by Jeff MacPherson
The City of Edmonton is running a Canadian Workplace Culture pilot project for their staff who are Internationally Educated Professionals (IEP) and newcomer graduates from Canadian Universities. Participants are individuals whose first language may not be English; in fact, many of them speak three or more languages and English is the most recent language they have learned. The newcomers were invited to participate in this eight-month project about communication skills and conversation management for the professional workplace. The diversity within the group in terms of the number of years of service with the City, how long they have been in Canada, marital status, age, gender and occupation was immense.
Why did the City consider implementing such a project? Language is more than words; it is also about how we communicate. We can learn English grammar, but it’s another thing to learn the soft skills, the cultural nuances and the unwritten rules of communication. That is why the curriculum of the pilot program focuses on integrating IEPs and other graduates into the Canadian Workplace. The sessions follow a structured curriculum and cover a range of topics that includes an introduction to the Canadian-workplace culture, non-verbal communication signals, and giving informal and formal presentations. The group meets twice a month between February and December 2013.
To implement a successful program, buy-in from senior leadership is ‘a must’. In this case, the Manager of Drainage Services, and the Diversity and Inclusion Consultant in the Human Resources Branch partnered with Norquest College to assist Drainage staff in improving both their language and presentation skills. The City views this as an investment in their employees and the participants see this training as an investment in their careers.
Effective communication is an essential skill in today’s workplace which can lead to collaboration, sharing of information and relationship building. The anticipated outcomes for participants also include increased self-confidence and ongoing positive interactions both with team members and customers.
The City hopes that the pilot will be highly successful and that this will lead to similar program offerings to other employees within the City of Edmonton. Hopefully, other employers will follow The City’s lead in building a diverse workforce!
(Special thanks to Candy Khan, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant and Jeff MacPherson Branch Manager Human Resources, City Of Edmonton for this week’s blog contribution)