Ackah Business Immigration Law recognizes that successful settlement and cultural integration are both key factors to strengthening retention of foreign workers. This month’s newsletter is written by guest columnist, Ms. Renee Bazile-Jones,
President of Unparalleled Inc., who specializes in diversity, inclusion and workplace harassment investigations.
Diversity, Inclusion and Successful Retention of Global Talent
Article written by Renée Bazile-Jones
You have successfully recruited talented global employees to join your organization. They might be immigrants or temporary foreign workers. Now what? How will you ensure their success? What issues are important to understand and to manage so that your investment in this critical human resource creates a win for the organization and a win for the individual? What will you do to integrate these skilled individuals? Perhaps more importantly, how will you retain these key human resources?
The powerful lens that all employees are viewed through is informed by organizational culture. For global employees, this means that not only must they understand and perform the role they have been engaged to do well, but they must also comprehend the organization, its rules of operation (both written and unwritten) and the rationale behind those rules. All of this while adapting to a new community with its own cultural norms. They must also navigate the difference between their own culture and the culture they are operating within. These rules govern every aspect of an individual’s life and creating
balance is an important element to successful enculturation of all individuals – not just those who are global employees.
There are many excellent articles written that detail how to successfully integrate global workers. We know that some key factors to success are: Community incorporation, Leadership support, Cross-cultural competencies, Culture shock management and Mentorship.
These approaches are adaptive, based on our belief that the individual must adapt to the organization and its norms. While this is certainly true, how much consideration is given to the organization adapting to the individual? In other words, is this bargain balanced? When it comes to leveraging global talent, we believe there is a need to focus on what may not be receiving the same consideration or focus as what is listed above: Understanding the importance of valuing
dimensions of diversity and ensuring that the organizational culture is inclusive.
Valuing Dimensions of Diversity
While intellectually we know that each individual is different (recognition), the more difficult aspect of valuing diversity is in
the acknowledgement. How do I behaviourally acknowledge that the individual I am dealing with is not the same as me? I must first move outside of my comfort zone and openly discuss individual dimensions of diversity that matter to me and those that matter to the person I am interacting with.
These dimensions define who we are and are unique to each of us. While we may share dimensions of diversity, how they define us is unique to each individual. For example, men may share that specific gender definition, but what it means to be a man is defined differently for each man. Some play sports, some hate sports, some are engaged fathers, others may take a more hands-off approach. I will only know the other person if I am willing to engage with him/her to find out how he/she self-defines.
I then need to ensure that my behaviour demonstrates my respect for the dimensions of diversity that are important to that individual. Another example will help to demonstrate this idea. We recognize that different cultures have different relationships with time. Mike, a VP with BigStuff Corp. expects that people will be not only on time when he calls a meeting but will actually be ready to start 2 minutes before the official meeting time announced. Jorge, a new employee from outside of North America, habitually shows up 5 minutes after the appointed meeting time. Is he just rude? No, in his culture time is approximate, not exact. If Mike and Jorge do not understand each other’s relationship with time, their interactions will continue to be a source of conflict and frustration. It would be easy for one or the other to adjust their behaviour to acknowledge the other’s relationship with time.
Valuing diversity does not require special skills – we do this unconsciously based on how we get to know others. To build
productive workplace relationships with global workers requires a heightened awareness of their dimensions of diversity
and an awareness or consciousness that the behaviours we normally engage in may need to be slightly adjusted based on who they are.
For global employees, there is also a need to communicate their cultural norms and how they help define who they are –
and to receive the same knowledge of their non-global counterparts. Culture includes knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, morals, customs and acquired habits or capabilities. We learn about culture early and what we learn stays with us over our lifetime and is slow to change. While there are visible aspects of culture – manner of dress, food or music, it is the
invisible aspects of culture – values, communication styles and non-verbal behaviours that require more delineation. When we come into the workplace we combine three cultures that must work together:
National Culture - knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, morals customs and acquired habits or capabilities
Personal Culture – our individual take on beliefs, arts, laws, morals, etc.
Corporate Culture - A system of values, beliefs, attitudes, traditions, and standards of behavior that govern the organization of people into social groups and regulate both individual and group behavior
The intersections of these three aspects of culture differ from individual to individual. In other words I may place more value on my personal culture than corporate, or more value on national culture than personal. All of these dimensions of diversity affect how we approach work and inform our work styles when it comes to relationships, communication, employee relations, leader relations, teamwork, feedback, etc.
To ensure success for global workers, there must be room in the organizational culture to welcome and embrace the strengths of these differences. The workplace environment must be inclusive.
Inclusive Organizational Cultures
How would you define your organizational culture? Do you know all of the “secret handshakes”, presentation norms,
traditions, report-writing expectations, preferred ways of communicating, dress codes, time management, etc.? Can you define the characteristics of people you believe “fit”? How expansive are those definers? Is there a “mythological” employee profile that describes who will succeed above all others? Would you describe your organizational culture as supportive or debilitating?
How are the organizational cultural norms communicated? Are they assumed? How do these norms help shape behaviours? Have you ever conducted a cultural audit to see if reality matches assumptions? Perhaps the most important question – How do you know your work environment is Inclusive?
We believe that Inclusive workplace environments allow individuals to bring their whole selves to work. Attitudes (beliefs and values) recognize and acknowledge people as individuals – the essence of valuing diversity. The infrastructure
(policies and procedures) flexes to accommodate individual differences and provides equitable access to opportunities and information. Equitable access assumes that individuals have differing needs and expectations and there is more than one way to ensure that individual and organizational needs are in sync. Inclusive cultures make room for differing communication styles, differing points of view, there is sensitivity to different customs, and a curiosity about each individual.
If you are to retain your best people – global and non-global employees, they need to understand that they are valued for who they are and that the corporate culture does not create any unintentional barrier to different ways of thinking. The pay off? Committed and engaged employees, regardless of where they come from.
Renée Bazile-Jones - As President of Unparalleled Inc. and with over 30 years of experience, Renée is a subject matter
expert in diversity and inclusion as well as workplace harassment. She has been featured in Canadian Business and is the co-author of Measuring the Impact of Diversity and a featured writer in Staff Planning in a Time of Demographic Change. Unparalleled Inc. helps clients to create workplace environments, structures, policies and practices that optimize the strategic utilization of human capital. You can contact Ms. Bazile-Jones at (416) 214-1311 ext. 1 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned for the June 2011 Ackah Business Immigration Law newsletter for further review of immigration developments regarding the new Temporary Foreign Worker Program!
*Please note that this alert has been created for informational purposes only and cannot be relied upon as legal advice. Additionally, the views expressed may not necessarily reflect the views of Ackah Business Immigration Law.
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