Research Got Talent: Pathways to inclusion for newcomers

Winners of ESOMAR's Research Got Talent competition write about their project, in partnership with the YMCA Centre for Immigrant Programs, where they investigated the key employment challenges faced by newcomers to Canada.

4 min read
immigration newcomers

Integration and diversity have drawn much attention in recent years. Employers and managers have prioritized these issues in Canada and many countries worldwide when hiring and managing their workforce. As Canada plans to grow its population through immigration over the next several decades, there’s still work to do to ensure newcomers are positioned for success.

Part of this success relies on newcomers becoming gainfully employed and thriving in their work environment. Our study found several areas for improvement when it comes to supporting newcomers’ employment journeys, but some commendable initiatives already in place could guide future efforts.

This topic was explored using a two-phased research approach which captured perspectives from both the general public (via a survey of n=801 Canadian adults) and newcomers – recently arrived immigrants – via 14 in-depth interviews. This combination helped uncover workplace and employment-related barriers for newcomers. The survey used Maru’s Canadian general population panel. In-depth interview participants were clients of the YMCA Centre for Immigrant Programs (YMCA) based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.  All data collection took place in the summer of 2023.

This research aimed to identify the barriers newcomers face in the Canadian workplace and inform strategies for making workplaces more inclusive.

From this research, several key findings emerged.

The general public feels there’s still an opportunity for further education, although there’s strong evidence to suggest that Canadians value newcomers' contributions. The general population seems to understand that the term ‘newcomer’ refers simply to someone new to a place. But they rarely offer more specificity in their definition. In fact, nearly one-third of Canadians consider anyone not born in Canada to be a newcomer, regardless of how long they have lived in the country.

Results also revealed that non-newcomers aren’t always aware of the challenges newcomers actually face once employed in Canada. Furthermore, there’s a mismatch in terms of what non-newcomers think are challenges and what newcomers have experienced. (Figure 1).

This mismatch suggests that current efforts to improve workplace conditions should be examined to ensure they align with the actual challenges faced by newcomers.

newcomers graph

Figure 1. Please indicate the extent to which you think each of the following poses a challenge when it comes to working in Canada as a Newcomer. We used a four-point scale from not at all challenging to extremely challenging. n=801

From newcomers' perspectives, key challenges related to job-hunting in Canada included difficulties with English proficiency, difficulties with recognition of foreign credentials, and delays in hearing back on the success of job applications.

Meanwhile, key workplace challenges cited in both phases of the research included newcomers feeling isolated due to lack of familiarity with workplace culture and being underemployed due to lack of recognition of their international credentials.

Suggestions from newcomers to combat the challenges faced included:

  • Better on-the-job training

  • More formalized check-ins from supervisors,

  • Facilitated opportunities for newcomers to receive support from their peers, such as a ‘buddy system’ or mentorship program

Additionally, newcomers praised solutions like Nova Scotia’s RN Bridging program, suggesting that more sectors need programs to help newcomers bridge their skills so they can contribute to the field in which they are trained.

Based on these results, there’s much employers can do to accommodate newcomers. Giving extra attention to newcomers’ growth and development when they first join the organization, and even simply lending a listening ear, can go a long way towards fostering dedicated employees. That is, supporting newcomer employees in upskilling or credentialing so that they are utilized to their full capabilities benefits both employees and employers. When it comes to programs that bridge foreign and Canadian credentials, it might seem more difficult to effect change. That said, we recommend that employers commit to supporting newcomers and investigate available funding for developing international credentialing programs through their professional associations or otherwise.

With these small steps, as well as continuing to create welcoming spaces for people from different communities, employers can do their part to support a smooth settlement journey for newcomers, and eventually expect to reap the benefits of a diverse workforce.