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The Untapped Potential in Hiring Refugees

Diversity, Trends| Views: 572

Over the past year, I have had the good fortune of getting to know Ibrahim Ahmat and his family through IRC’s (International Rescue Committee) Home Team program. His story exemplifies the struggle and resilience refugees possess, while also presenting an opportunity for companies to add talent.

Ibrahim’s Story

Ibrahim’s story, while common among refugees, was eye-opening to me. He and his wife Amina, fled from Sudan to Chad in 2006 amid a humanitarian crisis. In Chad, Ibrahim earned his certifications in Arabic, English and history and became a teacher and interpreter, educating high school students while working alongside the U.S. government translating for refugees. After 17 years living and raising a family in an asylum camp, grappling with uncertainty and longing for a fresh start, the Ahmats were granted refugee status. In May of 2023, they landed in Atlanta, GA to start their new life.

Upon arriving in the US, the family had to quickly adjust. Things that we take for granted were completely new to them, from washing machines and microwaves to grocery stores and beyond. With only six months to become self-sufficient, they had much to learn. Facing this challenge head-on, Ibrahim and Amina enrolled in English classes, learned how to use household appliances, navigated MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) and built relationships with their neighbors.

One of the hardest tasks proved to be finding a job. Despite the concerted efforts of the Home Team and the IRC, it took Ibraham several months to finally land a job at a metal factory earning $14 an hour. After more than three months in his role, he has trained on over a dozen machines, regularly works overtime shifts and is still eager to take on more.

As of June 2023, more than 114 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced. Last year, the United States admitted over 60,000 refugees, providing them a safe haven and a new beginning. Refugees like the Ahmats have endured considerable hardships and look to build a better future for their families and give back to their new communities. Employment is vital for them to achieve their goals, and, in turn, their employment benefits the companies that hire them.

The Benefits of Hiring Refugees

1. Longevity in Employment

Refugees often exhibit a high-level of loyalty and commitment to their employers. Having faced the adversity of displacement and uncertainty, they value the stability and opportunities that a steady job provides. Research from Tent, a nonprofit that mobilizes the business community to improve the lives and livelihoods of refugees all over the world, has shown that refugees tend to remain longer with their employers, compared to other hires. This longevity results in reduced turnover costs for businesses and fosters a workforce that is both skilled and experienced.

2. Diverse Perspectives and Problem-Solving Skills

Refugees bring a wealth of diverse experiences and viewpoints to their workplaces. Their unique backgrounds enable them to bring fresh, innovative ideas and problem- solving skills that enhance creative thinking and adaptability within the company. This diversity of thought helps businesses address complex challenges from various perspectives, leading to new solutions and business growth.

3. Enhanced Work Culture

The presence of refugees in the workforce promotes a more inclusive and vibrant work culture, fostering an environment of mutual respect and understanding. They often act as cultural ambassadors, enriching the workplace with their traditions, languages and customs. This cultural exchange cultivates empathy, enhances teamwork and strengthens collaboration, ultimately leading to a more cohesive and supportive work environment. Additionally, hiring refugees underscores a company’s commitment to social responsibility and diversity, which can escalate its reputation and attract top-tier talent.

Take Action

Employing refugees not only aligns with humanitarian values but also offers substantial benefits to businesses. To capitalize on these advantages, companies should:

  1. Proactively engage with your talent acquisition teams and hiring managers to discuss the benefits of hiring refugees. Be flexible during the interview process to accommodate refugees.
  2. Collaborate with refugee-focused non-profits, such as the IRC or Tent, to develop a pipeline of refugee talent. These organizations often serve as a recruitment agency at no cost to companies.

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About Peter Saunders

Peter Saunders is a VP Solution Engineer at Radancy, working alongside key customers to ensure success utilizing the Radancy Talent Acquisition Cloud. He is a co-leader of the Atlanta Give Back Day team and on the board of Servantee, a golf/volunteering non-profit.

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