Leader support for newcomers

Strategies to protect psychological safety for employees who are new to the country. Learn about the value immigrants can bring to your workplace and how to support their needs.

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The value of hiring newcomers

Hiring new Canadians provides an opportunity for employers to reflect the diverse people of Canada within their own work environments. Organizational strategies that can help support newcomers are provided in Discrimination prevention and inclusivity. What follows are strategies and suggestions for leaders to support employees who are newcomers to this country.

A report from Employment and Social Development Canada1 shares that many respondents from the business community had largely positive feedback with respect to the impact of newcomers on their organizations/workforces and noted that:

  • Newcomers often had strong work ethics, which positively influenced the work of existing employees.
  • Newcomers expanded their organizations’ markets, increased diversity, filled critical skills gaps and brought new and innovative ways of doing things.

Strategies for supporting newcomers

Supporting the success of all employees requires understanding their unique challenges and needs. Some challenges for newcomers include:

  • Language competency (in particular, occupation-specific language)
  • Different processes, preferences and norms
  • Cultural adaption
  • Having their foreign experience and education recognized
  • Employer bias against hiring immigrants
  • Lack of social and professional networks
  • Obtaining work because of over-qualification

Some of the strategies that could help improve the experience of newcomers include:

  • Fair hiring practices that include evaluation of foreign credentials and experience
  • Providing opportunities for English as a second language training
  • Specific orientation to the workplace culture and norms for new hires
  • Specific orientation to workplace jargon and terminology
  • Ongoing on-the-job training
  • Ongoing mentorship or buddy system
  • Access to leadership for one-on-one discussions
  • Live training on organizational policies and procedures (rather than strictly online or in print)
  • Being aware of and referring employees to community-based resources

Adapted from Employment and Social Development Canada, December 2014, Panel on Employment Challenges of New Canadians, Summary of the Panel’s Online Consultation.

Newcomers and trauma

Some newcomers may have been exposed to trauma due to experiences prior, during or after the immigration process. Whether it was being involved in civil unrest, war, violence, or the loss of or separation from family, friends and colleagues, it’s important to recognize the impact that trauma can have on an individual, even when that trauma may appear to be behind them.

Trauma in organizations includes information for policy development, leader strategies and tips to support employees.

If you are looking for additional strategies to support employees with unique needs related to differences that may include but are not limited to race, class or gender, see Implicit bias and Indigenous teachings for leaders.

Workshop materials

Implicit bias workshop

A self−reflection workshop that explores the attitudes and stereotypes that affect our actions, decisions and unconscious understanding towards or against a particular person or people group.

Additional resources

The Canadian Workplace. Engineers Canada, with funding from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, developed a website offering a range of topics including information about Canadian workplaces.

Helping employees to manage change. Any organizational change may have an unsettling impact on employees. You can help through thoughtful planning, effective communication, and engaging employees in exploring how changes can be handled in a psychologically safe way.

Hire immigrants. Hire Immigrants provides videos and articles related to managing a diverse workforce.

Inclusive Workplace Competencies. The Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council offers information for employers to develop diverse and inclusive workplaces including a competency framework, success stories and free introductory training and resources.

1Employment and Social Development Canada, December 2014, Panel on Employment Challenges of New Canadians, Summary of the Panel’s Online Consultation.

Contributors include.articlesEmployment and Social Development CanadaMary Ann Baynton

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