Resiliency of Employers and Migrants York Region

Much of the current settlement services as well as studies have focused on skilled migrant job search and entry into organizations. Yet, much less is known about the migrant experiences and integration post-entry and most importantly the employer perspective in this context. Moreover, it remains little understood whether employers can in fact promote migrant resilience through their policies and practices and their specific role in migrant integration.

This study will focus on local HR professionals, often seen as ‘local gatekeepers’ and their understanding and experiences related to selecting, developing and integration skilled migrants into local organizations. Given the often-noted differences in resources and the possibly more challenging context of small/medium vs. larger employers, we will sample HR professionals from SMEs in each region to understand the potential differences in the approach/policies and practice. These findings will provide actionable advice for how SMEs may further enhance their approach to managing diversity, especially regarding integrating skilled migrants. We will aim at interviewing individuals in HR roles who are able to comment on the overall diversity and inclusion strategy and who have broader understanding of issues somewhat beyond any one functional area of HR (e.g., recruitment only). If feasible, we would also seek to have a short interview with a line manager in the same organization as to obtain more depth regarding day-to-day experiences in working, collaborating and communicating with migrant workforce.

Their perspective is especially important in terms of any changes or ways that organizations may view diversity in the existing context of crisis. Organizational context is very dynamic and must be adapt to the current crisis very quickly. One group particularly relevant and involved in the current issues are HR professionals, whose focus are both insiders as well as those seeking to enter local companies during pandemic. Thus, the secondary focus of the HR professionals’ interview will be on ways that local organizations have managed (and may continue to do so) the current crisis (i.e., in relation to communication/well being/tasks etc.) and more specifically in relation to selection/hiring and managing diversity overall.

Given the participation of 6 regions within BMRC – various comparisons of data will be possible– by the city/sector/size of organization etc.

We will focus on 3 sectors best represented in each region and found to employ migrants – Specific ways of contacting relevant SMEs are still be discussed – from Chamber of Commerce lists to specific listings of businesses/websites of this type as well as through personal contacts in each region.

We will focus our interview agenda:1) on the issues related to the existing workforce composition, any current diversity policy/practise in place 2) Specific experiences/scenarios/challenges in selecting, developing and integration migrant workers; 3) as well as communication and day to day experiences between migrant workforce and local workforce; 4) Covid-19 crisis and Diversity management.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Spring 2023

  • SME study is progressing as planned.
  • Completed 30 interviews and presented preliminary data at Metropolis.
  • Doing data analysis and continuing to find interesting and policy relevant themes - broadly related to informal and sometimes intuitive way of managing DEI in SME orgs.
  • Decided to do 5 more interviews as there are a few more outstanding ques7ons that came up as relevant in our analysis.

Summer 2023

  • Present this work work in August at the Academy of Management conference.

Fall 2023

Project Director:

  • Jelena Zikic, Associate Professor, York University
  • Viktoriya Voloshyna, Gradutate student, York University
  • Viktoriya Voloshyna
  • Marlee Mercer
  • Tina Sharifi
Community Partners:
  • Access employment and York Region
  • Master of Human Resource Management program at York University
  • SME associations in the GTA

What is our approach?

Research will focus on employer’s roles in migrant resilience inside and outside the workplace. The study will (i) using secondary data analysis, identify sectors in each metropolitan area that hire migrants (ii) interview or survey employers about the benefits and challenges of hiring migrant workers and the strategies that they use to integrate them into the workforce, and promote their retention, training and development and career advancement, and (iii) interview migrant workers about their workplace experiences and how they affect migrants’ resilience.

Secondary data mostly from the 2016 census will be analysed to compare employment conditions and incomes for immigrant men and women by sector in each metropolitan area and in the two provinces. (Note: some analysis of secondary data has already been completed by Marshia Akbar as a postdoc, so additional analysis should extend this research). Workplace practices with regard to the recruitment, development, retention, and promotion of newcomers will be compared. The two sides of the employment relationship will be examined: an integrated online survey of employers and focus groups with HR professionals will investigate their ideas about hiring migrant workers and workplace practices that increase migrant workers’ resilience, and focus groups with migrant workers will discuss how migrants think workplace practices affect their resilience. The proposed study will take advantage of the crisis caused by the global pandemic that has heightened the settlement challenges facing migrants and focused attention on how social institutions of all types, including the workplace, influence migrant workers’ resilience.