Tips for managing cultural diversity in the workplace

Are you a manager or HR director? Are cross-cultural relations a topical issue in light of new hires? Here are a few easy tips for implementing an efficient strategy on this matter. They were taken from a guide to help SMEs (in French only), created by the Collège de Maisonneuve’s Institut de recherche sur l’intégration professionnelle des immigrants (IRIPI) at the request of the Conseil emploi métropole.

The importance of an immigrant workforce in your company

There is a growing labour shortage in Greater Montreal. In order to overcome this challenge, companies need to adapt by hiring immigrant workers. Implementing a strategy to foster effective cross-cultural interactions will help your company stand out.

What are the advantages of this strategy? There are several. In addition to helping immigrants integrate and contributing to Quebec’s economic growth, implementing a strategy to manage cross-cultural interactions will allow you to:

  • Expand your pool of potential candidates by increasing your chances of hiring immigrants.
  • Retain valued employees for their skills by overcoming cultural biases.
  • Offer work experience to workers trained abroad.
  • Increase your company’s efficiency and performance thanks to better collaboration in your teams.

This strategy must focus on your employees: they are your best ambassadors.

6 tips for efficiently managing diversity

Concretely, how do you manage diversity? Here are six tips to help you.

First and foremost, you need to keep the following in mind:

  • The hierarchal structure of an SME, which makes interactions more direct and frequent than in other types of companies. In terms of cultural diversity, this proximity between employees increases the risks of misunderstandings. That’s why it’s important to efficiently manage diversity within your organization.
  • The work culture in Quebec: equality, cooperation, respect, flexibility, and participation are the main values most companies here espouse.

What’s next? You can have an impact on:

  • The hiring process (staffing):
    By using a neutral vocabulary when writing your job offer, which could make more immigrant workers apply for the position.

“Over time, we’ve simplified our job offers to ensure we reach as many potential candidates as possible.”

HR director of a company in the IT and communications sector.

  • Welcome and integration:
    By setting up a mentorship program between new arrivals and established employees.
  • Comprehension of the workplace language (ability to speak the language used in the workplace):
    By offering internal French lessons to help immigrant workers understand the specific vocabulary used in your industry.
  • A feeling of belonging within the organization (socialization):
    By creating cross-cultural events that allow immigrant workers to share their culture.
  • Respect and understanding of each worker’s culture (cross-cultural communications):
    Limit misunderstandings by creating a glossary that includes the most frequently used terms in your company.
  • Specific requests and reasonable accommodations:
    By creating a work-life balance policy. This will ensure no one is at a disadvantage.

More information on these practices is available in six practical files included in the guide.

Main risks of misunderstanding

Some words or expressions don’t mean the same thing everywhere. Keep in mind that the business terms you use regularly might have varying definitions in different countries.

Body language can also vary from one country to another. For instance, North Americans tend to look each other in the eye as a sign of equality. In some Asian cultures, avoiding eye contact is considered a sign of respect.


This guide is a tool to help raise awareness about the challenges of cross-cultural interactions and it is also a compendium of tried-and-tested practices in the workplace. Using it will help you better integrate immigrant workers into your teams and decrease the risk of misunderstandings related to communication, perceptions, and different meanings. You’ll be able to help your organization take full advantage of the benefits of having a multicultural team.

This document, created by the IRIPI at the request of the Conseil emploi metropole, is the result of interviews with HR directors and immigrant workers as well as two discussion panels with corporate advisors from Emploi-Québec and HR consultants.

About Conseil emploi métropole

The Conseil emploi métrpole is the largest group of labour market representatives in the Montreal census metropolitan area. It invites members and partners to gather around issues related to the metropolitan job market. Thanks to its collaborative strength, it recommends action strategies and advises the Commission des partenaires du marché du travail and the ministère du Travail, de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale.

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