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Improving Immigrant Inclusion in the Workplace (2019)

Posted on:
August 25, 2020

What is this research about?

This report provides a summary of findings from a study on immigrant inclusion conducted collaboratively by researchers at the Centre for Research on Inclusion at Work (CRIW) at Sprott School of Business, Carleton University, Hire Immigrants Ottawa, and World Skills Employment Centre. The study was undertaken to better understand immigrants’ experience of inclusion in Canadian organizations. In particular, this project aimed to uncover organizational practices and strategies to facilitate immigrant attraction, inclusion and retention.

What do you need to know?

Immigrants are critical to sustain Canadian economic growth by mitigating labor shortages associated to population aging and low birth rate. In the global war for talent, organizations able to leverage multiple sources of talent are better positioned to succeed in a global economic environment. Despite the critical role of immigrants for Canadian economic growth and organizational success, low levels of labor market integration of immigrants persist.

What did the researchers do?

Centre for Research on Inclusion at Work (CRIW) researchers conducted five focus groups with former participants of the World Skills Employment Centre’s Ottawa Job Match Network, a program that facilitates employment for highly skilled immigrants. The total number of participants in the study was 24. The participants included employees of government agencies, non-profit and business sectors, as well as self-employed individuals.

Most participants had an excellent command of the English and/or French languages, had graduate degrees, and were experienced professionals. The sample had a balanced representation of male and female participants.

During the focus groups, participants were asked to discuss their experience searching for jobs in Canada, their experiences after being hired, as well as their views about the ways the process of integration can be facilitated by immigrant-serving organizations and hiring employers.

What did the researcher find?

Participants in this study were appreciative of the support received by immigrant-serving organizations in general, and World Skills in particular. They reported receiving useful advice and assistance, and suggested that the Ottawa Job Match Network played a key role in providing them with employment opportunities. Through participation in the Ottawa Job Match Network, participants felt better informed about the Canadian job market, improved their job search strategies, and learned about employers’ expectations, and hiring norms. They also reported feeling better prepared and able to adjust to the new organization once they found employment. They highlighted the role of the program in supporting them to build and leverage professional networks which were instrumental in their careers. Many of the World Skills’ clients interviewed had relatively well-paid jobs aligning with their expectations and qualifications.

In contrast, those who used the services of immigrant-serving organizations less frequently, reported greater difficulty maintaining permanent employment.

Specific findings:

  • Job-matching programs play key role in helping immigrants connect to well-paying jobs aligning with their skills.
  • Immigrant challenges in understanding communication nuances and becoming part of informal networks within the workplace, are exacerbated in part-time and short-term contracts.
  • By building stronger partnerships with immigrant-serving organizations, employers can broaden their network and access to highly qualified international talent.
  • By dedicating time to explore immigrant employees’ experience, employers can better understand their potential and prevent immigrants working below their professional level.
  • Immigrant-serving organizations can play a greater role, helping skilled immigrants connect to other immigrants and Canadian-born individuals employed within the same sector.
  • Mock networking where immigrants can practice new communication skills, could help them reap more benefits from networking opportunities.
  • Immigrants making an active effort to cultivate networks with Canadian-born individuals and immigrants in positions of power within the desired employment sector are often successful in gaining permanent skill-appropriate employment.
  • Building relationship with colleagues is essential for securing permanent employment and advancing within the organization.
  • Centralizing the process of credentials recognition for immigrants would greatly increase the employment success rate of highly qualified international talent.
  • Policy makers should consider expanding the period of eligibility for employment support beyond the time of receiving citizenship to assist immigrants who fail to secure skill-appropriate employment in the first years of arrival.

How can you use this research?

CRIW researchers identified a few actions policy makers, immigrant-serving organizations, employers, and immigrants can take to improve newcomers’ employability and transition to employment.

The key recommendations to policy makers are to modify the existing incentives structures and to provide supplementary funding for new programs to be offered by immigrant-serving organizations.

The main recommendation to immigrant-serving organizations is to assume a more active role in facilitating the development of immigrant professional networks and to more actively connect with successful alumni. In addition, they could offer advice on pursuing additional education and could offer more targeted programs intended for specific professions and occupations.

This study encourages employers to tap more into immigrant networks and to communicate with immigrant-serving organizations to a greater extent to identify employable newcomers. This study also suggests some recommendations to ensure greater integration of immigrants into their workplace.

One of the most important recommendations is for newcomers to continue interaction with immigrant-serving organizations even after they found their initial employment. This study also encourages immigrants to seek out mentors, especially among other immigrants and long-term employees, and to diversify their networking strategies. Finally, this study urges long-term immigrants, who have already become established in Canada, to reach out and assist other newcomers in their search for employment and integration into Canadian workplaces.


This project aimed to uncover organizational practices and strategies to facilitate immigrant attraction, inclusion and retention.