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Bridging Gaps in Your Workplace When Hiring Immigrant Workers

Throughout the next decade, the ease of hiring immigrant workers is expected to change. The current Immigration Laws are being reviewed, and a new Bill presented by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) has been embraced by the Human Resources industry.


The Bill known as  The Immigration Innovation Act of 2018 (I-Squared) will make it easier for employers to hire top global talent in high-demand science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.  When no able, willing or qualified US candidates are available, employers would gain easier access to the green card system, making it easier for job seekers to accept and change employment. The Bill is also mindful of protecting U.S. workers. It will reform the H-1B program and provide additional resources to train and educate U.S. workers.


Should these changes come into effect, the landscape of your workforce could change. When hiring immigrant workers, no matter where they were born, your company should strive from an equal and harassment-free workplace.  All employees must be allowed to work free from fear. It’s not uncommon for immigrant workers to be underpaid, placed in a dangerous environments, and receive backlash from coworkers because they are not fitting in.


Keep in mind that hiring immigrant workers comes with its challenges. There’s often fundamental differences in workplace culture amongst countries. For example, simple practices such as shaking hands, calling people by their first name, or acceptable ways to communicate with coworkers can vary. The “rules of etiquette” in all countries should be discussed and understood. Not only for the immigrant workers joining your place of work, but for all employees.



4 Simple Ways to Increase Workplace Awareness When Hiring Immigrant Workers


Be Mindful of Body Language


Non-verbal communication can put a person at ease, or make them feel unwanted. First impressions are important in the workplace. By maintaining positive body language employees can show respect for others. When hiring immigrant workers, their body language is equally as important. Positive body language will show confidence and likability.


Respect Personal Space


Most people value their personal space. In many cultures touching when you greet someone or while walking is commonplace. In other cultures it makes people uncomfortable. When hiring immigrant workers teach them about personal space and set some firm boundaries. For example, keeping an arm’s length away (2 feet) between coworkers is a good place to start.


The Differences in Making Eye Contact


In Western cultures, eye contact is essential. Looking directly into a person’s eyes lets them know you’re paying attention and interested in what they are saying. In fact, a lack of eye contact makes Westerners uncomfortable, and can often be construed as unfriendly, untrustworthy or lacking self-confidence. However in other cultures, eye contact is less common and considered less appropriate.  In many circumstances intense eye contact is seen as aggressive, confrontational and very disrespectful. Certain cultures also have strict gender rules. Women who make too much eye contact could be misinterpreted as giving romantic signals. Making eye contact can also be a sign of disrespect. In Asian countries subordinates don’t make steady eye contact with their superiors, and a daughter will look downward when her father is speaking. When hiring immigrant workers these differences should be discussed.


What a Firm Handshake Also Means


In Western societies a firm handshake when meeting new coworkers is common. However shaking hands is also different for many cultures. For example, age matters in China, so the oldest people are greeted first, and instead of a firm handshake you can expect people to grip lightly and bow. In Turkey firm handshakes are considered rude. And, in certain cultures it’s considered impolite for women to shake hands at all.  In France, a kiss on both cheeks often accompanies a light quick shake. The takeaway: when hiring immigrant workers having knowledge of different customs can add a level of respect and understanding to your workplace.


It’s your duty as an Human Resources professional or business executive to ensure that all workers, no matter what their immigration status, have the same rights, and that their status isn’t used an excuse to justify abusive behavior.


If you need help hiring immigrant workers from a pool of top global talent, or help transitioning newcomers into your workplace, we can help. Simply contact us or call 301-459-3133 for a free consultation today.

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