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Train Differently! – New Shifts in HR (2 of 3)

An increase in immigrant staff with eastern business mindsets, combined with the unique work values of Generation Y employees have created a workplace diversity that has turned leadership and human resource planning on its head.

New immigrants coming into Canadian workplaces from Philippines, India, Pakistan, and China bring with them an eastern view of communications and work relationships. Generation Y employees (in their early 30s and younger) bring different values and expectations to the workplace than their Baby Boomer and Generation X colleagues.

Although managers would like to manage these diverse new employees as they have Canadian born or older generation workers – they do so at their peril. Without understanding and making adjustments for this diversity, organizations may experience a loss of productivity and increase in turnover.

In this three part series, we will look at how this diversity affects how leaders manage time off expectations, training demands, and negative feedback.


For Generation Y – Training is Essential – But Not Their Father’s Training

As mentioned in the first article in this series, Generation Y as a group are motivated to succeed and therefore remain in workplaces where they experience training and mentoring. It is useful to understand what those different actions are and how they relate to what motivates Gen Ys.

When a manager shares information, she is teaching. When she shares her experiences, she is mentoring. When she develops skills and knowledge in others, she is training. When she moves an employee from functionality to potential, she is coaching.

Previous generations were generally given information or taught. Gen Ys believe information is a cheap commodity, available via Google. What they want is the sharing of experiences and development of skills. A manager must ask himself: “What has this employee learned and what skills are transferable by being part of our team? What other learning opportunities can we provide?”

Due to flattened layers of management, especially in smaller organizations, promotion may not be possible – but professional development always is.



New Canadians – Training for Specifics

Canada is an immigrant nation and its national character has been defined as much by the people who arrived on its shores over the past 400 years as by the indigenous people who have inhabited the land for thousands of years. Due to this multicultural element and the lack of common understanding that accompanies more homogeneous nations, Canadian workplaces have a ‘low-context’ for communication. Without a unifying sense of the world they live in, people cannot afford to communicate in an implicit or unstated way without a high risk of miscommunication. This lack of context means that for the listener to receive the communicator’s message clearly, the speaker must be explicit and precise in their communication.

Good communication in a low-context environment is one where the speaker or writer is precise, using simple, specific and clear language. Messages are expressed and understood at what is termed ‘face value’ or “what I say is what I mean”. Repetition of statements, summaries and clarification questions are seen as key strategies for good communication in this kind of environment.

However, citizens from Asian countries are more likely to be ‘high context’ where good communication assumes common understanding of what people mean with minimum words or gestures. It is highly nuanced and layered, often with secondary meaning beneath the ‘face value’ message. Messages are implied and communicators look beyond what is being presented on the surface.

Managers need to not only be listening and reacting differently with an immigrant from a high context nation, they also need to move that person to a more balanced communication style with others in the team. Here are four key strategies to share with them:

  • Be specific
  • State your ideas clearly and in a linear format
  • Recap key points
  • Ask for clarification if you are unclear on the message.

When you have high context employees on your team from different cultures, the best – and only – effective choice is for EVERYONE to focus on the low context behaviours of clear, explicit communication.




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