Hiring Refugees Works
Inclusion is an Investment for Twin Cities Employers

 

Resettling in the United States is challenging for a number or reasons, but the inability to speak English is likely at the top of the list for many refugees. This adversity is especially felt in the workplace. Jobs that are otherwise simple can be extra difficult when one doesn’t share a common language with their coworkers.

“How can they be trained?” some employers might ask. “How will they collaborate with others?”


“I find that a lot of our refugees are extremely hardworking and driven individuals. They want the chance to succeed and provide for their families.”


Where some employers see an obstacle, the Hyatt Hotel and Bix Produce see an opportunity. These two Twin Cities employers have actively recruited and hired many refugees, including clients of Arrive Ministries.

Lisa Kema is the Manager of Colleague Experience at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Minneapolis, and her team has gone the extra mile to include those with minimal English skills. To Kema, acquiring English is not a barrier to be overcome, but rather, a skill to be developed.

“English is not always necessary to do the job,” Kema noted. With this philosophy in mind, the Hyatt team has brought unity to their work in spite of linguistic diversity. They now include more illustrations and demonstrations for their diverse staff and rely less on verbal explanations. The hotel’s dish room is a prime example of this. A supervisor in the department has a knack for gesturing and modeling to communicate with others, and the team uses this system to collaborate where language fails them. At lunchtime, the employee cafeteria staff uses photos and graphics on their buffet line to guide employees who may have food allergies or religious dietary restrictions. It’s no surprise that the Hyatt has become such a hub for refugee employees.


(Refugees) are standout employees and are the kind of people you want working in your company… They go above and beyond.


Bix Produce Company in Little Canada has a similar posture toward employee language development. As a regional leader in providing fresh-cut produce, they also include refugees in their workforce. Chelsea Molacek works with many of these employees as Bix’s Senior HR Business Partner. She estimates that nearly 20% of production employees at Bix speak little to no English.

“There are so many languages spoken at the facility,” she said. “When a new hire comes with a language other than English, we try to partner them with another employee who can speak their language and help them adjust.” Paid interpreters are regularly brought on-site for critical training and meetings with Human Resources. Employees can even attend an English class right at the facility to improve their communication skills and help them advance in the company.  English classes are offered twice a week, and students get paid during the time they are attending English class.  Bix’s commitment to their staff doesn’t stop with language support, either. They recently provided transportation so that a number of their employees could take a test for their driver’s licenses.

Why do companies like Bix and the Hyatt invest so much to include and support refugees? Because hiring refugees works. At Bix, the initial investment into their staff translates into long-term loyalty.


Our refugee hires have brought so much comradery and happiness to our company, and this creates an amazing work population for us.


“Our refugee employees are extremely grateful for the opportunities that are given to them,” Molacek commented. “They feel like we are helping them, so they want to help us as well. I find that a lot of our refugees are extremely hardworking and driven individuals. They want the chance to succeed and provide for their families. They are also adaptable. It’s quite cold in our facility, but they have adjusted well to their new work environment and positions.”

Kema had great things to say about her refugee coworkers at the Hyatt as well, “(Refugees) are standout employees and are the kind of people you want working in your company. In many ways, they have stronger soft-skills than many people who have lived and worked in the U.S. their whole lives. They come to work on time and work overtime when needed. They solve their own transportation issues and communicate well with management. They go above and beyond, and that second-to-none work ethic is a great example to the rest of the team. Our refugee hires have brought so much comradery and happiness to our company, and this creates an amazing work population for us.”

Pictures of Hyatt’s visual signs to help non-English speaking employees.

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Matt Blackford, an Employment Counselor at Arrive Ministries

 

Are you interested in hiring refugees for your company?
We would love to connect with you! Call our Employment Services Office at 612-798-4332.