For more than a decade I have been speaking to managers about the performance of overseas born professionals (OBP) undertaking work placements to gain exposure to the Australian workplace.
- Do their skills meet the requirements of the role?
- Is their knowledge of industry standards sufficient?
- Are they able to function well independently and in teams?
- Are their communication skills adequate for a professional environment?
Employer feedback is, most often, very positive; sometimes employers express disbelief that the candidate has not been able to find work given the level of his/her expertise and experience. However, operating at a professional level in a new culture doesn’t come without its challenges.
Common feedback from employers regarding challenges faced by overseas born professionals includes:
- Being assertive in the new culture
- Negotiating with clients
- Speaking confidently at meetings
- Writing effective emails and reports
- Expressing thoughts fluently and to the depth required
- Understanding the Australian humour, slang and accent
- Finding common ground for conversations with colleagues
- Dealing with difficult colleagues
- Communicating with a level of formality much lower than in workplaces overseas
- Operating in a flatter organisational structure. Your manager actually wants your advice???
- Demonstrating initiative in solving problems
- Participating in Friday night drinks
- Being challenged by gender equality in the workplace
Up until now, much of the focus has been on what the OBP needs to do in order to adapt to the new culture. Clearly, there is room for meeting half way on some of the challenges listed above.
How could Australian employers create a work environment where diversity is not merely seen as a ‘challenge to fit it’?
What do you think employers and Australian born colleagues could do to assist in meeting the challenges of a culturally diverse workplace?