Breaking down barriers: Fostering a work culture that is welcoming of foreign nationals
It is no secret that Malta’s labour force has been transitioning through a period of unprecedented change over the past decade. In fact, according to recent statistics issued by JobsPlus, non-Maltese now make up over a quarter of the total labour force on the island, which has seen the number of foreign national workers in Malta shoot up from 9,500 in 2009 to close to 80,000 a decade later.
At AX Group, the shortage of local talent in industries such as hospitality, healthcare, and construction has resulted in the need to recruit foreign workers. In just one example pertaining to our business, within our construction division alone our headcount has gone from under 200 employees to over 300 over the past year, with the majority of these employees hailing from countries such as Turkey, India, and Southeast Asia.
While employing foreign nationals presents several challenges, such as obtaining the necessary work permits and visas, it also brings the need to address certain psychological and cultural challenges in order to ensure these employees are successfully integrated and supported at the place of work.
Many foreign workers arrive in Malta unfamiliar with the island and its culture, often having left behind families and loved ones in pursuit of better livelihoods and opportunities. It is crucial to acknowledge the bravery and sacrifices they make in choosing to work in an unfamiliar country. At times, they may experience feelings of loneliness and isolation, which will inevitably impact their performance and motivation. Not having adequate support networks in place, such as family or friends, can also make the transition to a new job in a new country more challenging. Employers who acknowledge the unique experiences and difficulties faced by foreign workers can establish effective initiatives that promote their successful integration into the workforce. This will lead to a job that brings them a sense of fulfilment and pride.
AX Group is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace where everyone is treated with fairness and respect. As an equal opportunities employer, AX Group ensures that all job candidates and employees are considered on the basis of their skills, abilities, and potential, rather than their background, gender, age, race, religion, or any other personal characteristic. To support its commitment to equal opportunities, AX Group has established policies and practices that promote diversity and inclusion at all levels of the organization.
We believe that open communication is crucial for fostering a positive work culture. That’s why we encourage employees to share their ideas and perspectives, and to listen and learn from one another. To build relationships among colleagues, we also encourage foreign nationals to participate in company events and activities, including cross-cultural celebrations of religious festivities such as Christmas and Diwali.
Additionally, we provide professional development opportunities to help foreign nationals advance in their careers. We encourage them to take advantage of training programs and mentorship opportunities to enhance their skills and achieve their career goals. Here, we strive to create an inclusive environment where everyone is treated fairly and has equal access to opportunities. Our goal is to embody this ideal and show all employees that they are valued and respected, regardless of their race or religion.
We have seen time and again that our patience and perseverance on this front has paid dividends. We dedicate a lot of time and energy into fostering cross-cultural respect and understanding among our teams, and today, our multi-culturalism has become one of our major strengths. Our commitment has resulted in a diverse and unified workforce, enriched with a multitude of skills, expertise, innovative ideas, and craftsmanship.
However, we also acknowledge the need to do more to make a positive impact in any way we can to enhance the situation for all.
To this end, we are proud to have partnered with the recently founded Malta ESG Alliance (MESGA). Together with 12 other local business leaders, this private sector consortium is actively working together to tackle environmental, social, and governance priorities to contribute to a more sustainable and socially equitable Malta. In line with these efforts, AX Group remains a vocal advocate for improved policies that ensure fair and proper payment for all workers, both local and foreign. We strive for a system that supports foreign nationals entering the workforce, ensuring that they feel secure and not exploited or subjected to unjust treatment.
By understanding the unique challenges that foreign nationals face, providing support and resources, creating a welcoming and inclusive work environment, fostering a culture of open communication, encouraging employee engagement, and providing opportunities for professional development, businesses in Malta can help foreign nationals integrate into the workforce and feel valued and supported.
It’s also crucial to keep in mind that this is not a one-time effort but a continuous process that requires commitment and dedication. It’s important to assess and evaluate the progress, take feedback, and make necessary adjustments to the strategies employed. By doing so, we can guarantee that we are fostering a welcoming environment for individuals of all backgrounds while maintaining Malta’s appeal as a desirable workplace for foreign nationals seeking better prospects beyond their home countries.