In my previous column, I wrote about what you need to know when hiring foreign workers. Now that you’ve successfully recruited this new talent, what’s next? How do you successfully integrate foreign workers into your existing “Canadian” team? What do you need to know about managing a diverse workforce? Here are five steps that can help you build a winning team and help your business thrive.
Tip #1: Spend time with your new employees
Getting to know your employees will pay off in spades. Understand what’s important to them and show an interest in their culture. Use this opportunity to expand your own horizons and those of your entire team by encouraging an “international dialogue.”
Tip #2: Keep an open mind to learning
As you get to know your foreign employees, you will also enjoy a valuable learning opportunity. Many are more tech-savvy than Canadians and bring a global perspective to the table. A diverse workforce offers fresh, new ideas and can even help you understand your varied client or customer base better. Don’t underestimate the multiple benefits—for you and your entire team—that come from learning from your new employees.
Tip #3: Clearly outline your expectations
Business conduct and practices vary around the world. Not all countries follow the fast-paced, North American business style. Foreign workers need to understand your company’s processes and systems, as well as general North American business practices.
Create an open dialogue in which they can feel free to ask questions. For example, in some countries punctuality at meetings is very important and a sign of respect, while in North America there is greater flexibility and understanding around “running late.” And, in other cultures, not making eye contact is a sign of respect, whereas in North America, it’s an important gesture that shows confidence, honesty and respect.
When having these conversations, make sure to reframe their questions so that you’re answering them properly and telling them what they want to know. Speaking of language, foreign workers may experience language barriers, so consider offering additional English-language courses, and explain words, phrases and acronyms that are commonly used in the workplace.
Tip #4: Stay in tune with staff dynamics
In smaller companies, one or two new staff members can shift the entire office dynamics. As a manager, keep an eye on how your new hires are integrating with your existing team. A successful transition may involve cultural-awareness training for staff members or establishing a mentorship or “buddy” system.
One of the key areas that can cause confusion or misunderstanding is around religious observances. Be sensitive to the diversity of religious beliefs, practices and holidays, and allow for this within your organization. For example, encourage flexible schedules so that employees can observe their specific religious holidays and work around them. As an employer, if you can demonstrate flexibility and respect for all religions, you will be on the road to establishing a culture of acceptance and understanding. That will ultimately build loyalty and capacity, benefitting your bottom line.
Tip #5 Embrace the Opportunity
Hiring foreign workers is much more than a means to an end when it comes to addressing current labour shortages. It is an opportunity to build a stronger, more dynamic company that can thrive in today’s competitive business world. Invest the time and attention that managing a diverse workforce requires and embrace the many benefits!
Shannon Bowen-Smed is president and CEO of BOWEN Workforce Solutions, which creates customized solutions for businesses, such as flexible workforce management and transactional human resource services. Read her company blog at Bowenworks.ca.
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