When your business hires immigrants, it needs to take steps to ensure the new employees become valued members of the organization without feeling the need to hide their cultural heritage. Multiple strategies, including equal opportunity employment briefings and the implementation of a workplace diversity program, can help expedite acceptance and growth as can selecting future employees who add value to the company.
Hire Talented Workers
Avoid paying lip service to the need for a diverse workplace and actively seek out talented employees who are also members of a protected employment class. Hiring an immigrant only to meet a legal or arbitrarily determined quota may make it harder for co-workers to accept the new employee. For example, if you recruit a person with an obvious lack of skill, talent or experience in your industry, other employees will notice and may resent the lack of valuable contributions she can make in the workplace, particularly if the other employees find that their workload increases to offset the inefficiency.
Whether your company is in the beginning stages of adding immigrants to the payroll or already employs foreign-born workers, it needs to implement regular equal employment opportunity law briefings if they don't already take place. Continually reinforcing the boundaries of appropriate workplace behavior helps reduce the inappropriate comments new workers will hear while providing current workers with the information needed to avoid inadvertently crossing the line into harassment with a culturally insensitive remark. The meetings also provide new hires with the opportunity to learn about employment laws focused on gender bias, sexual harassment and religious discrimination.
Implement Diversity Programs
Workplace diversity programs offer greater interaction with the culture of all of your employees through both formal and informal programs. These initiatives seek to educate workers about cultural differences with the thought that increased understanding will help eliminate unconscious biases. Without the barriers that bias erects between workers, your business will begin to feel more inclusive for all of your employees. Consider hosting a potluck lunch where each worker brings a dish and explains its personal or cultural significance or sponsoring a formal meeting where employees spend a few minutes discussing their culture or homeland.
Demonstrate Your Value
If you are a new immigrant employee at a business, you can also take steps to feel more included and valuable in the workplace. If a co-worker makes an inappropriate comment, correct her and explain why you object to the statement. Conversely, if a co-worker politely inquires about an aspect of your culture you feel comfortable discussing in the workplace, such as why you wear a head covering, provide a simple explanation. If English is not your first language and you miss part of a conversation or don't understand certain phrases, ask for clarification to ensure you stay on top of important workplace news and are aware of any new assignments.
- Lean In: Creating a Level Playing Field
- Forbes: Why Most Corporate Diversity Programs Are Wrong-headed
- University of Washington: Diversity Programs Give Illusion of Corporate Fairness, Study Shows corporate fairness, study shows
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Employment Rights of Immigrants Under Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws
- Ithaca College: Eliminate Bias: Create a Community of Respect
- PACT Training: Designing Effective Workforce Diversity Training Programs
Ashley Mott has 12 years of small business management experience and a BSBA in accounting from Columbia. She is a full-time government and public safety reporter for Gannett.