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Welcoming Refugees into the Workplace: Strategies for Inclusion

Richard Herman

Richard Herman

Richard Herman, founder of the Herman Legal Group (an immigration law firm recognized in U.S. World News & Report’s “Best Law Firms in America) is a nationally renowned immigration lawyer, author and activist. He has dedicated his life to advocating for immigrants and helping change the conversation on immigration. He is the co-author of the acclaimed book, Immigrant, Inc. - Why Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Driving the New Economy (John Wiley & Sons, 2009).
Inclusion at workplace


Over the years, at least 89.3 million people around the world have been forced to leave their homes. The world is currently undergoing one of the highest rates of displacement. It’s now more important than ever to understand how to welcome refugees into your workplace and include them in your organization.


Any initiatives to employ refugees will only be successful if companies create an environment for inclusion. Creating an equal work platform can encourage a diverse workforce to come together and explore progressive ways of doing things in the workplace. Successfully onboarding refugee employees requires more than the usual onboarding process.


The Benefits and Barriers to Refugee Inclusion

Employing, onboarding, and training your employees, especially those who have taken refuge in a new country, might be challenging.


Barriers to Refugee Inclusion

Even if you want your employees to feel included, there may be situations where the workplace isn’t a perfect fit. There are a few barriers for employers when it comes to refugee inclusion.


1.    Create Suitable Employment Opportunities for Refugees

Although most employers want to create a refugee-friendly workplace, they often have a hard time analyzing where to start. It might also be difficult to analyze whether you should create new opportunities for refugees or open up existing jobs for them. You might also struggle to find the right resources to create beneficial schemes for refugees.


2.    Lack of Experience in Dealing with Refugee-Specific Challenges.

Even though the world is slowly evolving, there’s still a huge gap between locals and refugees living in a country. Your employees may generally lack experience in regard to the management of refugees. This usually occurs due to a lack of social awareness.

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Benefits to Refugee Inclusion

Creating a culturally diverse workforce is beneficial to all multinational companies. There are multiple benefits to creating a workplace where all your employees feel included.


1.    Broadening the Range of Perspectives

Your company gains a broader perspective when you have a workforce that includes people from different cultures. This includes cultural, educational, and linguistic perspectives—all the differences in your workforce foster a better understanding between your employees. You’ll also gain access to many tangible skills that will benefit your business.


2.    Commitment to Social Improvement

As part of the community, you’ve certain social and corporate obligations to uphold. Seamlessly integrating refugees into your business is one of them. Refugees or migrants who’ve been granted asylum can be the perfect candidates if you’re suffering from a shortage of skilled workers.


And if your company has retention issues, migrants may be your best choice. You can try hiring recently arrived refugees who’re looking for stable employment.


3.    Stimulates the Economy

Numerous studies show that employing refugees brings many social and economic benefits. Not only do they bring productivity to your workplace, but they also enrich their local communities. Including refugees or migrants in your workforce can solve the demographic challenges associated with an aging population.


Company Strategies for Inclusion

The major challenge that refugees face is the misconceptions and prejudices surrounding the refugee talent pool. You might also greatly overestimate the challenges of hiring and onboarding refugees as an employer.


You can implement some effective strategies for including refugees in your workplace without discrimination.

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1.   Understand the Barriers and Benefits of the System

You can’t create an inclusive workplace if you don’t know the obstacles and benefits of employing refugees. If you understand how the refugee system works and why people migrate, you can provide them with real employment opportunities. This will also help you understand the context when you develop new employment programs.


2.   Collaborate with Nonprofit Organizations

To initiate an effective hiring process for refugees, you can work with nonprofit organizations or companies specializing in this field. This not only provides cross-cultural and inclusive community support but also lowers your costs for hiring and training programs.


3.   Design Opportunities Tailored to Refugees

The best way to include refugees in the labor market and workplace is through direct involvement in the design of employment schemes. These schemes should consist of some training sessions to help newcomers get started.

These training can be vocational, practical, or focused on languages. The roles you offer your refugee employees should also provide realistic opportunities for development and progress.


1.   Create a Space Free of Racism and Discrimination

The first step to creating an inclusive and welcoming workplace is creating an environment free of misunderstanding, discrimination, or racism. You can conduct training or awareness sessions to improve understanding among your team members.


It would help if you worked to create a workplace without distinction between immigrants and citizens. Non-profit organizations or specialized companies such as unions can help you conduct training and create a peaceful work environment.


2.   Develop Legal Structures to Combat Discrimination

While you should strive to create a discrimination-free space, it’s also essential to create formal structures to address harassment. These structures should address personal harassment by colleagues or management. When you make legal systems, your employees can feel safe and valued in the company.

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You should also ensure that company policies don’t discriminate against refugees directly or indirectly. This includes both pay structures and progress restrictions.


3.   Take a Public Stand against Xenophobia

Another way to create an inclusive workplace for refugees is to take a public stand against the aversion of people from other countries. Your voice would help change the role of refugees in society and the economy. While this may seem insignificant in the overall scheme of things, it has potentially great benefits.


As an employer, you can use your marketing skills to make your opinion known against xenophobia. This helps steer the perception of your workspace toward a more positive and inclusive environment.


Why Creating an Inclusive Workspace Is a Necessity?

A diverse and inclusive workplace is where employees feel valued regardless of their skin color or region. Creating an inclusive environment makes it 9.8 times more likely for an employee to enjoy going to work. Such a workplace ensures higher sales growth and a greater willingness to innovate.


With thousands of people immigrating every month, you must create a workspace where everyone is valued. To create a safe environment, you must’ve social awareness and understand the barriers and benefits of employing refugees. It’s also essential for small and large companies to create job opportunities tailored to refugees.


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