MAKING IT WORK! INTEGRATING SKILLED IMMIGRANTS

A constant concern among employers, whether small, medium or large companies, is labour management. Skilled workers are often hard to find, especially in certain lines of business. To fill these gaps, employers are turning more and more often to pools of immigrant workers. That being said, integrating these new workers is not always an easy task!

To shed some light on the subject, we spoke with Robert Mayrand, Director General at SITO, an agency devoted to the integration of migrant workers in the job market. Mr. Mayrand has been working in the field for over 10 years now and has a PhD in Education. He has held a number of college management positions and has given many workshops on intercultural communications and cultural diversity. In other words, he is well aware of the difficulties faced by immigrants when they first enter the job market, as well as the challenges experienced by their employers.

According to Mr. Mayrand, the greatest difficulty that immigrants have when joining a new work environment is the ability to communicate effectively based on their target audience. Ideas, values, and beliefs are very diverse, especially for those coming from countries very far from their new home. The language barrier is another hurdle to be overcome by those who are not yet proficient in the language spoken on the target job market. Immigrants must, therefore, make considerable efforts to adapt to a new method of communication that is not necessarily the same as the one used in their home country. Dealing with the climate can also be very challenging. It may seem relatively trivial, but the fact that Canada has four different seasons implies a significant adjustment for migrant populations used to having only two seasons. For some cultures in particular, careful attention must be paid to actions and behaviour because things here can be done quite differently than in their previous job markets.

But the new arrivals are not the only ones who need to change how they do things! Employers also bear a large share of the responsibility; they must create optimal conditions to facilitate the inclusion of these job seekers in the North American labour market. Employers must be malleable in terms of their own corporate culture, and willing to adjust their vision to accommodate a new, more inclusive and more flexible labour market. They must also learn to communicate with a new audience. The concepts of tolerance and open-mindedness have now moved to the forefront.

Nevertheless, Mr. Mayrand warns us against the tendency of certain employers to play the role of the missionary who wants to “save the immigrants.” Newcomers must be considered like any other employees, and accommodations should not be a fundamental part of the new reality of the labour market. Employers must set clear expectations for these new populations of workers.

To lessen the culture shock experienced by new arrivals and to facilitate the new vision that employers must adopt, Mr. Mayrand suggests that job preparation programs be instituted, along with language courses. This would allow immigrants to be more culturally aligned with their new job market, making integration easier for them. Indeed, as Mr. Mayrand says, understanding the “cultural code” is the cornerstone of any successful integration!

Pascal Leguerrier
Assessment and Evaluation Consultant