‘Good ideas from Toronto’: A perspective from the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences

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Iken_Foto_HlBWhile TRIEC focuses on GTA workplaces – its learning resources have found popularity throughout Canada – and beyond! Dr Adelheid Iken, Professor of Intercultural Communications at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, talks about how she uses TRIEC’s learning resources in the courses she teaches.

 

Dr. Iken, how did you connect with TRIEC?

I first heard about the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council in 2011. It was during an event hosted by The Körber foundation, a non-profit organization providing a platform to discuss important political topics.

Several Canadian institutions and NGOs had joined to present their ideas and best practices to help newcomers integrate to the country. Among them was the Maytree Foundation, the Toronto Police Service, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and TRIEC.

What inspired you to use TRIEC’s learning resources?

At the 2011 event, the presentations focused on the idea that people from diverse backgrounds have a lot to offer society and the economy. When teaching my course on cross-cultural management, we challenge students to identify how we can support this, major challenges, and what best practices exist.

We strive to help students develop a global mindset towards management issues. Not only on immigrants per se, but rather on the need to encourage cultural diversity within companies and internationalizing company operations.

TRIECs material supports this by touching on three topics linked to intercultural competence: knowledge, awareness and skills. TRIEC videos raise awareness of cultural differences by showing perspectives on conversations and behavior. Students apply what they learn to designing an inclusive workplace.

How have TRIEC’s learning resources helped you in offering an engaging experience for students?

Even though the resources were developed as employer roadmaps, they are wonderful learning tools for students. After viewing and discussing the material, students sketch out a comprehensive ‘welcoming culture’ to attract, hire and retain skilled people. This is meant not just to facilitate the inclusion of newcomers but to support a paradigm shift toward viewing people with diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds as an important addition to society.

Have any of the TRIEC resources in particular opened student’s eyes issues around diversity and inclusion in hiring?

The video on ‘essential versus non-essential skills’ shows how perceptions about job requirements are influenced by one’s own background, and how different cultures have different notions of what it means to fit in at work. Being aware of this allows us to question and distinguish between the ‘must haves’ in order to fill the position and the ‘nice to haves’ commonly referred to as assets.

Other sections, like one examining social interactions at work, helps to explore unspoken concerns an employer may have around including diverse employees.

How is your work educating business leaders in intercultural competency important to you?

The world has changed as people have become more mobile and populations more diverse. Business leaders are finding it necessary to join the global arena in order to find top talent.

Today, people are reaching Germany from over 100 different countries, adding to its cultural diversity. Just about every second child starting school in Hamburg either has a parent who is foreign born, or moved to Germany with family.

It is important to discuss how companies can benefit from cultural diversity to meet the challenges of today’s business world.

TRIEC develops learning resources on topics including recruitment, leadership, diversity strategy and communication. You can register for a free account on www.trieccampus.ca to view our catalogue of e-learning modules, videos and guides.

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