Nancy Steele: 2010 IS Awards Winner: 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.