By Teresa Guerrero
I am Mexican and came to Canada in 2018. The idea of moving to a new country excited me. I decided to go back to school to start a new chapter in my life. Through my post-secondary internship, I found a job that I love in a company where I feel valued and that has the same values as me. I am the only foreign employee in the office and the only woman, so I can say that I represent the minority really well in my work team of only five people. Integrating into the team has been very fulfilling for me.
A foreign employee is more than someone who makes up for a labour shortage.
On February 17, 2021, the Government of Canada announced that the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program had been so successful that it would become a permanent program. Take Quebec, for example: by 2031, one person out of three in the workforce will come from abroad,1 which is why we should be talking about integrating foreign workers into businesses.
Foreign workers have a lot to contribute to the workplace. They have a different point of view that encourages companies to look at their way of doing things or how they work in a new way.
It’s true that immigrants require a good amount of support, but as Canadians, you are known for your generosity, so why not welcome a foreigner into the workplace?
Here are five ways you can help a foreign worker successfully integrate into the workplace.
- Highlight observable skills versus educational background: give a qualified employee a chance by placing value on their adaptability and personality rather than education and prior work experience.
- Be open-minded during training: the employee should receive ongoing training so that they can adapt to all aspects of the job, including the company culture.
- Don’t overlook what seems obvious: every part of the day may seem obvious to the employer, but to the foreign worker, every detail is a learning experience. Welcome and address every question.
- Repeat your message: during training, it is important to repeat your message over and over again to ensure that the employee has understood the information until the message gets across.
- Be patient and encouraging: A foreign worker may take longer to integrate and perform at a high level at first, but with patience and encouragement, their productivity will increase.
I understand from personal experience the challenges that come along with mastering a new language. I sometimes wonder if I’ve clearly understood the message or if I missed information that could be important during a conversation. It’s one thing to understand technical business language; it’s quite another when you have to follow conversations. You have to continually make an effort. Fortunately, my colleagues try to clarify concepts so that I understand better, and, because of their help, we are able to have discussions where everyone clearly understands each other.
Advice from a foreign worker
My one piece of advice to foreign workers is to establish a very specific employment contract so that both you and your employer know exactly how to improve performance. At the start, because of the language barrier, the supervisor needs to provide consistent and accurate feedback. The supervisor should acknowledge every noteworthy success and communicate what’s going well. Supervisors should also tell the foreign worker if they are meeting expectations and provide ways to improve, if necessary, or provide learning opportunities if the employee wants to learn more.
There is a whole acculturation process for the foreign worker, but they have a certain energy, a high risk tolerance, and are motivated and enthusiastic. There’s a good chance you’ll find foreign workers who are happy to have a job opportunity, who need a steady job and who are ready to take on new challenges.
When an organization invests in the effort to hire a foreign worker, that worker has a huge potential, because they are not only capable and loyal, but they also want to help grow the company.
Source: Stratégiecarrière.com, https://strategiecarriere.com/lavantage-des-employes-immigrants/, site consulted March 9, 2021.