Quebec, Canada
Quebec, Canada

About the Research

Research Overview

Canada is experiencing a labour shortage and historically low unemployment rates1.  A shortage that is accentuated among small to medium enterprises, those with fewer than 500 employees, which represent 99.8% of Canadian companies and 53.2% of the gross domestic product2.  To address this labour gap the Canadian federal government is planning to increase immigrant intake numbers to 500,0003.

However, there are three challenges with this solution.  First, it takes immigrants 5 to 10 years to economically integrate4.  Second, not all employers have equal access to this pool of workers because 61% of the immigrants move to three major Canadian cities: Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver5. As a result, employers, in less popular immigrant destinations, are increasingly turning to temporary foreign workers whom they see as a permanent source of labour.  Third, in the current job market turnover and the high costs associated with replacing workers is a reality that employers must contend with even for those who hire temporary foreign workers as they too, may change employers before the expiry of their work permits or after they obtain their permanent residence.  

For these reasons developing a strategic onboarding program is crucial.  Onboarding, new employee attraction, hiring and skills development programs, are credited with improving the attraction and retention of new employees6.  As such, this study aimed to gain an in-depth understanding of the onboarding strategies used by small to medium enterprises and immigrants’ perceptions of those strategies to identify discontinuities between the two and better practices for onboarding workers.

1- Statistics Canada. (2023).  Labour force survey March 2023.  Retrieved from – :~:text=Employment rose by 35,000 (+0.2,(+19,000%3B +1.3%25).

2- Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. (2022).  Key small business statistics.  Retrieved from

3- Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. (2022).  An immigration plan to grow the economy.  Retrieved from

4- Statistics Canada. (2018b). The Canadian immigrant labour market: Recent trends from 2006-2017.  Retrieved from

5- Immigration, Refugee, Citizenship Canada [IRCC]. (2018c). Annual report to parliament on immigration. Retrieved from

6- van Maanen, J., & Schein, E. H. (1979). Toward a theory of organizational socialization. In B. M. Staw (Ed.), Research in organizational behavior (pp. 209-264). JAI






Immigrant Participants

Research Methodology

A qualitative research design was selected to investigate the onboarding methods, experiences and perceptions of workers from across ranks, immigrant and non-immigrant, in small to medium enterprises.  In contrast to quantitative methods, which seek to test a hypothesis, the present study investigated a social and open-ended issue1.  The data consisted of artefacts, fieldnotes and interviews analyzed using inductive, and interpretive methods2,3.

1- Denzin, N. & Lincoln, Y. (2011). Introduction: The discipline and practice of qualitative research. In N. Denzin and Y. Lincoln (Eds.). The SAGE handbook of qualitative research (4th ed., pp. 1-20). SAGE Publications.

2- Creswell, J.W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five Approaches (2nd ed.). SAGE Publications.

3- Golafshani, N. (2003). Understanding reliability and validity in qualitative research. The Qualitative Report, 8(4), 597-607.

Expected Outcomes of the research

The results of this research have produced three (3) deliverables:

A model for integrating immigrants into small to medium enterprises, optimized for the Quebec context but applicable in other Canadian provinces and countries;
A toolkit that may be used to guide the development of on-the-job training and other onboarding activities targeted at immigrant workers in small to medium enterprises, optimized for the Quebec context but applicable in other Canadian provinces and countries.
Four (4) case studies of more and less successful integration efforts that manufacturers can use to guide their efforts to integrate immigrant workers.
Financed by
Media diffusion partners