September 24, 2012

What You Can Learn From Inclusive Companies

Robyn Lawlor a recent graduate of Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Business and a past volunteer at hireimmigrants,  examines successful employer practices in creating inclusive workplaces.

While researching the different methods companies use to create inclusive workplaces for skilled immigrants, I noticed several similar practices among the most successful ones. These practices include:

  • foreign credential recognition
  • English as a Second Language (ESL) training
  • mentoring
  • cultural competency training
  • work placements
  • religious/spiritual accommodation

While all of these programs can be effective in helping skilled immigrants integrate into the workforce, it’s important to choose the programs that work best for your company. As with all human resources programs, choose initiatives that complement your company’s long-term goals to improve the chance of success. Also, you need to ensure you have the time and money to invest in the programs’ implementation and maintenance

Below are some examples of companies that have implemented some of these practices.

Foreign Credential Recognition

Recruiters at Manitoba Lotteries Corporation, Business Development Bank of Canada and D+H recognize foreign education and experience during the hiring process. The McGill University Health Centre and Christie Digital Systems Canada take it one step further and help skilled immigrant employees obtain their Canadian credentials, sometimes even covering the cost.

ESL Training

Some companies find great skilled immigrant candidates during the recruitment process, but they end up being screened out due to weaker English language skills. To avoid losing out on these talented candidates, some companies will pay for employees to attend English as a second language (ESL) classes or offer the training internally.

For example, Energy Resources Conservation Board offers subsidies for ESL classes at post-secondary institutions to allow skilled immigrants improve their English language skills and progress their careers. Rescan Environmental Services offers internal writing coaches to those who require English language training while also paying for professional writing courses to advance their English skills.


Community mentoring programs help skilled immigrant job seekers network and learn workplace cultural norms in their respective fields.

The Mentoring Partnership, a program of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), pairs skilled immigrants in Toronto with mentors in their same professional field. Organizations that provide volunteer employee mentors include the Ontario Public Service, Xerox Canada and the Regional Municipality of York.

Cultural Competency Training

Cross-cultural training for managers and employees raises awareness of cultural differences in behaviour and communication, improving the integration of skilled immigrant employees into the workplace.

Nordion Inc. provides cross-cultural training to recruiters and managers to help prevent them from screening out a candidate based on cultural characteristics that may be interpreted unfavorably, such as not making eye contact. At Nexen Inc., employees receive cross-cultural communication training to improve communication among all employees.

Work Placements

Work placements help skilled immigrants obtain the Canadian work experience many companies are looking for and allow an employer to try out prospective employees before offering them a permanent position.

CH2M Hill Canada Limited provides eight-week unpaid work placements through MicroSkills Toronto, usually offering permanent employment if the placement is completed successfully.

Religious/Spiritual Accommodation

Recognizing, embracing and accommodating all religions helps new employees feel more comfortable and integrate into the workplace faster. At Agrium Inc., employees have access to a quiet room for religious or spiritual practice.

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