cent of the 182 senior executives and HR professionals surveyed say a lack of high-potential leaders is their top concern, while 20 per cent say their biggest challenges is the loss of top talent to other organizations.

Not only is this skills shortage a concern for individual organizations, it’s threatening Canada’s competitiveness and ability to keep up in a global, knowledge-based economy, according to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

“Canada is developing a desperate labour shortage, and resolving it is key to the continued success of Canadian businesses and the economy,” states the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s report Top 10 Barriers to Competitiveness.

The skills shortage is being driven by two phenomena:

Skilled immigrants are one solution to Canada’s skills shortage and are vital to ensuring Canada’s global competitiveness, as seen in the latest census figures. While Canada’s population grew by 5.9 per cent from 2006 to 2011, surpassing the growth of other G8 countries, it was immigration that accounted for 67 per cent of that growth.

With immigration expected to account for 80 per cent of Canada’s population growth by 2031, the importance of immigrants to Canada’s economy will only increase.

The Local Market is Changing

Major Canadian cities have seen an influx of immigration over the past several years, with minority group populations outpacing Canada’s overall population growth.

Skilled immigrants may prove to be valuable resources for understanding product and service needs in ethno-specific markets. They may also provide a competitive advantage by improving networks and relationships, by speaking a variety of languages and by adding diverse perspectives, experiences and skills sets to the workforce.

Facts from Statistics Canada:

  • From 1986 to 2006, the immigrant population went from 3.9 million to 6.2 million, increasing from 15.6 per cent of the Canadian population to 19.8 per cent.
  • In 2006, the immigrant population was largest in Ontario (28 per cent), British Columbia (27.5 per cent), Alberta (16.2 per cent), Manitoba (13.3 per cent) and Quebec (11.5 per cent).
  • In 2006, immigrants accounted for 45.7 per cent of Toronto’s population, 40 per cent of Vancouver’s population, 24 per cent of Calgary’s population and 20 per cent of Montreal’s population.
  • If current immigration trends were to continue in the coming years, the proportion of immigrants in Canada could reach slightly more than 22 per cent by 2017.
  • If current immigration and birth rate trends continue, South Asians and Chinese would continue to be the two largest visible minority groups in 2017, with a population of just over 1.8 million each.

To gain access to these potential consumers, companies are faced with the challenge of building networks and relationships with customers of diverse cultures. In response, employers should consider:

  • Understanding new product and service needs and opportunities in ethno-specific markets.
  • Increasing their cultural competence for stronger competitive advantage in local sales.
  • Improving their reach and relationships with local communities and networks.
  • Hiring staff with multilingual capabilities.

Larger Talent Pool

Employers commonly draw new staff from a diminishing but known pool of talent.

They may not tap into skilled immigrant pools of talent because they are not aware of these communities and networks and skilled immigrants generally do not have access to the networks used to refer candidates for job opportunities.

But employers who ensure their planning and sourcing strategies reach skilled immigrant communities expand their opportunities to source the best talent.

To do this, some employers develop relationships with community agencies that provide services to skilled immigrants, while others encourage employees to refer skilled immigrant applicants.

It requires creative planning to cast the recruitment net further, but the results can be rewarding.

The Value of Diverse Languages and Cultures

Some employers assume skilled immigrants may not have the communication skills necessary to work in their companies, while some immigrants believe that employers seek communication skills beyond what is essential for the position.

Accents may distract from a skilled immigrant’s excellent English or French language skills, and their lack of awareness of Canada-specific technical terms could place them at a disadvantage.

But employers who hire skilled immigrants who are able to communicate effectively in more than one language enhance their business edge within changing local markets and growing international markets.

Similarly, organizations can benefit from including a diversity of cultural perspectives in their workplaces.

Rather than assuming skilled immigrants lack an understanding of Canadian business norms, or simply don’t know the “Canadian way,” smart employers realize skilled immigrants can provide companies with a competitive edge by using their knowledge and experience to serve diverse local and international markets.

And there are local resources employers can access to help acclimatize immigrants to the Canadian workplace or improve their English.

Skilled Immigrants Help Canadian Companies Do Business with the World

Global trade is rising. Nations such as China and India are increasing their economic global footprint. Today global buyers interact with global suppliers.

Canadian companies no longer compete only with neighbourhood industries in local markets — they must respond to worldwide demands and source international talent.

In particular, employers who service the needs of international trade operations will feel the pressures of the new world economy.

Building more international networks, increasing diversity awareness and improving relationships with global suppliers are all essential for maintaining a global competitive advantage.

Skilled immigrants can contribute international skills, experience, and languages to the benefit of an organization and aid with its global goals.

