Helping new Canadians feel they belong in the workplace

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New Canadians are benefiting from an innovative project that helps them adapt to the rapidly changing workplace culture in Canada. It all started with a partnership between George Brown College and CultureLink, a settlement and community organization. The partnership led to the development of guidelines to support new immigrants in the workplace and provided invaluable experiential learning opportunities for students at the college.

George Brown students and faculty first set out to understand the culture-based perceptions of new immigrants with advanced degrees, or who were professionals in their fields before coming to Canada. To do this, the research team worked closely with immigrants who were participating in CultureLink’s immigrant workplace acclimation program.

“When our students get involved in applied research projects like this, they gain access to industry and community partners, as well as hands-on experience in their field,” says Dr. Robin Yap, a professor in George Brown’s School of Management and principal investigator on the project. “These skills are invaluable in their careers. Even for students who want to pursue non-research work, having the ability to distill data and discover patterns is a transferable skill for any workplace.”

The research team developed a belongingness model with guidelines to support the evolution of a Canadian workplace with multi-cultural employees who have gone through the process of social, psychological and cultural change that stems from blending between cultures, also known as acculturation.

The guidelines created by Yap’s team include a virtual toolkit made up of training documents and videos to support settlement organizations, post-secondary institutions and private organizations that want to update or build programs for immigrants.

Yap’s team observed that when work environments created opportunities for belongingness among their employees, immigrants were better able to gain and maintain employment, and they were more satisfied in their roles.

“It is important for leaders to develop work environments where newcomers feel they belong,” explains Yap, “otherwise we run the risk of having a work culture where cliques of similar-culture immigrants connect together without integrating, let alone acculturating, into the workplace.”

To learn more about this project and the belongingness model, visit