Do you do this? (Guest Commentary)

HR leaders share best practices in immigrant integration

Human resources leaders recognize the potential that skilled immigrants offer, such as fuelling innovation, linking to increasingly diverse domestic customers and maximizing global business opportunities in international markets.

As a long-time media partner of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC)’s Immigrant Success (IS) Awards, Canadian HR Reporter presents the Individual Achievement Award every year and has recognized five leaders who have successfully leveraged immigrant talent.

While these winners come from a diverse range of industries and organizations, they share many common best practices for building workplaces that are inclusive of skilled immigrants. Are you familiar with these best practices?

Develop open, diverse recruitment strategies

While their purpose and approaches may differ, the winners have all worked to develop open and inclusive recruitment strategies. Initiatives include expanding their network of skilled immigrant talent by reaching out to employment services agencies and other networks, developing bias-free recruitment and selection practices, and working closely with hiring managers to implement them.

Sischa Maharaj (2007 winner), then at CIBC, went one step further and drove the development of a new portal for newcomers on CIBC’s career website. It includes information on foreign credential assessment, interviewing tips, agencies that assist newcomers, mentorship, paid internships and a diversity recruitment calendar, which lists events where immigrant jobseekers can meet directly with CIBC recruiters.

Support new hires

The successful integration of skilled immigrants doesn’t end with recruitment — it requires support for the new hires. What that support looks like can vary across organization but, for the winners, it included an overall supportive onboarding process, a buddy or mentor program and training on the nuances of Canadian business communications.

As one example, Jane Lewis (2008 winner), country human resources manager at Procter & Gamble, worked to support new immigrant hires by building the capacity of employee networking groups. These groups offer networking, coaching and learning opportunities to diverse staff.

Build a welcoming, inclusive environment

To be successful, organizations must also build an environment that is welcoming and inclusive of diverse groups. This requires commitment from senior leadership and diversity being a priority at the organization.

Many of the winners worked to raise awareness and build commitment through a variety of learning and development programs.

For example, Michael Bach (2009 winner), national director of diversity, equity and inclusion at KPMG, developed diversity training that addresses cultural differences — and it’s now mandatory for new hires. All performance managers also receive training in cross-cultural communication.

Leverage available resources

The TRIEC winners have all advanced different initiatives related to immigrant integration, but none of them did it alone. In addition to working closely with colleagues, they leveraged resources in the community.

This included establishing partnerships with organizations such as TRIEC and community agencies that work with skilled immigrants, and taking advantage of programs such as the Career Bridge internship program for internationally trained professionals run by Career Edge Organization.

Nancy Steele (2010 winner), director at American Express Technologies (AET), worked with TRIEC and the Consortium of Agencies Serving Internationally-trained Persons (CASIP) to hold hiring events that connected AET recruiters with pre-screened candidates.

In less than two years, AET hired 11 skilled immigrants through the program — 10 per cent of hires in the division.

Embed integration

A final commonality is the understanding that to achieve long-lasting impact, HR has to ensure the practices it establishes are embedded into the organization. For example, Zuleika Sgro (2011 winner), manager of talent management services and HR business partner at Questrade, ensured bias-free recruitment practices were imbedded in the company’s policies. Other winners developed performance management metrics that included diversity as a core value or established dedicated roles with direct responsibility for diversity initiatives.

Jessica Hume is manager of communications at TRIEC. She can be reached at (416) 944-1946, [email protected] or visit  

IS Awards

Nominate someone you know

Are you or someone you know a leader in skilled immigrant integration? If yes, submit a nomination for the Canadian HR Reporter Individual Achievement award or one of three other IS Awards. Visit for more information. Nominations are open until Nov. 15, 2012.

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