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Integrate and retain immigrant talent

Orlando Gil Published on 11 October 2010

As we face the everyday challenges of operating a dairy enterprise, hiring, integrating and retaining employees are probably some of the key activities that, if done well, will help ensure the success and sustainability of the operation. With an ever-increasing number of immigrants working in dairy operations, how we integrate this talent and how we retain the best will help us reach these goals.

Immigrants might have some different needs when it comes to integrating into your operation, but when it comes to retention, the way it is addressed pretty much applies to all employees. People are people anywhere in the world. When you ask what really satisfies people and what makes them stay at their jobs, not surprisingly, the answers are very similar.

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How then, when we talk about integration, do you integrate immigrant talent into your operation?

Depending on how acculturated this talent is and their ability to communicate in the English language, here are some key things to keep in mind:

Integrating talent – Before start date and beyond
What processes are there in place to ensure a transition from the date of hiring until they become a productive employee? Activities in this category might include orientation to your operation, understanding their job description and initial training to perform the necessary tasks to be successful in their jobs.

Are there specific protocols that need to be followed when doing certain tasks? In case their understanding of the English language is limited, are these protocols available in their own language? Having translated documents or using an interpreter when dealing with a multicultural workforce can certainly be a plus, but not enough to ensure total understanding.

Observing and monitoring employees while they perform procedures will reveal their level of understanding. Their actions will show you how well they understand what they are supposed to be doing.

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If there are issues with literacy, is there a trainer or mentor available that will show and teach them the tasks step by step until they can perform these at the expected level?

Is the manager readily available to follow up and encourage the new employee? Does the employee feel that he or she is now part of the work team? Many times a new employee may feel like an outsider just because everyone around them is busy and not enough attention is devoted to them to ensure they feel welcome.

What about some of the non-work-related issues an immigrant worker may have to deal with? Chances are they may be new to the area and to your community. How welcoming is the community where they will live? Do they need help in securing housing? How will they get to work? Do they have reliable transportation available?

Many questions…many variables. These are issues that will need to be addressed if you want to ensure a smooth transition from new hire to a productive member of your team when you are dealing with immigrant talent.

Rest assured however, that if you invest the time in addressing these and other issues that may come up, you will have a loyal employee that not only will be a productive member of your team, but also may be an employee that will be retained long term.

So if you do all of the above, will you ensure retention of immigrant talent? No, of course… we know that we can’t be 100 percent certain that an employee will stay long term, but as we mentioned in the beginning, there are certain things that do apply to all employees when it comes to success in retention.

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One of these has to do with compensation. All of us want to progress and feel that we are getting ahead. A possible way of addressing this is by setting up a compensation system that will tie raises to specific goals attained. For example, you might start an employee at a salary or hourly wage of “X” amount at hiring. At that time, specific goals for the employee’s development are set.

After six months and after attaining these specific goals, the employee may earn a raise to “XX” amount. At that time, both you and the employee again set specific goals to be attained in the following six months.

After these next six months and after attaining the next set of goals, they earn “XXX” amount. And so on… The idea here is that they are earning these raises because they have met and attained specific goals to which you have both agreed.

A system can be developed where you are able to budget raises with specific increments that will provide the employee the sense of progression tied to compensation and you, the employer, guidelines for employee development and a budget you can manage.

Some of the other things to keep in mind when addressing retention are:
• All employees will want safety in their jobs, both personal safety and on-the-job safety.

• All employees do want respect and recognition for a job well done.

• All employees want to be challenged to be and do their best.

• All employees will respond positively to you wanting them to succeed at work, at home and as individuals.

When treating employees, whether they are immigrants or native-born, one may want to remember that disrespect is perceived as disrespect in any part of the world and a smile means the same thing whether it is in English, in Spanish or in Chinese for that matter! PD

Orlando Gil
  • Orlando Gil

  • President
  • TCTS Global
  • Email Orlando Gil

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