CBC Toronto Vision Award for Immigrant Inclusion: Toronto Foundation for Student Success
Toronto Star Award for Excellence in Workplace Integration: Deloitte
RBC Immigrant Advantage Award: Thales Canada, Transportation
Canadian HR Reporter Individual Achievement Award: Nancy Steele, Director, American Express Technologies
Congratulations to the 2010 IS Awards winners!
|Left to right are Michael Mackenzie, Thales Canada, Transportation; Zabeen Hirji, RBC; Elizabeth McIsaac, TRIEC; Yezdi Pavri, Deloitte; Bottom row: Nancy Steele, American Express Technologies and Catherine Parsonage, Toronto Foundation for Student Success. Photo credit: Camila Pucholt Photography|
CBC Toronto Vision Award for Immigrant Inclusion
A vision for immigrant inclusion has a literal meaning for the Toronto Foundation for Student Success (TFSS). As an advocate for students facing barriers to success, TFSS, the arm’s length charitable foundation of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) initiated the Sprott Management Gift of Sight and Sound Program, which has benefits beyond ensuring that students see the chalkboard.
When developing the program, designed to screen children in priority neighbourhoods for vision and/or hearing difficulties, TFSS chose to hire international medical graduates (IMGs) to administer the vision screenings. Initial accuracy rates were so high that IMGs now manage and coordinate the whole program. For the IMGs, it means work relevant to their profession while they pursue provincial certification. For students, IMGs are role models who can speak their languages.
“Kids have cried when they put on glasses for the first time, because they are finally able to see the world around them,” says Catherine Parsonage, TFSS Executive Director & CEO. “For IMGs, it’s paid employment, valuable experience, and increased optimism for the future. Two have already been accepted into residency positions.”
TFSS works with Skills for Change (SfC) to identify potential hires. “The IMGs are culturally-appropriate and reflective of student populations,” says Leslie Wagner of Career Transitions for International Medical Doctors at SfC.
Three years into the program, four full-time and six part-time IMG staff screen over 18,000 kids annually. Between them they speak 18 languages.
Dr. Lee Ford-Jones of Sick Kids Hospital, a specialist in paediatric care, is astounded by the results and the program’s potential: “It’s an opportunity for IMGs to get experience to help them enter the system and for those who can’t get in, because spots are limited, it demonstrates the potential to engage IMGs in meaningful healthcare work.”
The TDSB Model Schools for Inner Cities Initiative and Walmart Vision Centres are partners of the program, the latter providing half a million dollars worth of optometry services and free glasses annually.
In partnership with the TDSB and St. Michael’s Hospital, TFSS recently launched the Model Schools Paediatric Health Initiative with the directive to hire IMGs as coordinators.
TFSS has met with many stakeholders including the Ontario Medical Association, Nurses Secretariat and the College of Family Physicians to discuss how the program can be replicated throughout the province.
Toronto Star Award for Excellence in Workplace Integration
As a professional services firm with clients around the world, Deloitte understands the value of an internationally experienced workforce that can serve its diverse clientele. On top of wide-reaching recruitment strategies, the firm has formalized integration practices to better support skilled immigrant hires, their team and management. And it all starts with onboarding.
On their first day, new hires are introduced to a “buddy,” an initiative the firm sees as an opportunity for cross-cultural training for both participants. “The relationship I have with my buddy was open and friendly right from the start,” says Saleha Shafiq, Senior Associate at Deloitte, originally from Pakistan. “I know that I got up to speed so quickly because of our frank conversations about Deloitte and Canadian workplace etiquette.”
More formal meetings with a performance management coach identify development opportunities, including support for those pursuing their CA or other designation, and English and French language training, which increases confidence as well as skill sets. An interactive workshop helps immigrant hires understand local culture and practice.
In Toronto, 800-900 people are recruited annually from diverse channels including community agencies such as JVS. “We strive to be an ‘inclusive meritocracy’ – we bring people in based on merit, being as inclusive as possible,” notes Yezdi Pavri, Vice Chairman at Deloitte and also a TRIEC Board Member. “We have a solid business case for diversity, with a focus on helping individuals, including skilled immigrants, reach their highest potential. It’s good for them, and it’s good for the firm.”
