Dr. Leila Afshari, senior lecturer (Associate Professor) in management and human resource management at La Trobe Business School, had a personal investment in her scholarship on skilled migrants: she is one. Her article, “Managing diverse workforce: How to safeguard skilled migrants’ self-efficacy and commitment,” appearing in the International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, explores issues surrounding this population and in the post below she reflects on how she studied these issues.
As a skilled migrant, I had to undergo a two-year-long process to demonstrate that my qualification and experience were aligned with the skill demands in Australia. However, after my visa was granted and I started looking for a job, my experience, which seemed to be essential for my visa application, was no longer useful in finding relevant employment.
Although positive effects of migration on the economic growth of Australia have driven policymakers to actively initiate policy reform agenda, the work-related and contextual barriers undermining migrants’ outcomes and well-being have been largely overlooked. Australia has been successful in attracting professional and skilled migrants and is considered one of the exemplars of skilled migration policy globally. Two-thirds of permanent migrant intakes in Australia are skilled migrants. However, little is invested in enhancing migrant workers’ well-being, and ultimately, maximizing their contributions. Research shows that migrant workers are more likely to be exposed to adverse experiences such as job insecurity, unfair treatment, overqualification, and increased job demands, and as a result, they are prone to burnout in the workplace.
In my research project, I undertook a granular approach examining some of the prominent work-related and contextual factors on migrant workers’ outcomes and highlighted the need for a shift in research focus that is not only capable of maximizing migrant workers’ outcomes but is also focused on enhancing their well-being. I developed an integrated model to investigate the effects of the most prevalent internal and external factors of burnout and limited career alternatives on skilled migrants’ organizational commitment. I draw from the Conservation of Resources theory to explain the research outcomes. The results showed that depletion of resources through burnout leads to further resource losses by negatively impacting migrant workers’ intentions about their career continuity and professional self-efficacy, ultimately undermining their organizational commitment.
The findings point to the adverse consequences of skilled migrants’ burnout on organizational outcomes. Therefore, this study recommends that managers identify and eliminate the factors contributing to migrant workers’ burnout within their work systems. This can be achieved by understanding skilled migrants’ needs and designing a work system that is responsive to the needs of a diverse workforce.
The findings of this research have important implications for managers in cross-cultural and diverse workplaces. Migrant workers undertaking overqualified jobs represent a hidden intellectual capital within organizations that could be utilized to gain a competitive advantage for the organization if employers learn how to tap into this capital.
Finally, the findings highlighted the importance of the availability of career alternatives in deriving desirable organizational commitment. This shows that the host economies need to lay the foundations required for skilled migrants’ contributions by identifying the contextual factors impacting their overall contributions to the professional workforce. To maximize skilled migrants’ contributions to the professional society of the host economy, there is a need for mutual understanding of their potentials and the career options available for them in the society, so those potentials can serve a meaningful purpose.