As Canadian companies look increasingly to diversify their markets beyond the United States, they are more and more tapping into the potential of their immigrant employees to act as bridges in both communication and culture.
“If you speak the language, it opens doors,” says geophysicist Tesfakiros Haile, who immigrated to Canada from Eritrea, and is now in charge of developing the African market for Toronto-based Phoenix Geophysics Ltd. “People [in the country] give you a chance, they listen. They might not know the equipment we are selling, but it builds trust and helps people feel comfortable with us.”
Haile says it is the small cultural differences that his clients notice, such as not shaking hands with a woman or not using a person’s first name. Business is conducted differently across the world.
The potential for emerging markets is huge for Canadian employers who, particularly after the recent recession, are looking to find more trading partners and reduce reliance upon the U.S. economic conditions.
With nations like China and India experiencing massive economic growth, there will be an increasing need for Canadian employees who have Chinese background (approximately 1.3 million) and Indian backgrounds (approximately one million).
Already these techniques are being adopted in the Canadian business world. A recent study on immigrants in the workplace found that nearly 20 percent of Canadian companies have reported hiring a skilled immigrant for the purposes of market diversification.
Economic statistics support further exploration of the tie between immigrant workers and foreign market potential. A study conducted last October by the Conference Board of Canada showed that for every one percent increase in immigrants to the country, there was a 0.21 percent increase on the value of imports and 0.11 on the value of exports.
“When you want to choose market makers, you need people with the languages,” says Phoenix president Leo Fox. “You need to know how people think in that culture.”
Source: Globe and Mail