The goal: to embed cultural awareness and diversity into Deloitte’s DNA. Five years ago, the company assembled 45 top executives to create its first national diversity council and then appointed its first Chief Diversity Officer to push the inclusion agenda forward. The firm has also established local talent and diversity councils in 15 cities, and the Chief Diversity Officer maintains a diversity blog to encourage ongoing dialogue.
Beginning this year, the firm is rolling out diversity training for all employees. As part of the performance management program, staff are asked to report on what they do to promote diversity in the firm, which helps the organization measure against its own goals as well as individual progression. Over 200 staff are already building cross-cultural skills as they mentor skilled immigrants through TRIEC’s Mentoring Partnership.
RBC Immigrant Advantage Award
When 90 per cent of your business is outside Canada, a multilingual workforce is an obvious asset. But for Thales Canada’s Transportation business, a country unit of a global leader in electronic systems, being able to converse in other languages is only the beginning. Thales produces “brains for trains,” sophisticated systems that allow urban metros to operate without drivers.
“The talent pool in Toronto is a major advantage,” says Michael Mackenzie, Chief Operating Officer. “It definitely facilitates our success. Multi-million dollar global projects require sensitive negotiations and strong working relationships. With overseas clients in areas such as Asia and the Middle East, it is a competitive advantage for us to have staff who understand the customers’ cultures and values, and who can communicate in the local language. Being confident about customer comprehension is critical. Having these capabilities allows us to break down barriers, and more effectively understand and provide solutions that address the unique needs of our customers.”
Global projects are at times comprised of a consortium of suppliers where Thales develops the train control system while other companies provide the trains and infrastructure. Understanding how to work across and within multicultural teams is just as important as comprehending client needs.
In the Toronto office, half the employees are immigrants, originating from over 29 countries and speaking over 30 languages among them. Seventy per cent are engineers, with training and experience from all over the world.
Thales hires for skill first, and will often conduct interviews in candidates’ native languages. The phrase “Canadian experience” is seldom uttered, while international experience is welcomed and discussed in detail. English language training isn’t about fitting in as much as expanding skill sets. The company also pays for professional memberships and offers tuition reimbursement, often as internationally experienced engineers work towards licensure.
With immigrants in senior management roles, new immigrant hires are inspired by what’s possible at Thales. And with a retention rate of over 95 per cent, it’s clear that immigrant employees are invested in a rewarding career with the company.
“Ultimately our business is selling and implementing safe solutions,” says Mackenzie. “Having a diverse staff that includes immigrants with international education and experience means that we’re able to develop and deliver those solutions more effectively and provide a higher level of customer satisfaction.”
Canadian HR Reporter Individual Achievement Award
As Director of American Express Technologies (AET), Nancy Steele’s plate is already full – but it’s what she’s achieved in her spare time that is earning attention throughout the company.
Although American Express Canada (AMEX) has long had a diverse workplace, three years ago Steele realized the company should be taking fuller advantage of Toronto’s international talent pool. The AET team wanted to formalize a recruitment strategy for skilled immigrants, while helping them excel in their new positions and maximize their skills. Further, managers sometimes struggled to understand other cultures and help staff succeed. AMEX encourages employees to take on extra projects, so Steele jumped in with both feet.
“TRIEC’s BUILD IT program is a big part of our strategy, starting with cross-cultural and leadership training for our managers,” notes Steele. “We also hold hiring events that connect our recruiters with pre-screened candidates, and in less than two years, we’ve hired 11 skilled immigrants through the program – fully 10 per cent of hires in the AET division. And our success is demonstrated in our improved retention rates.”
The hiring events are held in partnership with eight agencies through the CASIP network. Additional sourcing strategies include partnerships with universities and colleges, and Career Bridge, an internship program offered by Career Edge Organization. English language training enhances integration and promotion.
To be proactive, managers in AET and other departments are taking cross-cultural competency and leadership training to mitigate any potential challenges around cultural differences.
“In the last two years so much has changed at American Express Canada,” says Steele. “What makes me most proud is the feedback I get directly from our new skilled immigrant hires. They thank me for the opportunity to work here and grow their career with the company.”
Steele’s results have caught the attention of senior executives and other departments are asking about TRIEC and learning from AET.
“Nancy has spearheaded our skilled immigrant strategy in AET Canada and entrenched it as a core value of the American Express Technologies department,” says Theresa Hughes, Vice President, American Express Canada.
Steele isn’t done yet – now, she’s pushing the bar even higher as she works to build on integration strategies and take immigrant employment programs global.