Onboarding Refugees: A Toolkit for BC Employers

Individuals who have worked in varying workplaces in Canada for some time have naturally adopted and generally better understand established Canadian workplace practices and norms. However, newcomers to Canada and, even more so, refugees, often do not have that background and need assistance from their employer to integrate into the workplace and become productive members of the workforce and, ultimately, their community. To effectively create a welcoming and inclusive workplace and to successfully integrate new employees who can contribute to productivity, employers need to take a planned approach that follows practical steps.

In response to this need, this Toolkit was created by the Immigrant Employment Council of BC to provide clear information, guidelines, best practices and tips for implementing successful onboarding practices in various workplace environments, including those that have needs and practices unlike typical office environments. The purpose of the Toolkit is to help BC employers more effectively recruit, hire, onboard and retain a diverse workforce that includes refugees. Employers who use the Toolkit will increase their knowledge of culturally sensitive hiring and retention practices and will boost their ability to create more inclusive workplaces.

The Toolkit offers a snapshot of current efforts aimed to provide co-ordinated cross-sectoral support to the re-settlement of refugees in BC, including the following examples:

  • Preparing the current workforce to welcome refugees, including providing clear expectations and training for managers and peers to work in diverse teams, providing information about potential cultural differences and developing an inclusive workplace by such means as training all employees in cultural competency, better communication and team-building activities;
  • Effectively onboarding new employees including refugees¬†by recognizing and dealing with cultural differences, introducing refugees to peers in order to develop relationships, making health and safety paramount;
  • Supporting refugees in the workplace by assigning a mentor, having informal family-friendly events, and educating staff of potential PTSD symptoms refugees might exhibit;
  • Implementing reasonable religious accommodation measures into the workplace;
  • Recognizing previous experience and credentials obtained by newcomers in their new country; and
  • Conducting interviews in a culturally sensitive manner.

At the end of the toolkit, the authors offer instructive profiles of refugees to BC from key source countries for 2015-2016: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Eritrea, and Somalia.

This resource would be of value to employers and practitioners wishing to learn more about welcoming and integrating refugees into the workplace.