June 17, 2011

Managing a Diverse Workforce, the Non-Profit Sector Perspective

Hiring skilled immigrants is just the start of tapping into the skills and experiences of these diverse employees. You now need to invest in programs and practices to ensure skilled immigrant employees are fully integrated into your workplace so they can achieve their career goals and make the greatest possible contribution to your organization.

While these efforts will require an investment of time and money, neglecting workplace diversity will ultimately prove more costly than investing in inclusive talent management practices today.

More than one-half (54 per cent) of 347 non-profits surveyed by the HR Council for the Nonprofit Sector in 2010 said they have had success in retaining new immigrants. These organizations identified several successful practices:

  • language and communication training
  • post-hiring mentorship and training — both for employees and their managers
  • supporting employees’ professional development through career management courses for immigrants and supports for staff who manage new immigrant employees
  • promoting cultural sensitivity and awareness throughout the organization

Training and Development

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

Language proficiency is a strong determinant of new immigrants’ success in the workplace. The ideal communication training goes beyond language instruction to encompass a wide range of verbal and nonverbal communication skills, including eye contact, personal space and approaches to time commitments.

Immigrant-serving agencies and local colleges often have language programs and are a cost-effective alternative to providing in-house training. The Local Resources section has links to help you find services in your community.

Mentorship and other training for new immigrants and their immediate managers can help align employers’ and employees’ expectations, lay the foundation for good communication and maximize the likelihood of retention.

Skilled immigrants will also benefit from specific programs geared to providing information on Canadian laws, regulations and workplace norms.

Opportunities for Advancement

One of the best ways to retain employees is to show them how they can grow their careers and advance in your organization. Include skilled immigrant employees when identifying high potential employees and developing succession plans for senior leaders.

Effective employee performance management is essential to running a successful organization. Set goals, outline expectations and provide regular feedback to help skilled immigrant employees perform effectively and progress in their careers.

Embedding Diversity

While a workforce composed of employees from many different backgrounds can present its own challenges for managers, good diversity management is simply good people management.

You need to treat diversity as a fundamental part of the way your organization operates. Culturally sensitive HR practices — from anti-discrimination measures to organization-wide diversity training to a shared calendar that notes a range of major cultural holidays — help make inclusion and integration part of your organization’s DNA.

For more information on managing a diverse workforce, visit the Managing a Diverse Workforce section of the website.

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