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Diversity educator visits Sunnybrook

Mar 19, 2013

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Renowned diversity educator Lionel Laroche visited Sunnybrook recently for a special presentation about working on multicultural teams.

Drawing on his own experiences entering the Canadian workforce after training in France and the United States, Laroche’s presentation focused on increasing the insights of all leaders and staff who work with internationally educated staff, physicians, volunteers and students.

“Remember: what’s quite appropriate in one place may not be so in another, and may even be considered rude,” Laroche said. “In Paris, no one smiles at strangers on the street or in the workplace. Here in Canada, particularly in the healthcare setting, it’s custom to smile.”

To excel in the Canadian workforce, internationally educated professionals will likely need to adapt their “soft skills”, he said. These differ from country to country, and may include ways to give feedback, presentations, and other culture-specific norms, like smiling at strangers.

A team leader or manager can help by guiding all staff on their teams to analyze the intention of their actions versus their impact.

“For example, ask, what might a patient think if you aren’t smiling? They might think you are unhappy. Is that the impact that you were intending?”

Wendy Macdonald, Sunnybrook’s director of organizational development, said she hoped the presentation provided leaders and staff with a deeper understanding of the experiences of their fellow staff members, patients, families and students who may not be familiar with the Canadian health-care system.

“We make a lot of assumptions, and these are often not correct,” she said. “By bringing in Lionel Laroche, we wanted to raise awareness and promote reflection and communication.”

The visit was presented by the Internationally Educated Sunnybrook Staff committee of the Sunnybrook Education Advisory Council.

Laroche began his career in Canada as an engineer and now uses his personal experience and expertise to help Internationally Educated Professionals succeed in the Canadian workplace.

He is the founder of MultiCultural Business Solutions a company that provides cross-cultural training, coaching and consulting services. He is also the author of two books: Recruiting, Retaining and Promoting Culturally Different Employees and Managing Cultural Diversity in Technical Professions. 

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