Creating a welcoming work environment for newcomers
Sometimes we’re lucky enough to find a job that checks all our boxes: the field, location, pay, benefits… everything’s perfect! But an important part of any new position is the team we’ll be working with. Have you ever landed your dream job, only to find the atmosphere at work less than ideal? Maybe you didn’t click with your colleagues, or perhaps you had a different way of operating, thinking or seeing things. Everyone’s different, of course, but the greater the differences, the more likely it is that new hires will face conflict or feel uncomfortable at work. To limit the chance of this happening, employers can take a number of steps to help newcomers become integrated, in particular those who’ve just arrived from overseas.
In Canada, a surprising number of people have studied or gained experience abroad. As an employer, if you intend to hire internationally trained workers, such as migrants, refugees, international students or Canadians having studied or worked outside the country, it’s strongly recommended that you set up an integration program for new employees, if one isn’t already in place.
In addition to an integration strategy, here are a few tips for integrating and retaining internationally trained workers, based on advice from the Canadian government.
Integration through continuous training, mentoring and career development
Provide or seek training for your team
Offering training to groups of employees gives them an opportunity to get to know each other better. General training allows new employees to meet people outside their department or team. Training modules designed to develop specific skills and expertise also give employees the opportunity to meet people who work in their field or in a similar role, and who might share their interests.
Employees trained abroad may also benefit from English or French language classes or refresher courses, or other kinds of training. Language classes can even be geared to your business sector or a specific occupation, which can facilitate understanding and improve communication between newcomers and their colleagues, limiting the risks of misunderstandings.
In order to promote your company’s key values and goals and improve your team’s productivity, think like the pros! Many major corporations develop workshops on corporate culture and communication for staff members. This type of training helps all workers interact more effectively with colleagues, suppliers and customers. Communications training develops presentation and verbalization skills and helps workers convey their ideas more clearly. In many cases, Canadian employees can also benefit from diversity and cross-cultural awareness training.
The company is not required to offer the training itself. Training programs and workshops are often organized by community centres and non-profit organizations, municipal libraries, etc. In Hawkesbury, a number of organizations offer training, such as the Employment Services Centre, the Moi j’apprends centre, La Cité college, and many others! Keep an eye out for available programs in your region, depending on your field and needs. It’s also worth noting that many of these organizations can prepare custom workshops to meet your specific requirements. Lastly, keep in mind that it’s just as important for managers and executives to attend some of these training programs.
A great way to help a new employee, whether from here or abroad, become integrated is to create a workplace mentoring program. Mentoring helps foster a welcoming environment and a sense of belonging. By having mentors answer new employees’ questions, you’ll help them get used to their new work environment faster.
This kind of program can be particularly valuable to internationally trained workers. It also helps existing staff members enhance their cultural competencies and awareness.
To select your mentors, identify your best employees, meaning those with the most experience and who you trust. Ask them to provide new employees with the basic knowledge needed to do their jobs and help them become familiar with your practices and corporate culture. Choose people who like to chat, answer questions, and who have a knack for putting others at ease.
Training and mentoring programs generally boost productivity, help workers adapt to new technologies and lead to work permits or licences being renewed, depending on the field.
Career development opportunities are important for all employees and for your organization. Be sure to make these opportunities available to internationally trained workers.
Below are a few best practices to adopt:
- Include them in formal leadership development programs, and be open to new forms of leadership and collaboration.
- Don’t overlook the abilities of internationally trained workers just because they don’t reflect the norm in your workplace.
- Remember that internationally trained workers may have unique needs based on their cultural backgrounds, abilities, training and work experience.
- Offer workers support in their administrative formalities. Your organization could benefit from more workers who are more qualified or certified by providing financial support for examinations, or by offering workers paid time off to prepare for and take important examinations.
Creating an inclusive workplace
An inclusive workplace can also foster employee performance and loyalty. With this in mind, make the work environment one of the central pillars of your company. Consider setting up an orientation or official mentoring program to help every new hire feel valued and part of the team.
Why not also appoint some diversity champions at your company? Include them in the decision‑making process. Give them the scope and resources to implement special initiatives to create an inclusive culture. Celebrate cultural diversity in your company by organizing events that showcase different cultures.
The best way to improve a team’s morale and ensure employee engagement and retention is to create a welcoming workplace. An inclusive work environment is good for everyone! It’s also important that newcomers feel at ease both at work and in their community. And while work plays a vital role, keep in mind that this is not solely up to the company: don’t hesitate to connect newcomers to personal and community support services that can help them and their families get settled in Canada.
Government of Canada (2020) The Employer’s Roadmap to hiring and retaining internationally trained workers. Found on https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/publications-manuals/employer-roadmap-hiring-retaining-internationally-trained-workers.html