Immersion to Integration (Phase 2)

The Immersion to Integration: Beyond Access project (Phase 2) focused on the issue of organizational integration for internationally educated professionals (IEPs) in two organizations actively employing engineers with education and experience outside of Canada. Through applied research and training activities the Colbourne Institute for Inclusive Leadership developed and applied an Organizational Integration Model to improve the integration process that IEPs experience and equip organizations to intentionally facilitate their integration. The goal for the project was to support IEPs to become more mobile and visible within the organization through increased pragmatic competence for IEPs and increased intercultural competence for organizational leadership and teams. The project was guided by two research questions:

  1. What limits the mobility of IEPs in an organization?
  2. What supports would contribute the most to an IEP’s integration into an organization?

Lessons learned

Code and Frame Shifting

The project team found that for Internationally Educated Professionals (IEPs) to learn the Canadian way to communicate and work effectively together, there is a need to develop both the ability to change language use and behavior (i.e. code shift) so the intended impact is achieved in the Canadian workplace context. For leadership development to occur, IEPs also need to learn why the changes in the behavior or language use works (i.e. frame shift). Both surface and deep learning are why change in behavior works through the Personal Management course.

Performance Gaps for IEPs

Seven core leadership skills were identified in the project as common competencies expected by organizational leaders that were identified as not being fulfilled by some IEPs in the organization.

  1. Managing Knowledge (and Expertise) (e.g. seeking feedback, suggestions, etc.)
  2. Managing Error (managing personal/peer/client error)
  3. Managing Complexity (using language of ambiguity)
  4. Managing Compliance (e.g. raising issue of concern with superior or client)
  5. Managing Continuous Learning (and English Language Development)  (e.g. self-directed language planning and learning)
  6. Managing Diversity (interpersonal relations, showing respect in the workplace)
  7. Personal Management (e.g. handling ambiguity, avoiding and handling high risk, etc.)

Competencies Required for Leadership Eligibility

English language pragmatics is critical to integration into the Canadian workplace and the functions of relating to leaders and leading others. Although pragmatics is present in every language, it has significant socio-cultural variables that make it critical to function effectively in the professional Alberta workplace. These expectations for using context-effective pragmatics correlate with higher Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) levels that are more difficult to master and which have fewer comprehensive curricula and materials to date. The less-hierarchical structure of most of the professional Canadian private and public workplaces requires the use of a communication style that is less dependent on hierarchical power and more fluent in contextual pragmatics. It also requires a level of initiative to match the unwritten expectation for employees to be more self-directed.   

Discourse Completion Tasks and the development of models such as the Building Consensus (A-F) Model are essential in helping IEPs navigate the implicit rules of pragmatic competence (soft skills) so essential to building and maintaining relationships in mainstream Canadian professional workplaces. The combined effects of controlled, in-session repetition, with workplace practice using transfer tasks allows for an experiential affirmation of the relational effects of pragmatic competency, and increased confidence through increased success in “real-world” contexts. The Building Consensus (A-F) Model only breaks down the speech acts of agreeing/ disagreeing and building consensus. Clearly there are more speech acts associated with the perceived leadership competencies identified through this project that need to be researched and analyzed to the same effect. This would allow for newcomers to experience the cognitive frame-shifting and behavioural code-shifting required for successful integration into Canadian workplaces.


Other project information
Project time frame April 2008 – December 2009
Project sponsor Alberta Employment and Immigration
Key project activities
  1. Research and development of the Personal Management course to address pragmatic language skills and the language of leadership.
  2. Delivery of personal management training for IEPs and delivery of intercultural training for organization leaders and teams.
  3. Evaluation of impact related to language, intercultural and interpersonal skills for leadership
  4. Research on issues that limit the mobility of IEPs, perceived performance gaps for IEPs and performance expectations of organizational leaders and the effectiveness of supports (training, coaching) provided through the project.
Target audience The Immersion to Integration project will benefit employers with internationally educated professionals and English-in-the-Workplace facilitators working to develop advanced language skills for newcomers in professional workplace contexts.
Number of people involved in project

448 people including:

  • 3 project team members (Paul Holmes, Jake Evans, Erin Waugh
  • 45 internationally educated professionals participating in Personal Management courses
  • 400 Canadians participating in Intercultural Training courses
Communities participating in project Edmonton engineering and construction companies.