Why hire immigrants?

Canadian organizations simply can’t ignore talented immigrants as the labour pool shrinks

The impending labour shortage that will come as baby boomers retire, exacerbated by Canada’s low birth rate, is a hot HR topic.

According to RBC Financial Group’s latest research report, The Diversity Advantage: A Case for Canada’s 21st Century Economy, about one in five employers in the largest manufacturing sectors are facing production difficulties due to a lack of skilled labour.

In the coming years, finding the right talent will require organizations to find new labour pools. Recruiting skilled immigrants is an opportunity for businesses to meet this fundamental need while capitalizing on many other benefits.

As demographics change, so does doing business

Major Canadian cities have seen an influx of immigration over the past several years, with minority group populations outpacing Canada’s overall population growth. According to Statistics Canada, Canada’s visible minority population will double by 2017.

By 2011, 100 per cent of Canada’s net labour market growth will depend on immigration, according to the Conference Board of Canada. This means that to stay competitive in the decade ahead, organizations will have to both bring on board and market to this changing demographic.

Companies are faced with the challenge of building relationships with customers of diverse cultures and backgrounds. This means understanding ethno-specific communities, communicating in various languages and leveraging cultural differences.

Companies are beginning to recognize changing the way business is conducted needs changes in the employee base. As part of RBC Financial Group’s business strategy, it realized the need to plan for a workforce that reflects the expanding multicultural customer base. Success requires employees who reflect the makeup of the communities RBC serves and who are familiar with the cultures and needs0 of their clients.

To make this happen, RBC has implemented a number of initiatives aimed at recruiting visible minorities and skilled immigrants including:

•a visible minority board with an emerging focus on skilled immigrants;

•developing partnerships with community organizations that place skilled immigrants in the workforce such as the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council;

•a bias-free interview guide; and

•an open approach for acknowledging foreign credentials.

The creation of a more diverse and inclusive work environment that leverages the contributions and ideas of a diverse talent pool yields stronger employee engagement, enhanced client experiences, new ideas and business.

Employers that have adopted such strategies to suit their business needs have been happy with the results and impressed by an overall willingness and desire of the skilled immigrants they have brought on board. Immigrants are often eager, energetic and committed and willing to learn and work hard.

More business overseas

Many Canadian firms are turning to international contracts to grow their business. In an open and competitive market, being able to do business in a number of languages is a clear advantage — an advantage that skilled immigrants bring to the job.

A knowledge and understanding of international languages, cultures and practices can lead to an ability to court overseas contracts, respond to requests for proposals in different languages and interact with international clients in a more effective way.

Skilled immigrants bring a wealth of knowledge with them to Canada. They have intimate knowledge of the markets of their home countries. On average, immigrants have higher levels of education than Canadians. In 2002, 46 per cent of all immigrants had at least one post-secondary degree while the Canadian average was 22 per cent. Many immigrants are accredited in a variety of fields and have years of work experience behind them.

Changing demographics

Finding the top people for the job is a competitive process. Organizations that want to succeed will have to adopt recruiting tactics that tap into new talent pools.

Employers that expand their planning and sourcing strategies to include skilled immigrant communities increase their opportunities, ensuring they source the best talent. Some employers develop relationships with community agencies that provide services to skilled immigrants, while others encourage employees to refer skilled immigrants.

It requires creative planning to cast the recruitment net further, but the results can be very rewarding.

By identifying future skill requirements and planning for the new face of work, employers will be better able to source, screen, select and invest in the skilled immigrants who will make up the labour shortfall.

While labour shortages will compel companies to consider hiring new immigrants, those with the vision to see the tangible benefits of successfully attracting and integrating skilled immigrants and diverse talent will be the ones that retain top talent and experience growth.

Norma Tombari is senior manager for diversity and workforce solutions at RBC Financial Group. She is also chair of the advisory committee for the hireimmigrants.ca project, an initiative of Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council. Claire DeVeale is a co-ordinator for hireimmigrants.ca. For more information and strategies to recruit skilled immigrants, visit www.hireimmigrants.ca. To access RBC’s research report on the advantage of diversity, visit www.rbc.com/newsroom/pdf/20051020diversity.pdf.

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