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. 

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.

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.

Becoming a Champion

You recognize the value of skilled immigrant talent and have processes in place to recruit, integrate and retain these employees. There are three ways to get more involved in promoting immigrant employment, share your stories to help other employers and expand your programs across the country.

Become a National Partner

What do Canadian Pacific, Deloitte and Scotiabank have in common? They are three of ALLIES’ 13 National Partners.

Across the country ALLIES National Partners are breaking new ground in diversity and workplace innovation to employ skilled immigrants. These partners have identified local leadership in their organizations to participate and engage in the work of immigrant employment councils.

From sitting on the board of an IEC, participating in a mentoring program or sponsoring an award program these national partners are making a difference in the lives of skilled immigrants.

These activities will allow your organization to inform the discussion about the advantages of hiring skilled immigrants, create opportunities for media coverage and raise your profile as a good corporate citizen and employer of choice.

Find out how to become a National Partner

Share Your Success Story

Sharing the story of how you recruit, integrate and retain skilled immigrants will show other organizations how easy it is to put these practices into place, benefiting the organization and the community. Your practices don’t have to be elaborate or expensive, sometimes the simplest initiatives are the most effective. By contributing your story, you will add to the collection of promising practices and you might even find a few new ones from other Champions to try for yourself.

Most recent Success Story:

City of Montreal’s Internships Give Newcomers First ‘Canadian’ Experience
Program helps newcomers integrate into Quebec workforce through on-the-job training, mentoring and coaching.

Share your story

Join the National Mentoring Initiative

The ALLIES National Mentoring Initiative supports employers in launching mentoring programs in multiple cities. Taking a mentoring program national has many benefits for a company. It ensures all employees, regardless of location, can access mentoring and reap the benefits of being volunteer mentors. It also ensures the company is consistently reaching out to diverse talent pools, wherever they may be.

The ALLIES National Mentoring Initiative provides the employer with access to mentoring programs with common core criteria while respecting local realities and establishes mentoring as a successful method for employers to participate in skilled immigrant integration across Canada.

Join the National Mentoring Initiative

Moving Forward

You have already begun to recruit, hire and integrate skilled talent into your organization. Now you’re ready to step up and go to the next level. This website was created with you in mind. You’ll find the information and tools you need to improve your recruitment and diversity management processes to ensure skilled immigrants are fully engaged and contributing to your organization.

Even though you know the business case for hiring skilled immigrants, you might still need to get buy in from other managers or senior executives in the organization. The Business Case section contains articles on why organizations should hire skilled immigrants and the Making the Case section has quick facts and ready-to-use presentations to help you make your case.

The Build Awareness and Leadership section helps you understand where your organization’s strengths and weaknesses are and suggests how to improve while building leadership support.

In Recruit and Select you will find articles on how to find skilled immigrant talent, write a bias-free job ad, screen and interview candidates and orient new hires .

But finding and hiring skilled immigrant employees is only the beginning. The Managing a Diverse Workforce section has articles on talent management, such as providing development and promotion opportunities, to ensure the organization is maximizing immigrant employees’ skills and experiences. Managers of a diverse workforce also have a responsibility to treat all employees equitably and provide accommodation as required.

Along the way, you will find related content in the sidebar on the right, suggesting other articles, videos, webinars, or reports that will add to your knowledge. You can also find resources in your community to help you maximize skilled immigrant talent.

Sign up for our bi-monthly eTips to receive examples and advice on how to make the most of skilled immigrants in the labour force in your in-box and read our Success Stories for a more in-depth look at other organizations’ practices.

Come back often as new content will be added regularly to the site. You can also follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, or send you comments directly via email.

Getting Started

With rising baby-boomer retirements and falling birth rates, there will simply not be enough skilled people in Canada to meet the future labour force needs. Fortunately, Canada accepts thousands of skilled immigrants each year.

Skilled immigrants can offer employers valuable skill sets and international expertise that can help organizations grow their operations and better serve their clients. (Learn more about the Business Case for hiring skilled immigrants.) However, tapping into this increasingly important talent pool can be a daunting task for employers who don’t know how or where to start.

The hireimmigrants.ca Roadmap is a great tool to help you get started. It is a step-by-step guide with comprehensive strategies and tools to enhance your company’s human resources planning and practice — from recruiting to retaining and integrating skilled immigrants.

This valuable resource helps you more effectively assess and select candidates, integrate skilled newcomers into your organization and foster long-term relationships. It even offers tools to help you evaluate your success in hiring skilled newcomers.

Follow the links below to get started on your way to making the most of this valuable talent pool. Version française.

Adobe Flash Player is required to view the Roadmap. Get Adobe Flash Player. Alternatively, try the HTML version of the Hire Immigrants Roadmap. You can also embed the Roadmap on your site.