TD recognized for focus on diversity

Hire Immigrants Ottawa celebrates innovative integration of immigrants
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/20/2014

With 57,000 employees in Canada, TD serves many diverse communities across the country. And a key part of its success has been embracing that diversity through its recruitment and staffing policies.

The Toronto-based bank was recently awarded an Employer Excellence Award from Hire Immigrants Ottawa (HIO), a community-based initiative that brings together employers, immigrant agencies and stakeholders to enhance employers’ ability to access the talents of skilled immigrants in the Ottawa area.

The annual awards recognize innovative recruitment and retention policies and promising practices around the integration of skilled immigrants into organizations.

“We’ve got customers from diverse backgrounds and it’s really important to be able to provide services to them in their own languages — that’s certainly a benefit,” said Nicole Jacksic, senior manager, diversity recruitment, enterprise talent acquisition at TD Bank Group in Toronto.

“We’re looking at really attracting the best talent for the organization, so what we want to do is get out to as many communities as possible and expand our talent pool to bring in the best talent.”

All managers at TD are required to take part in cross-cultural training, diversity and interviewing and hiring workshops to guard against hiring bias.

“Many of our leaders have gone through micro-inequities training and also our talent advisors, so our recruitment teams, are also going through different types of training to become aware of bias, whether they have bias or not — everybody has bias, actually,” she said.

Potential candidates from other countries are assessed for their financial, technical or customer service experience, along with their fit within the bank.

“What we try to do is really look at what kind of experience they have that is really aligned to the roles we have and not focus on not having Canadian experience,” said Jacksic.

Several different programs help candidates gain work experience, such as Career Edge Organization, networking sessions, mentoring and mock interviews.

“It also helps managers get a better sense of perhaps different accents and different perspectives and different strengths that people are bringing that they may not have had as (much) exposure to,” she said.

TD also works with local, regional and national organizations — such as the People with Disabilities Network, Aboriginal Employee Circle and the Women in Leadership Network — that serve diverse groups.

“Really, it is a partnership where we work hand-in-hand and we share our expertise and they share their candidates with us,” said Jacksic.

But all of the diversity initiatives at TD start at the top because it’s the executives who really establish the corporate culture, she said, and their messages cascade down throughout the organization.

“Our leaders are really very, very visible at a lot of different events and throughout our communications, through our corporate landing page, on our social networking platforms, etcetera, and I’m actually really amazed at how much diversity messaging is always included in most training sessions as well as any kind of communications that we see… we see our leaders walking the talk.”

And the Hire Immigrants award is valuable, she said.

“It’s important for us to be recognized this way because what we want to do is attract as many new employees to the organization from diverse backgrounds, and by sharing this information that our culture is inclusive and that we value diverse opinions and values, we will hopefully get more and more people applying.”

Recognition for leadership in immigrant employment

David Draper approaches diversity initiatives from a business standpoint. As managing director of Keylingo Translations in Ottawa, he was one of five individuals recognized at HIO’s 2014 Employer Council of Champions Summit for their leadership in championing immigrant employment.

On one hand, there are skills shortages, while on the other hand there are many unemployed — or underemployed — internationally educated professionals (IEPs), he said in an email.

“This doesn’t make a lot of business sense when employers in industries such as finance and health have difficulty finding the skill sets that they need,” said Draper, adding groups such as Hire Immigrants Ottawa are helping to identify and address the barriers to employment.

But integration into the workplace is another challenge.

“Due to culture and upbringing, many IEPs have a very different — different, not wrong — approach to the workplace than Canadian-educated professionals,” he said.

For example, some immigrants are uncomfortable with how work teams tend to operate in Canada, with managers often encouraging individual contribution.

“Culturally, many IEPs expect to be told what to do and not question the direction provided,” said Draper. “Generally, they can feel that our open methods are weak and unproductive whereas the workplace culture they are familiar with is much stronger and productive. This viewpoint will lead to some tension in the workplace.”

While immigrants need to learn about Canada’s workplace culture, employers are also responsible for helping ease the transition, said Draper.

“When a Canadian employer makes little or no effort to assist an IEP with their integration into their organization, there will be conflict. An IEP may be considered less of an employee than their Canadian counterpart because they think differently and perform their role differently. This will negatively impact career growth and may lead to unemployment.”

Draper has devoted a lot of his time to mentoring IEPs to employment and then working with them to help them appreciate the culture of their new employer.

“I have come to clearly understand the difficulties that highly skilled IEPs face when seeking skills or education-related employment. I have also come to learn how a simple offhand remark by a Canadian-educated peer can create fear and discomfort. As a mentor, I have worked with numerous mentees to help them understand that while they took the remark seriously, their peer did not mean anything by it.”

At her 20-year-old organization GEM Healthcare Services, Gaye Moffett has hired many immigrants. Back in 1994, about one-half of the employees were foreign-born — now, it’s about 85 per cent, said Moffett, founder and CEO at the private health-care service provider, which has 150 employees.

The immigrants range from companions and personal support workers to registered nurses and registered practical nurses. Some come through the Ontario Works program, having come to Canada and been unable to find work, and GEM retrains them, said Moffett, who was also recognized for her contributions by HIO.

GEM has always been very welcoming and open to foreign-trained professionals, said Moffett, and everyone is treated the same. If needed, people are sent off for further language testing and training, though fewer people need to go these days because of Canada’s stricter immigration rules, she said.

Most of the people come from central Africa whereas before the Caribbean was more popular, said Moffett, who has been a big supporter of HIO’s cause.

“There’s a business case — you want employees, you want good employees, you bring them on and they’ll be very loyal to you.”

Other winners

The others recognized were:

•Hicham Adra, president of Fitzroy Enterprises

•Emma Creese, manager, HR regional support, at Scotiabank

•George Chin, manager, business planning and support, Ministry of the Attorney General, east region.

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