Local markets are changing

Major Canadian cities have seen an influx of immigrants over the past several years. To gain access to these potential consumers, companies are faced with the challenge and opportunity of building networks and relationships with customers of diverse cultural backgrounds.

Skilled immigrants may prove to be valuable resources for understanding product and service needs in ethno-specific markets. They may also provide a competitive advantage by improving networks and relationships, by speaking a variety of languages and by adding diverse perspectives, experiences and skills sets to the workforce.

Canadian-Born Workforce is Shrinking, Demand for Labour is Growing

As baby boomers retire and birth rates fall, Canada will face a shortage of skilled workers in the coming years.

In 2006, there were 1.9 Canadians aged 20-34 entering the work force for every person aged 55-64 leaving it, according to Statistics Canada. This is down from 2.7 replacement workers for every retiree in 2001 and 3.7 replacement workers for every retiree in 1981.

The Conference Board of Canada predicts a shortfall of 1.2 million skilled workers by 2025 and skilled immigrants, who Statistics Canada predicts will account for all net population growth by 2031, are the best solution to this demographic reality.

While the 2008-2009 recession may affect some of these projections, many sectors and occupations are already reporting skills shortages in a range of industries, including sales and service, trades and business, science, manufacturing and health care.

For example, the 2011 labour market forecast from the Information and Communications Technology Council predicts Canadian employers will need to hire about 106,000 information and communications technology (ICT) workers between 2011 and 2016.

Outlook for Human Resources in the ICT Labour Market, 2011-2016 states employers across the country will encounter systemic shortages in most ICT occupations when recruiting for jobs that require five or more years of experience.

And the Construction Sector Council predicts the industry will need about 320,000 workers between 2011 and 2019 to meet demand for new construction and replace retirees, with a predicted shortfall of about 157,000 workers.

Employers must remove barriers and position themselves to quickly attract and fully engage skilled immigrants in order to make up the labour shortfall.

Skilled Immigrants Bring Innovative and International Expertise

The Canadian economy is facing a shrinking workforce and employers with an increased demand for productivity and labour need to understand how skilled immigrants can meet their workforce needs.

Having employees with different backgrounds and experiences can lead to better problem solving because there’s more diversity of thought.

In fact, 96 per cent of Canadians surveyed said they seek the advice of those with a different background when solving business problems and 83 per cent agreed with the statement that “interacting with others from different ethnic backgrounds is enriching,” found a 2007 Xerox Research Centre of Canada study.

And yet, 53 per cent of those polled said their company’s workforce has not become more diverse over the past five years. And the increases in diversity tended to be in larger companies. That means small and medium sized companies, especially, are missing out on this opportunity for increased innovation.

By 2015, more than two thirds of the 1.7 million new non-student jobs created (69.2 per cent) will require postsecondary education (university or college) or be at a management level. This is up from 60 per cent in 2005. (See table below.)

Immigrants are more likely to have the required education than their Canadian-born counterparts, according to Statistics Canada.

In 2006, 36 per cent of all immigrants aged 25 to 54 had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to just 22 per cent of those born in Canada, according to Statistics Canada.

But if employers don’t recognize their value and employ these talented immigrants at the appropriate level in the field in which they were trained, they will leave Canada for opportunities elsewhere.

In fact, one in six young male immigrants to Canada leaves the country within the first year of his arrival, according to a Statistics Canada report. For those entering Canada in the crucial skilled-worker and business class, 40 per cent moved on within the first 10 years.

Employers who get the business case for hiring skilled immigrants and get started early will be in a better position than those who wait too long and then will have to compete with other employers for a smaller pool of talent.

Employment Growth by Occupation and Education, 2006-2015

National Occupational Category Non-student employment (000s) Growth (AAGR1) Change (000s) Share of change
2005 2015 2006-2015
Total 14,566.8 16,263.8 1.1% 1,697.0 100.0%
Skill level2
Management 1,376.7 1,547.0 1.2% 170.3 10.0%
Occupations usually requiring:
University education 2,525.8 2,971.2 1.6% 445.4 26.2%
College education or apprenticeship training 4,843.2 5,402.6 1.1% 559.4 33.0%
High school diploma 4,353.3 4,778.2 0.9% 424.9 25.0%
On-the-job training 1,467.5 1,564.8 0.6% 97.3 5.7%
Source: HRSDC – SPRD, Labour Market and Skills Forecasting and Analysis, 2006 Reference Scenario ()
1AAGR: average annual growth rate.
2Skill levels are based on the 2001 NOC Matrix, in which occupations are grouped according to the education level and training normally required.