Implicit bias is a sneaky phenomenon. Most people aren’t aware of their own unconscious preferences until they’re confronted — hopefully with understanding — by external observers. Many employers in Canada instinctively hire local candidates rather than skilled migrants, not because they want to discriminate against newcomers, but because they feel more comfortable with the familiar.
When Canadian employers aren’t cognisant of implicit bias, organizations suffer. Overlooking newcomer talent reduces workplace diversity in a country where 21.9% of the population is foreign-born. Employers risk their reputations when they fail to adopt inclusive hiring practices — and if they’re understaffed to begin with, they also risk employee burnout.
If you’re concerned about the demographics at your organization, read on. In this article, we’ll discuss several of the best reasons to hire newcomers, and we’ll explore how hiring immigrant workers can help your business grow.
how hiring immigrant workers helps business growth
In 2015, Canada launched its federal expression of interest system. Also known as Express Entry, this new points-based system makes it easier for skilled migrants to come and work in Canada on a permanent basis. Education, work experience, language skills and other factors all add points to migrants’ applications.
1. address talent shortages
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Canada’s permanent labour migration strategy is the oldest of its kind in the world. Canada introduced its migrant labour system way back in 1967, and since then, it’s welcomed more foreign workers than any other country in the world.
Skills shortages already cause problems in the Canadian labour market. In a recent Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters survey, 80% of respondents said that they were facing a labour and skills shortage. Most surveyed companies said that their recruitment problems had grown worse since the COVID-19 pandemic, and 5% thought that their sales would never recover.
Internationally trained workers can help bridge the skills gap. Immigrants, refugees, and foreign students and graduates are a vital resource for Canadian businesses, especially in light of post-pandemic labour shortages. With the right newcomers on your team, you can compete more effectively in the marketplace and you can relieve pressure on existing employees.
2. expand your workforce
Canada’s newcomers add more than manpower — they also help boost the country’s population to sustainable levels. In other words, if immigrants didn’t come to Canada, there wouldn’t be enough people in the country to sustain meaningful economic growth.
Zooming in, talented foreign-born workers can help individual companies expand and succeed. If you’re hiring in volume, widening your talent pool to include immigrant workers makes sense. Some industrial positions are ideal for migrants who don’t speak very much English or French yet.
Many economic migrants bring family members with them, some of whom may also be looking for jobs. You get a hard-working crew; newcomers gain work, on-the-job training and camaraderie as they settle into life in Canada.
3. fill specific talent gaps
We’ve touched upon labour and skills shortages in the Canadian manufacturing sector — but other industries are also in dire straits. According to a recent Business Development Bank of Canada study, nearly 40% of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in Canada had trouble hiring new employees before the pandemic hit in 2020.
The same BDC study found that retail, construction and healthcare companies had all had major trouble filling vacancies over the previous 12 months. At the time of the survey, 56% of business owners said that existing staff simply had to work more to make up for the lack of skilled workers. Unfortunately, that approach can precipitate staff burnout.
Once again, internationally trained workers present a savvy solution. Internationally educated healthcare workers, for instance, possess the same skills as professionals who obtain their qualifications in Canada.
4. ramp up seasonally
So far, we’ve mostly written about permanent foreign-born workers — but what if you run a seasonal business? If contracts come in thick and fast in the summer or over the holidays, you might need to hire a number of extra people for two or three months at a time. In that case, temporary foreign-born workers can help you meet demand.
There are two main ways to hire foreign nationals on a short-term basis: the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program and the International Mobility Program (IMP). If you can pass the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), you can use the TFW program to fill vacant positions.
If you don’t pass the labour market test, you may still be able to hire foreign-born workers if you can get an LMIA exemption. If you can prove that hiring a specific foreign-born worker would give Canada an economic, cultural or competitive advantage in the global marketplace, for instance, you might be able to apply for the IMP.