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How Refugee Talent Can Be An Asset To Independent Grocers


by Jim Dudlicek / NGA director of communications and external affairs

As a humanitarian crisis unfolds in Afghanistan, the U.S. is preparing to welcome tens of thousands of fleeing Afghan refugees, including interpreters who worked alongside the military. In addition, the Biden administration has pledged to resettle more than 300,000 refugees over the next four years.

These developments represent an enormous opportunity for the American business community to help Afghans, and other refugees, to integrate into the U.S. economy and become productive members of our communities.

NGA hosted a recent webinar to explore how and why U.S. companies should look to refugees as a new source of talent. Leading the discussion was Yaron Schwartz, associate director for global partnerships and U.S. lead at Tent, a non-profit organization launched in 2016 to mobilize the global business community to include refugees.

The panel also included Brandon Dansie, senior director of the people team at Chobani, whose CEO Hamdi Ulukaya founded Tent; Jessica Reese, VP of institutional development at HIAS, an organization that has helped relocate refugees from oppressive regimes for 140 years; and Jaleel Oladipo, HIAS’ program manager for early employment and career development.

The speakers aimed to help independent community grocers learn more about the refugee context in the United States; gain an understanding of the business benefits for why companies should integrate refugees into their workforces; and understand how Tent can help companies hire refugees in the food distribution industry amid a nationwide shortage of labor impacting multiple industries.

Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:

Refugee FAQ. A refugee is an individual who has been forced to flee their country because of a well-founded fear of persecution or violence. The global refugee population has increased rapidly over the last few years, with the highest refugee population since World War II. The United States has been a global leader in refugee resettlement under both Democratic and Republican administrations. The U.S. is currently hosting 340,000 refugees.

Assets, not victims. Businesses have the greatest impact when they see refugees as economically productive entrepreneurs, customers and workers. Integrate refugees into your workforce through hiring and training. Support refugees through employee-led mentorship initiatives. Engage global suppliers and vendors to include refugees. Support and enable refugee entrepreneurs and small businesses. Tailor commercial products to better reach refugee populations.

By helping refugees, businesses can strengthen their brand and reputation. Net consumer attitudes favor brands that support refugees. At least 80 percent of Millennials are more loyal to a company that helps them support social and environmental issues. Companies that support refugees score a quartile higher on employee ratings of company culture and values. Perhaps most importantly, businesses have the opportunity to change the course of a refugee’s life. Plus, refugee turnover in the manufacturing sector is 4 percent compared to an industry average of 11 percent. “When they see a company giving them a chance for a new life, they’re very loyal,” Dansie said. “Chobani wouldn’t be what it is today without refugees.”

Find commonalities, focus less on differences. Refugees are “eager and willing to contribute,” Dansie said, advising prospective employers to have respect for different cultures and what refugees went through to ensure their freedom. Language barriers can be overcome by partnering with local community colleges on ESL programs, and refugees showing potential can be promoted as they learn and acclimate.

To view this complete webinar and all the webinars in the series, visit https://nga.sclivelearningcenter.com/MVSite/default.aspx.

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