Hiring employees with limited language skills
In Denmark, it is extremely difficult for refugees with very limited language skills to find employment. Most employers require at least some knowledge of either Danish or English, and in most cases, transversal skills are not enough to be employed. However, in some industries, the demand for unskilled labor is so high and the requirements for doing the work are limited, and under these circumstances a company may employ a refugee with very limited language skills.
The large Danish enterprise De Forenede Dampvaskerier (DFD) is a great example of a company, that has hired refugees despite their very limited language skills. The company is a leading Danish service company within textile laundry and rental. With 12 locations throughout Denmark, DFD is a nationwide company with approximately 1,200 employees who serve customers in all industries. It has been a challenge for the company to recruit enough qualified and motivated personnel, and this has made the company realize that it has to look to other groups of people in order to be fully staffed at all times – even if these groups of people have extremely limited Danish language skills. The company has had great success with recruiting newcomers with limited language skills, most likely because the tasks are extremely simple and do not require much Danish language knowledge. Moreover, a lot of refugee women are very experienced with doing laundry and ironing etc., and the work tasks that they are supposed to do are thus not unfamiliar to them. However, to DFD, the most important parameter when hiring new staff is motivation, not formal skills. In this way, the recruitment strategy of DFD also seems points to an awareness of transversal skills.
Positive impact of migrants on labor productivity
It is a large Italian company with more than 1,000 employees, belonging to German Freudenberg Group. Around 4% of their workforce are non-EU immigrants, coming from 20 countries (two of them are refugees and one is an asylum seeker). Their managers are specifically trained on diversity management because diversity is considered as a value for the corporate growth and competitiveness.
Recruitment depends on the corporate needs for skills and strong motivation, being thus focused on technical and transversal competences of candidates. As a result of the ethnically diversified workforce they report positive impact:
- Better working climate: living in close contact with people from far countries, with different cultural backgrounds, promotes greater understanding and acceptance, thus facilitating the process of inclusion of migrants in the territory.
- Increase in productivity: foreign workers have lower rates of absenteeism than native workers (total corporate rate is around 4%).
The company is among the winners of the Welcome UNHCR project for the years 2018 and 2019.
A well prepared preboarding can result in more value for the company hiring refugees
SETA is a medium-sized public-private company working in green services. In 2019 it participated in an integration project, placing two young refugees on an internship of 3 months, which was followed by a fixed-term contract of 9 months (with the intention to stabilize the two workers). The company board weighed the decision to join the project very carefully, given the social context of reference which is characterized by a high rate of native youth unemployment. Once taken the decision, they have carefully prepared a preboarding programme.
The first step was a preventive risk analysis on the possible impact of two refugees in the company, focusing on communication and relation aspects. Considering the type of work required to ecological operators, the company evaluated in advance the possible problem of impact of Ramadan; this issue was discussed directly with the two African candidates during the job interview in a delicate way. Both of them ensured the ability to operate even in extreme conditions (during the period of Ramadan, easier shifts would be guaranteed for them). The placement was made on the basis of:
- an objective approach focusing only on the competences needed by the company (refugee workers are like all others apart from the need to give more attention to linguistic and communicative aspects)
- mutual trust between the company and the workers (integration pact).
The second step consisted in preparing employees and teams to work with new refugee colleagues. A two-hour training session was organized by a migration expert, to raise the whole company's awareness of the issue of refugees; the following themes were dealt with: real data on numbers relating to the entry flows of non-EU immigrants into Italy, the problems migrants have to face during their migration project, types of migrants (refugees, asylum seekers or protection) and the Italian reception system with the reference legislation. The training was provided to trade union representatives, company managers, direct heads of the two new trainees and other company profiles considered as key persons for a successful integration. The presentation of the two refugees’ integration project proved to be strategic, thus avoiding possible oppositional attitudes in the workplace, linked to the principle of "Italians first". The role of the tutors assigned to the two young trainees was decisive for their successful integration.
The three main positive aspects of SETA inclusion experience, as highlighted by the HR head, are:
- Improvement of work performance: the dedication and motivation to work inspired other colleagues, resulting in a decrease in hours of absenteeism.
- Improvement of corporate climate: colleagues are happy to work in the same team and shift of the young Africans workers, who are full of strength and physical energy and work hard.
- Strengthening of corporate cross-cultural competences: the refugees helped their Italian colleagues to overcome stereotypes and prejudices, as well as understand their real life (past and present) by making many of them aware that the information they learn from media may be incomplete or partial.
The main elements of this successful experience are:
- Strong commitment of the board of the company
- Objective competence-based approach
- Preventive risk analysis and management
- Information and training for company staff to prepare them for the entry of the two workers
- Welcoming programme
SETA is among the winners of the UNHCR Welcome project in 2018, obtaining the award of Company working for refugee integration.