Immigrant-inclusive workplaces are the responsibility of middle managers, report finds

Mohanad Moetaz
Published: March 13, 2021

Middle managers, those who are above front-line managers and below the executive suite, have the most influence on immigrant integration in the workplace. This is according to a new report published by the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council.

The report is titled Make or Break: How middle managers and executives can build immigrant-inclusive teams. This original research is largely based on interviews with diversity and inclusion leaders, and middle managers who were largely immigrants themselves.

These managers play a huge role in making the hired immigrant feel that they are part of the team, providing them the feedback they need to grow in the post and progress within the company.

Immigrants are undoubtedly a huge asset to Canada’s growing economy and will be influential in the country’s post-pandemic economic recovery. Throughout the pandemic, immigrants have shown that their contribution is invaluable, particularly those working on the front-line.

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Canada, however, still needs to find new ways to maximize the potential of newcomer talent. It is one thing to come to Canada and find employment. That alone does not guarantee an immigrant’s success. Immigrants come to Canada from all over the world with different workplace cultures, and they must feel welcomed in the workplace. They must have a chance, like anyone else, to grow in their careers.

It is through the support of key executives that middle managers are able to properly incorporate immigrant inclusion into the company culture.

There may be some mentality shifts required for Canadian employers to really benefit from newcomer talent. For example, dismantling the perception that immigrants first need to gain “Canadian experience” to get a deserving job.

How can executives and managers make immigrants feel welcome?

Executives need to fully understand the challenges that immigrants face when they start a new job. They must prioritize immigrant inclusion in their organizations and make it clear that the responsibility lies with middle managers. It should also be clear that the success of middle managers should coincide with their efforts to promote inclusive behaviour.

This should not be all. Executives themselves should set an example to others when it comes to inclusion.

Middle managers have the most influence on whether immigrant employees feel welcomed and how much they progress in the organization they work for. According to the report, these managers should be responsible for “establishing team dynamics that works for everyone– including those who might be new to Canada and are used to different workplace cultures and practices.”

In addition, middle managers perhaps need to redefine the success of an employee. One interviewee suggested that the value system of middle managers is typically consistent with the “North American, male and heteronormative perspectives.”

Middle managers should also be reviewing the way their organization hires new employees. The way recruiting and hiring occurs should also advance inclusion. This includes how the job description is written, and clearly disclosing the skills required to carry out the duties of the job. For example, in a job posting, it should be clear which skills and qualifications are required, and which are an additional asset.

This not only helps with immigrant inclusion. Research shows that women are less likely to apply for a job they think they are unqualified for. Making job postings clear can encourage more people to apply— particularly those who would not have otherwise applied.

It won’t happen overnight

With the support of executives, middle managers may be able to create a workplace that is inclusive and welcoming, where their international experience is celebrated, and where they can be successful because of it.

It is a reminder that inclusion is not something that can be achieved overnight. It is a long-term goal that executives, middle managers, and everyone in the Canadian workplace should be constantly working towards.

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