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Remaining competitive: Why diverse teams are a business asset

Matching the right person to the role has always been the goal of employers that are recruiting talent, at least in theory. Yet, bias - embedded or assumed - has often been a barrier, and the best person was not always the one that got the job.

Matching the right person to the role has always been the goal of employers that are recruiting talent, at least in theory. Yet, bias - embedded or assumed - has often been a barrier, and the best person was not always the one that got the job.

Statistics Canada found that between 2006 and 2017, close to 10 per cent of university-educated immigrants were unemployed following graduation, compared with less than three per cent unemployment among their Canadian-born peers.

Increasingly though, Canadian society has a firmer grasp of what equality, diversity and inclusion means and why it’s not only necessary but vital.

No organization can be truly competitive, progressive and achieve complete success by sticking with old and outworn ideas about skill, ability and value, based on cultural profiles. 

Tenzin Zongdho, senior manager of early talent acquisition at RBC, says, “for an organization like ours, where the competition is ready to take hold of you, we succeed when we have diversity.”  

Students from international pathways, or SFIP, a term representing young educated people who are either foreign nationals on a study visa, refugees, new immigrants, or permanent residents, have come to Canada before starting their education at a Canadian post-secondary institution.

Hiring an international student can provide an organization with significant, long-term benefits of higher revenues, innovation, and productivity. Diversity and inclusion open the door to a broader range of perspectives, innovative thinking, and fresh approaches, which is borne out by studies on the topic. 

International students also introduce a more diverse base of knowledge and skills that may not always be available in the local labour pool when your organization needs it. For example, your international hire will likely have the ability to communicate in more than one language, which is a competitive advantage in today’s global economy. 

As well, hiring these students strengthens diversity in your talent pipeline.

Their on-the-job experience equips them with company know-how and specific skills. If they’re a good match, they can become a priority recruitment group for permanent hires once they graduate, building diversity organically. 

With a more culturally diverse organization, your staff would fully represent and relate to the diversity of the clients and customers of today.

Hailey Kowalson, a recruitment partnership coordinator for SkipTheDishes, agrees.

“They [international students] come with experience and perspectives that you can’t put a financial dollar value on,” observes Kowalson. “And their international experience helps to broaden and create a welcoming culture internally,” she says.

Vijay Eswaran, Executive Chairman of the QI Group, an economist and author of the best-selling book, In the Sphere of Silence says, “having built and scaled a multinational enterprise over nearly two decades, I’ve learned that diversity in the workplace is an asset for both businesses and their employees due to its capacity to foster innovation, creativity and empathy in ways that homogeneous environments seldom do.” 

In February 2020, the Association for Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning BC/Yukon (ACE-WIL) launched a research project to discover the barriers to employment for students from international pathways. 

The overriding aim of their work was to increase employers’ awareness of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, identify and help resolve unconscious bias, and provide employers with tools to enhance their competencies for recruiting, hiring and onboarding international students. 

Researchers with ACE-WIL mined data from both the education and business sectors, including talking with employers and their hiring managers. They also gained the support and financial contributions of BC’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training that would result in a six-piece Toolkit, available free to employers today.

This Toolkit is not a road map or a prescription. It’s a highly informed, practical guide that can serve as a starting point for employers, organizations and public post-secondary institutions in hiring international students. The Toolkit illustrates how to integrate diversity and inclusion in the workplace in very practical ways. 

For instance, employers can begin by composing barrier-free job descriptions and removing cultural identity from candidates’ resumes so that the hiring staff are not influenced by conscious or unconscious bias.

There are tips for holding culturally neutral job interviews, helpful ways to onboard international students and recommended metrics to track the success of these hiring initiatives.

To access the Toolkit, including videos with employer and student testimonials, visit the ACE-WIL website.

“We live in a complex, interconnected world where diversity, shaped by globalization and technological advance, forms the fabric of modern society,” says Eswaran. Sharing Eswaran’s vision of the future: Practicing diversity and inclusion does not mean limiting employers’ options; instead, it expands and ensures them. 

For more information about ACE-WIL and work-integrated learning, visit