Being more than diverse: How to be inclusive of immigrant hires in the workplace

posted on September 1, 2021

By Aneela Zaibm,  CEO and founder of EmergiTEL | | June 16, 2021

Many businesses aim to be diverse employers, but are they inclusive? It’s important to practice both diversity and inclusion in order to help your employees thrive in your workplace.

Diversity is a fact; inclusion is a practice. Diversity refers to the makeup of one’s workforce, the variety of identities, backgrounds, and experiences that every employee brings to the table. Inclusion, on the other hand, is the process that facilitates participation and success for every member of the team.

The Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion

It has been proven that having a diverse workforce increases innovation, prompts better decision-making, and improves productivity. In fact, companies with more diverse management teams make 19 percent more revenue than their less diverse counterparts.

Diversity drives improved innovation and performance by bringing new perspectives and ideas to the table. With input from people of different backgrounds, organizations can develop strategies, missions, and values that cater to a broader audience. That same train of thought can be applied to the consumer side as well. The diversity of your employees’ knowledge and personal experiences can yield new insights into new consumer demographics.

Inclusivity for Immigrant Employees

As an immigrant from Pakistan who arrived in Canada in my mid-20s with no professional network, I understand the challenges people from other countries face when trying to make their way in a new country.

Immigrants offer a vast catalog of experience and knowledge that can differ dramatically from the average North American employee. Every culture and background offers its own unique approaches to problem-solving. Immigrant employees bring a drive and a perspective that can help employers be more creative, insightful, and dynamic in their decision-making.

Many companies are doing their part to provide more opportunities for immigrants and other groups, but for the best results, it’s essential to understand inclusivity. You could build a strong, dynamic staff with a mix of domestic and immigrant employees, but it’s the steps you take to help your employees integrate into your workplace that will truly return results for both the company and its employees. If you fail to be welcoming and accommodating to employees of all backgrounds, you’re only preventing those employees from reaching their full potential within your business.

So, what does effective inclusion look like? Here are a few key action steps:

1. Offer a Thorough Onboarding Process to Newcomers

According to a study conducted by Carleton University, immigrant new hires often report having difficulties understanding arbitrary, unwritten workplace rules. Furthermore, they are often insecure about sharing obstacles in their transition to a new job because they feel the pressure to prove their professional worth immediately.

When hiring any new employee, offer a written manual to help them understand your company culture, rules of the workplace, and more. Beyond this, you could assign each new hire a mentor to train them on business processes and cultural norms. If your new hires are more certain about what they need to do and have someone they can turn to with questions, they’ll have a much easier time getting acclimated and up to full productivity.

2. Facilitate Socialization Among Your Employees

While you don’t want your employees to talk their days away, you do want to create opportunities for your current and new employees to get to know each other. Host a welcome lunch for your new hire to offer them a chance to socialize and build connections in your workplace.

You might consider hosting social events that offer opportunities for cultural exchange. For example, you could allow your immigrant employees and other workers to celebrate their cultures by honoring holidays that are important to them. These are excellent ways for employees to educate one another about their cultures. By acknowledging, learning about, and showing respect for your workers’ cultures, you’ll make them feel more comfortable in your company.

3. Treat Language Like a Skill, Not a Barrier

The term “language barrier” is often mentioned in discussions about immigrant workers. A simple thing you can do to be inclusive to immigrant newcomers in your workplace is to stop framing their first language as a bad thing. Instead, help them understand essential terms in your company in their language for easier comprehension. You could provide translation resources or extra training sessions to help newcomers further refine their English.

Take the considerate step to learn a few key phrases in your employee’s first language. This is where the thought truly counts, as it will show them that you embrace diversity in your company. It also demonstrates that you are willing to put in the effort to learn about their culture and connect with them using their primary language.

4. Offer Cultural Training

One of the biggest obstacles for immigrant employees is the shift in work culture. Every country and region has a different approach to collaboration, corporate structure, work hours, and so forth. Employees may have trouble adjusting to the norms in their new home, and that can lead to them being ostracized by fellow employees or clients.

Help your immigrant hires gain the knowledge and skills they need to advance their careers by providing training sessions on important aspects of workplace culture. After all, professional success is tied to how well one engages with teammates and clients in group settings, meetings, and projects.

That being said, it isn’t just immigrant hires who could benefit from cultural training. Every new hire should be introduced to your company’s unique culture. Each business has its own values, processes, and approaches. In order to maximize every employee’s productivity, it helps to set expectations and convey work culture standards.

As part of your cultural training, you should also help new hires understand their potential career paths within your company. The path to promotion varies between firms and countries. Considering how important progression is with regard to employee retention, offering a clear career path can be a powerful way to engage your new hires, whether they are immigrant employees or domestic employees. As quoted in Forbes, “Employees will always perform at their best when the environment is conducive to growth.”

Read more …