Self-Declaration Form asks Manitoba Hydro Employees to Disclose Immigrant Status

Voluntary form allows the utility company to better understand immigrant workforce.

In 2007, Manitoba Hydro became the first company in the province to start tracking immigrants in the workforce. The company uses a self-declaration form, asking employees if they are immigrants and if they are, what year they immigrated and their country of origin.

In 2007, 6.7 percent of employees were immigrants. By 2012, that proportion had increased to 8.1 percent of Manitoba Hydro’s more than 6,000 employees.

The survey also found the top five countries of origin were Philippines,Great Britain,China,Poland and India.

“This initiative has enabled Manitoba Hydro to have a better understanding of our immigrant workforce and, consequently, better recruit and retain this group,” says Kim Lanyon, Manger of the Recruitment and Diversity Department at Manitoba Hydro.

This is especially important because Manitoba Hydro strives to create a workforce that reflects the diversity of the population it serves, with 15.7 per cent of Manitobans in 2011 being foreign-born, according to Statistics Canada.

One benefit of having such a diverse workforce is having employees who speak many different languages.

The organization has tapped into these linguistic skills by compiling a list of employees who speak languages other than English who have volunteered translation services to better serve customers. More than 60 employees are on the list, representing 25 different languages.

Programs help Manitoba Hydro tap into immigrant talent pool

One of the ways Manitoba Hydro has been able to recruit new Canadians is through its Work Experience Program.

The program provides internships to recent immigrants interested in developing their skills in a specific career stream or gaining general Canadian work experience.

In 2012, Manitoba Hydro provided 15 internships through the program, each ranging from three weeks to three months in length, and two of those interns have since been hired into permanent positions with the organization.

The organization also supports the University of Manitoba’s Internationally Educated Engineers Program, a 12-month program that helps internationally educated engineers become accredited in Manitoba.

Manitoba Hydro awards two $1,500 bursaries each year to students in the program and, in 2012, the organization hired six students from the program.

Overcoming communication barriers

To ensure the successful integration of the organization’s many immigrant employees, Manitoba Hydro offers a half-day interactive workshop, Multicultural Communication, based on the teachings of cross-cultural specialist Lionel Laroche.

“The workshop is designed to help both immigrant and non-immigrant employees understand and overcome the communication challenges that diversity may create in the workplace,” says Ms. Lanyon.

“The workshop provides strategies, approaches and tools that help employees communicate more effectively with others.”

The organization also delivers customized versions of the workshop to meet different teams’ specific business needs. For example, employees in the customer contact centre participated in a workshop designed to help them address cross-cultural communication challenges that may arise when helping customers who are immigrants.

Tips for employers

  • Add a section to your self-declaration form to be voluntarily filled in by employees so you can track the proportion of immigrants in the workforce and to find out where they come from.
  • Knowing how many immigrants, their year of immigration and their countries of origin, allows employers to design programs to better serve the needs of these employees and help them better integrate into the workforce.
  • Make the most of your workforce by drawing on diverse employees’ skills to better serve customers and providing training to overcome any challenges associated with having employees from many different cultures.
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