As the country continues to debate the issues surrounding it’s growing population, in particular the number of Third Country Nationals (TCNs), weighing the needs of the economy with the increased infrastructural and social pressures, Jonathan Shaw and David Borg – the CEO and Head of People, Talent & Development, respectively, for Retail Marketing Ltd, the owners of Wellbee’s Supermarket, share their experience with managing a multi-cultural workforce.
Their insights were provided as part of of a feature first carried in Business Now magazine, the sister publication to BusinessNow.mt, detailing the various impacts the influx of TCNs Malta has experienced over the past decade.
“Our supermarkets have a team of over 500 employees, consisting of 60 per cent Maltese and 40 per cent foreign nationals hailing from 34 different countries. In the past two years, our group has experienced steady growth since our merger and rebranding. However, we’ve faced challenges in finding Maltese workers in this sector. The increase of third-country nationals coming to Malta has provided us with a larger pool of available employees, which is a positive factor for us,” they assert.
Fundamental to their positive outlook is the recognition that “each employee, regardless of their nationality or background, brings unique skills and perspectives to the team. While we do not wish to generalise any profile or nationality, we are proud to have a service-oriented approach among our employees, including those from the Nepalese and Indian communities.” This has created a culturally rich working environment and the “work dynamics that arise from such a diverse mix of employees bring a healthy mix to our offices and supermarkets.”
The team has worked on the frontlines of the challenges facing TCN recruitment and settlement, and this informs their view of the challenges being faced. There are, they also attest, “delays and bureaucracy related to permits; timing issues and gaps between employment, paperwork processing, and employee payments; challenges related to wages, accommodation and cost of living; requirements to get driving licences; and language proficiency standards,” which may prove to be stumbling blocks to long-term adaptation.
“Despite these challenges, there are solutions that we are aware of and strive to implement to mitigate the issues,” they say. However, they stress, “it’s important to remember that moving to a new country can be challenging for anyone, regardless of nationality. There’s a cultural adjustment, uncertainty, and often the longing for friends and family. These challenges can add additional pressure to the individual, making the personal challenge even more difficult. As an employer, we are committed to being aware of these challenges and offering support to our employees where possible.”
And, while it’s difficult to predict what may happen over the next five years, Mr Shaw and Mr Borg call attention to the need for Government agencies “to understand the needs of the country and the challenges faced by the workforce. It’s also worth considering other EU countries, as they are also competing for the same employees. The challenges we face in attracting a specific type of worker are being experienced by other EU countries as well,” they conclude.
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