Innovation through Immigration

Contributed by Fernando Blasco and Carlos Paz-Soldan, Board Members, Hispanotech

In the 2017 Federal Budget, the Government of Canada announced its new Global Skills Strategy. At a time when the many other countries are closing their doors, and their eyes, this strategy will help companies bridge the growing talent gap, and take a proactive and positive approach to deal with technological changes and globalization. Being able to fast-track immigrant professionals through the Global Talent Stream will also allow companies to ‘re-tool’ more quickly and take advantage of opportunities in a more timely fashion.

This move will be beneficial to the Canadian IT sector. IT professionals around the world tend to have very similar training, and with language issues not as relevant as in other professions, immigrants provide a readymade source of talent that can join teams and be productive in a short space of time. Immigrants are also aware of the challenges they face, having left behind their professional networks, families, careers, and culture and so, they work harder to get ahead. In many cases, they also start businesses to give themselves the opportunities that may otherwise not be afforded to them. From what we’ve seen in the sector, IT professionals have close to 100% success rate integrating into the Canadian workforce.

The influx of immigrant talent will also increase diversity, which is a good driver of innovation. Diverse perspectives expand the breadth of ideas and approaches in organizations. In many countries, due to the lack of capital, professionals are encouraged to get the most out of existing technology. This enables them to come up with more innovative ideas and efficient solutions to solve existing challenges. The tech sector in Canada needs new ideas and innovation, which can be achieved by bringing in top talent from other countries. We can already see the growing impact of immigrant talent now in companies in Canada.

Having a diverse team of professionals also makes it easier to work with diverse clients, locally and internationally, by making it easier to bridge language and cultural differences. For example, in one of our organizations, we were able to participate in trade shows and prospect for clients in Brazil because we had an employee from Uruguay who spoke Portuguese and understood the local business culture. The book, ‘Why Mexicans don’t drink Molson,’ is a good resource in understanding the benefits of diversity when competing in international markets. We’ve also seen a lot of tech start-ups in the Kitchener/Waterloo region thriving through the contribution of immigrants.

So how can organizations be more inclusive? Starting off with recruitment, they should focus on the aptitude and attitude of the candidates, and look beyond stereotypes. A top-down strategy should be implemented to embed immigrants in key positions and learn from their experience. Embracing and celebrating diversity to create a welcoming culture that focuses on results and value of contributions and encouraging staff participation in professional associations to build their networks will also be helpful. Diversity breeds more diversity, and an inclusive society benefits from the full potential of all its people.

Fernando Blasco and Carlos Paz-Soldan are leaders from the professional association, Hispanotech, a member of TRIEC’s Professional Immigrant Networks (PINs) program. To learn more about PINs, visit the website www.networksforimmigrants.ca