January 26, 2015
Our province welcomes approximately 35,000 new immigrants every year who are ready to work and are here to stay. In addition, you can leverage upon the valuable assets these new immigrants bring to a workplace.
DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society (DIVERSEcity), formerly the Surrey Delta Immigrant Services Society, has assisted many new immigrants with planning their careers since it was established in 1978. According to the society, immigrants provide employers with a great attitude and a lot of valuable skills, including:
- Cross-cultural communication skills
- An understanding of many cultures and customs
- A second and third (and sometimes, more) languages
- An enthusiasm for learning and a strong work ethic
- An eagerness to build bonds with co-workers and expand their personal and professional networks
- New ways of thinking, different solutions, new techniques/methods of doing things
HOW DO THESE SKILLS TRANSLATE INTO BENEFITS FOR AN EMPLOYER?
Firstly, immigrant workers will be able to use their cultural understanding and second language to communicate with and relate to your various international customers. This can create positive and memorable customer service encounters and great customer satisfaction. In addition, they could assist you with market expansion into different ethnic groups, and in some cases market expansion abroad. Finally, their enthusiasm and fresh ideas can also be the catalyst that creates a diverse and effective working environment where overall employee engagement, motivation, morale is increased.
It is clear that the benefits of hiring immigrant workers are varied and plenty, but one must realize it comes with challenges as well. Often managers struggle with miscommunication and misunderstandings. Following are some tips to fully leverage the potential of these employees:
- Learn about and value other cultures. Increased cultural understanding will increase your ability to manage your employees as well as increase your ability to offer services to your international customers.
- Learn a few phrases in the languages of your employees and customers. Being able to say “good morning” or “thank you” in someone else’s language demonstrates interest and respect.
- Avoid judging. Try to accept other behaviour or ways of doing things as different, rather than as right or wrong. Another approach may even be more effective.
- Find common ground or similarities between cultural groups instead of focusing on the differences.
- Use plain English. Speak and write in short sentences using simple words and standard English. Try to avoid idioms (it’s raining cats and dogs), slang (That’s sweet!) and abbreviations (ASAP).
- Check for comprehension frequently. Often immigrant workers will nod or smile when given instructions or new information. This will be interpreted by supervisors as comprehension when sometimes the employee does not understand but wishes to be agreeable and appear to understand.
- Practice tolerance and request it of all new employees. To increase tolerance levels, work on being able to see the world through another’s eyes. Consider re-writing job descriptions to include a statement such as “must be able to interact with ethnically diverse personnel and clients”.
- Seek training related to managing a diverse workforce.
BC’s new immigrants have a lot to offer the tourism industry. Cultural diversity can make the workplace more effective, interesting and dynamic but it can also be difficult. Applying some of the suggestions above will improve workplace communication and may also result in improved staff morale and an increased ability to attract and retain valuable employees.
For more information and resources for recruiting new immigrants, visit the following websites:
www.dcrs.ca – DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society is a non-profit charity offering services such as job-ready candidates, employment matching, mentorship, job fairs and training.
www.getintheknow.ca – Both employers and potential employees can access the latest tips, strategies and research.
www.iecbc.ca – Immigrant Employment Council of BC develops tools, resources and information to assist employers to attract, hire and retain immigrants.
www.issbc.org – Immigrant Services Society provides a range of services including job-ready candidates, employment matching, mentorship, job fairs and training.
www.successbc.ca – SUCCESS is a non-profit charity offering a range of services including job-ready candidates, employment matching, mentorship, job fairs and training.