Hiring Temporary Foreign Workers in Calgary

Hiring temporary foreign workers in Calgary is always risky. There may be cultural, language and/or religious considerations to keep in mind.  However, when there is work to be completed and a labour shortage to contend with what are employers to do? When I worked with Alberta Employment and Immigration I spearheaded many international recruitment missions. Blessed with traveling to the UK, Germany, Holland, the US and Asia I promoted a very easy commodity- the province of Alberta. Alberta is not a difficult sell. Globally speaking, the cost of living is considered very reasonable, it’s a safe and clean province with excellent schools and healthcare. The proximity to the Canadian Rocky Mountains makes it extremely attractive to many global visitors. Upon reflection however, I was part of a band-aid solution.  By simply hiring foreign workers many industries, particularly oil and gas, are creating rather than solving problems. Statistically, global teams are the most effective teams…if run efficiently and effectively…however, without knowledge in cross-cultural awareness these global teams are doomed to fail.

The top source labour markets for hiring foreign workers in Calgary are India, China, Pakistan, and the Philipines. Temporary foreign workers are recruited from these countries and many others destined for Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Red Deer and the booming oil and gas city of Ft. McMurray. All of these countries are collective in nature. Identifying with being a collectivist impacts everything work-related be it boardroom discussions, decision-making, team projects, phone conversations, perceptions of hierarchy (or lack thereof), and even Powerpoint presentations- yes, powerpoint presentations. Most Canadians are individualistic. Identifying with being collective or individualistic is not right nor wrong but definitely impacts global business.

Canadian human resource practitioners are charged with hiring the best and the brightest for positions- managerial, administrative, technical- all positions are needed and when there is a labour shortage then often temporary or permanent foreign workers are a potential solution. A typical question- or variation thereof- for a behavioral interview would be, “tell me about yourself”.  A Canadian individualist may focus on past individual achievements and accomplishments at the workplace. An human resource practitioner would use this example as a past achievement foreshadowing how this potential recruit may act in the workplace. A Japanese collectivist may focus and identify with the company they worked at and the division he worked in. He may focus on the team’s accomplishments- not because he did not contribute- far from it- but because a collectivist will identify with a company, a division, and would never glorify his own achievements and accomplishments as that would not showcase the team as being harmonious. Ultimately, this candidate may be ‘screened out’ as he could not exemplify his own achievements and accomplishments.

By offering cultural awareness training companies empower their employees with knowledge which ultimately contributes to productivity and profitability. There are many resources for employers online on how to create more effective global teams. Many immigrant serving agencies have mentorship programs. Additionally, to inquire about cost-effective cultural awareness and cross-cultural communication training please visit one of my Keynotes and Workshops pages.

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Tina Varughese