What are good strategies for employers with immigrant workforces?
-- Training supervisor in need, wholesale grocer, Westfield, Massachusetts.
A Dear In-Need:
Today's U.S. workforce is becoming increasingly diverse as immigrants helpmeet the labor shortage. With these new employees, however, can comedifficulties in communication and understanding. How can employers best utilizethe talents of their multicultural employees and still adhere to theorganization's management philosophies?
The answer is the same as it is for all employees: Get them involved. Whenemployers are honest and straightforward with their employees, invariablyemployees respond positively. Through communication methods, employees can learnhow their own contributions are crucial to the company's success and, therefore,their own success. Involvement connotes trust, and trust is a trait highlyvalued by many immigrants.
Also, you can build relationships by sharing with employees and seeking theirinput, another concept highly valued by immigrants. Indeed, until immigrantsfeel they can trust their employers, they may be reluctant to reveal theirthoughts, which can impede productivity.
So, how do employers create an environment of trust? This can be morecomplicated than with American-born employees who have become accustomed toliving in a culture of candor.
The American individualistic way of life is the opposite of what manyimmigrants have experienced. Most cultures outside the U.S. are group-oriented,in that the group's welfare takes priority over that of the individual; thegroup can mean the family, company or country. As such, group-oriented culturesare hierarchical in nature, and authority is clear-cut, often patriarchal.
When American employers empower their employees by giving them moreresponsibility and expecting to hear if something goes wrong, they may not betaking into account that, in the immigrants' lexicon, the boss is supposed to bein charge and the employee would never think of embarrassing the employer orsuperseding the employer's authority by speaking of a company-related matter ina negative way.
A developmental method often used successfully is to have an intermediary(usually from that group) between the immigrants and the employer, so that theimmigrants will feel comfortable in discussing their problems and contributingtheir own suggestions for solutions. As the immigrants' comfort levels increase-- which will result only if the employer responds constructively to immigrantconcerns -- immediate supervisors eventually could assume the intermediary role.This win/win strategy leads to immigrants working at their full potential andemployers reaping the rewards of a satisfied workforce.
SOURCE: Judith A.Starkey, The Starkey Group, Inc., Chicago, Ill., author ofMulticultural Communication Strategies, April 25, 2001.
LEARN MORE: See "ForeignRelations," for moreinformation on how human resources can help foreign-born employees adapt toAmerican business practices.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide usefulinformation on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice ora legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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