June 19, 2011

Managing a Diverse Workforce, the Small Business Perspective

Hiring skilled immigrants is just the start of tapping into the skills and experience of these diverse employees. The next step is to provide development and promotion opportunities to increase employee retention and ensure your small business is maximizing their skills and experiences.

Conditions for Success

Many small businesses look at a new employee’s first 90 days on the job as a trial period because most employment standards legislation allows an employer to terminate an employee who has been on the job for less than 90 days, without notice or cause.

But as an employer, you have a legal obligation to provide the conditions and opportunities for the new employee to succeed. These conditions for success begin with the employee orientation.

At this stage, lay out clear benchmarks of what the employee should be able to do in 30 days, 60 days and 90 days on the job, and have a plan in place to help her achieve those milestones. That could include introducing her to the right people and giving her the right training and experience.

Ongoing Development

Once your new hire has made it through the first 90 days, providing opportunities for growth, as well as development and support, will boost employee engagement and retention and ensure you are maximizing her full potential.

Along with regular training and development opportunities, a skilled immigrant employee will benefit from initiatives, such as job shadowing and mentoring, that are geared to providing information on Canadian laws, regulations and workplace norms. This is a valuable strategic investment for a small business because it will maximize the employee’s management potential.

If language is preventing a skilled immigrant employee from contributing more to the small business, consider specialized language training, which is a proven, successful retention strategy. Immigrant-serving agencies 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.

Performance Management and Promotion

In a small business, there often isn’t time for formal performance management. But regular feedback, based on clear goals and expectations, improves the employee’s performance, which pays off for the business.

Addressing poor performance gives employees opportunities for growth. Express your concerns in productive ways by providing clear examples and reiterating expectations. Then outline a practical approach with dates and targets. When giving feedback, remember the purpose is to direct behavior, motivate employees and improve performance.

It’s also important to recognize good performance and extra effort. You don’t need to give the employee a gift card or hold a lavish recognition dinner. A simple “thank you” for a job well done will make the employee feel like you care about who she is and what she’s done and will improve retention.

One of the best ways to retain employees is to show them how they can grow their careers and advance in your organization. Be proactive and encourage skilled immigrants to apply for suitable opportunities. Show an interest in the employee’s career growth and invite more ongoing dialogue about learning needs, skill development and future career goals.

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.

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

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