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Welcoming Immigrant Employees  


The successful retention of new employees begins at the onboarding phase. It’s important they feel welcome and effectively onboarded into the workplace. This is especially true for immigrant employees, who may need more guidance with expectations around work systems, culture, and the rules of the organization — both written and unwritten. This is easy to overlook when the workforce is made up primarily of individuals who share a cultural background.  

Ensuring that the following items are addressed can help increase performance and improve the adjustment period. For all new hires consider providing: 

  • Company overview – product information, services, clientele, and history.
  • Personal introductions to company employees and descriptions of their roles.
  • Employee handbooks or other “policies and procedures” documents.
  • Discussion on how best to navigate workplace culture from colleagues and supervisors.
  • Workplace tour (and map) that includes all facilities, staff rooms, exits, entrances, etc.
  • An organizational chart – chain of command and who reports to whom.
  • Equipment usage policies and instructions, including cell phones, computers, copiers, etc.
  • The location of supplies/equipment and procedures for accessing them.
  • Information on pay schedules, time-off requests, benefits, expense accounts, etc.
  • Emergency, security, and health & safety policies and procedures.
  • A list of company-specific terms, acronyms, and abbreviations.
  • Accommodation for religious or cultural practices.

Refer to this downloadable PDF on how to create a welcoming environment for new hires. 

Source: World Education Services 

Online Considerations 

Onboarding new employees remotely can be a challenge to the forming of relationships built on trust. Communication is even more important in a remote environment, so be sure to share the ways your team communicates. For example, perhaps email is used for more formal requests, whereas instant messaging is used for more informal, discussion-based communication.  

Here are some other ways to build employee relationships remotely:  

  • Share contact information for managers, IT support, and HR.
  • Create a directory and organizational chart that includes photos, employee information, and fun facts.
  • Schedule virtual “water cooler” chats and encourage staff to share their non-work-related interests such as recipes or book and film recommendations.

Source: World Education Services 

People, Performance, and Paperwork 

During the orientation process, consider the “Three Ps”—people, performance, and paperwork:   

Who are the key people whom any new employee must meet, what will those meetings look like, and when should they occur? Examples include informal social events, group onboarding activities, assigning a buddy, meetings with senior leaders, team building, mentoring, and other key meetings.  

What is required to support any new employee in the performance of their role? Examples include job shadowing, setting expectations and providing feedback, HR check-ins, coaching, and other training.  

Lastly, what paperwork and processes must be reviewed, completed, and explained? Examples include company orientation, handbook or policies, resources, and forms. 

Adapted from the Immigrant Employment Council of British Columbia’s, Onboarding Newcomers: A Toolkit for BC Employers.   

Source: World Education Services 

Beyond the First Week 

New immigrant hires need regular check-ins to clarify misconceptions, avoid future misunderstandings, and improve the orientation process. Consider asking new hires these questions: 

  • What has surprised you about the way things work here?
  • What have you liked? What has frustrated you?
  • What information would have been helpful to have on your first day?

Consider This 

To garner better feedback, replace yes-or-no questions with open-ended questions: 

Yes or No Questions Open-Ended Questions 
Do you understand? What other information can I give you? 
Does that make sense? What do you think? 
Is that clear? How do you think we should start? 
Do you have any questions? What other questions do you have?

The Buddy System 

Establish a “buddy/mentor” system  

A friendly and culturally sensitive employee can mentor a new hire and share workplace information such as: business attire, lunch and coffee break routines, handling personal phone calls or emails at work, birthday celebrations/social events, and other workplace protocols and etiquette.  

A buddy can explain team dynamics or workplace hierarchy. Workplace team environments vary from culture to culture and understanding this may help new hires integrate more efficiently.  

For information on how to create a peer buddy program at your workplace, review this downloadable PDF from World Education Services. 

For more information, please contact the Simcoe County Local Immigration Partnership at .