A number of stores across 22 countries have been running Skills for Employment initiatives for several years. Here we share some of the valuable lessons they’ve learned.
Internal communication is essential
Clear and timely communication is at the heart of a successful initiative. For example, Q&A sessions for co-workers prove to be especially helpful.
Internal commitment is crucial
Internal acceptance of, and support for, a refugee project is essential. A well-prepared initiative, when teamed with good communication, can help bring even critical voices on board.
Define project management responsibilities
Depending on the scale of the initiative, appointing a project manager may be necessary. If it’s a national project that takes place in different stores, you might need a person working full-time to set up and carry out the project.
Set up intercultural training
In the initial evaluation of the training for both refugees and employees, the intercultural training was considered particularly helpful and beneficial.
Define responsibilities clearly
It’s important that responsibilities are clearly defined, both internally and with any possible partner authorities or organisations. Everyone who is involved must know what their role and responsibilities are. This is the only way to make sure everything runs smoothly.
Language is the biggest challenge
In the questionnaires, all the participants expressed an urgent desire to improve their language skills. However, often local language courses are only funded up to a very basic level, which in our experience, is not always sufficient for day-to-day work. One idea is to find people, such as retired teachers, who are prepared to volunteer.
Buddies are a key success factor
It’s important to set up proper onboarding for the participants as well as for the buddies, who have a crucial role in the process. Please consider sufficient time for the buddies as they are a key success factor.
Don’t underestimate cultural differences
Employers may encounter views and values held by refugees that are different to their own, such as women in managerial roles or the idea of doing ’women’s work’. Changing habits takes time, so have patience. Everybody needs to be aware of these differences and accept them.
Don’t forget that many refugees are dealing with a multitude of problems while attempting to work and integrate into a foreign place, including worries about family members who have been left behind and recent trauma.
There will be many win-win experiences
Every IKEA country or store that has carried out a refugees’ skills for employment initiative has found it to be mutually enriching. It’s about meeting as equals and helping refugees become independent in their new environment. Employees and teams have said that the experience has broadened their mindset – now they feel they’re truly living the values of equality, diversity and inclusion.
Consider the local context
Be aware about the local context and the perception of refugees. Businesses have an important role to play in changing the narrative around refugees in the community. Communication activities around the skills for employment programme can add value to the local conversation.