Hiring foreign workers one hurdle at a time

Hiring foreign workers one hurdle at a time


Published in :
Business strategies
Human resources
Published on 18 June 2019
Reading: 3 minutes

Hiring foreign workers one hurdle at a time

At the latest Governance Day—a Desjardins Capital initiative—Julie Lessard, lawyer and business immigration professional, shared her observations and advice for successfully onboarding foreign workers. It’s no walk in the park, and the hurdle-jumping applies to both employers and newcomers, with challenges running the gamut of the legal, the organizational, and the personal.

An ounce of prevention…

Just a few minutes of listening to this lawyer are sufficient for you to realize the abundance—and complexity—of current programs, especially when some of them may change depending on the sector or region you’re dealing with. Challenges may start piling up enough to cause you serious headaches, even if you’re only dealing with a seemingly straightforward employee transfer.

For organizations without much experience, BCF partner Lessard warns that the temptation to hire foreign workers via the traditional HR route generally buys you a one-way ticket to failure. That’s why it’s so crucial for companies to craft a winning strategy that meets their labour challenges head on and overcomes them.

Obstacles commensurate with the benefits

To get a better look under the hood, she advises using specialized resources that are able to oversee and deploy the best possible means of hiring—and especially retaining—new talent. For instance, regulatorily speaking Lessard says that when recruiting international workers, “organizations can’t just refer to their own pay scales—they need to look to government-mandated ones too.” If they don’t, they’re in for some nasty surprises later on down the line.

Once you’ve gotten past the red tape, other hurdles will present themselves—the French language, for one. Another: two thirds of newcomers choose to settle in the greater Montreal area, which makes things trickier for the many regions hurting from the labour shortage elsewhere in Quebec. Another factor is time. Sometimes, things can take up to several months, “Since the process may drag on for quite a while, requiring much effort in addition to time, it’s so important to produce positive results in the end,” remarks Lessard. “That’s why leaders need to get a good grasp on the programs available to them and manage expectations responsibly.”

In the same vein, she underscores the fact that overselling the company upstream could eventually result in disappointment later on, followed by the foreign prospect pulling out altogether. Being realistic and transparent is therefore an important part of the deal.



The X factor: family

“When it comes to foreign talent, failure to retain often boils down to family, at least 50% of the time,” observes Lessard. This very important factor should motivate companies to create environments in which these freshly arrived workers can thrive. “If you just tell them ‘here’s your new job, settle in, we trust you now’, you’re likely to see disengagement as a result,” the lawyer explains. “So, if you want the experience to come up aces, family needs to be at the forefront of what you do.”

Some things Lessard wants companies to consider: explaining the labyrinthine educational system, imparting how healthcare works, accounting for transit costs, assisting with accommodation, and even providing the potential for the foreign worker’s partner to find work. “It’s not only important to have the best interests of the company at heart, but the person’s as well—they’re often leaving a lot behind.”

Governance is capital

When it comes to governance, boards can choose to play a central role. How so? By making sure that all the steps and lessons learned along the way lead to new know-how, and by also having the willingness to reach out to a potential talent pool that’s ready to contribute to the consolidation and growth of their organizations.

According to Jean Gaudreault, President at Garant and guest panelist at Governance Day, skilled immigrants should benefit from more flexibility when it comes to getting their credentials recognized, “We have to streamline regulations so these people can land good jobs,” says the leader of the one-hundred-year-old company based out of Montmagny.