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Unlocking potential in refugees: How can we move the dial as leaders and create opportunities w/ Yvonne Kelly

Hear from CEO & Co-Founder of Glow Up Careers, Yvonne Kelly, as she's interviewed in a three-part series by our own VP of Behavioral Science & Impact, Greta Bradman, on how leaders can create impact, change, and unlock potential working with refugees. 

Yvonne Kelly has been busy building a successful career around unlocking potential in refugees, demonstrating the level of interest and belief being shown by the business community in hiring from this courageous cohort of people. Learn more about Yvonne and Glow Up Careers in her first interview with us and read the inspiring stories of refugees who have risked everything to build a new life.

The opportunities that leaders provide to others are crucial to unlocking potential and providing critical career pathways to members of communities who otherwise may not have access. Today, we dive into exactly how leaders can create open, equal opportunities, and support refugees through interview processes, onboarding experiences, and throughout their careers with Yvonne.

How can we give opportunities to refugees?

Ultimately I would love to see us get to a stage where all roles in Australia are open to all diverse groups. We do have some work to do to get there. 

The first thing is to ensure that your culture and teams are accepting and understanding of refugees. We do find that there is work to do in educating staff and leaders on refugees and the broad range of roles and responsibilities they can undertake. How important it is to make them feel like they belong. Creating diversity advocates within the business has a really positive impact.

A recent study by the University of Sydney found that CSR and the views of an influential staff member or Director were the dominant reasons why companies seek to hire refugees. It is also important to ensure that there is a clear career path or a variety of career options for them to progress with your business. Unfortunately, we see many refugees start with an organization and get stuck at an entry level. 


Creating opportunities in the recruitment process

It's critical to review all steps in your recruitment process to ensure that the role is accessible and inclusive for refugees. This starts from the job description and job ad along with the application process. You need to actively invite refugees to apply. They are often very humble and it is often not in their nature to put themselves forward or sell themselves, so find a way to welcome them into the process.

This can include ensuring the words you use in your advertisement are inclusive. If you don't know where to start or how to ensure your job ads are inclusive, there are a number of software options available now that can rate your job ad for inclusivity. Make sure the application process is not too onerous and complicated.


Managing opportunities in the interview process

We suggest having a diversity advocate in the business, who actively supports refugees and diverse talent through the application and interview process. Let them know what to expect in an interview and give them some tips beforehand to set them up for success. Ensure your pre-screening is thorough so they have a good chance of getting the role and have the skills you're looking for. 

If you have to communicate that a refugee applicant is unsuccessful, it's important to give them supportive, constructive feedback more than anything. 

We do find that rejection can be difficult for them. If you do have to reject them, please give them as much positive reinforcement as possible. Constructive feedback and coaching can be incredibly helpful to guide them in the right direction, as well as introducing them to any other organizations or network contacts. Even consider offering a paid work experience or alternative pathway into the organization to give them hope.


Fostering opportunities in the onboarding process

Some of the feedback that we get from refugees on onboarding processes is that they make them feel different from other employees, isolated, or they find they don't have enough work given to them in the first weeks.

Many refugees have had professional careers in their own countries — it's important to not underestimate them. They just want to be treated like anyone else. This is where having a buddy or internal mentor from the beginning is critical. Someone who greets them on the first day and is there for them for any questions they have, and a person who can be an internal advocate for them can make a large impact.

Remember, the onboarding process should be fun and inclusive.

Creating a feeling of belonging from the beginning by giving them a clear idea of timeframes and expectations and ensuring they have ample tasks to undertake during onboarding. Make sure their Manager and team members have been briefed and ideally have training on supporting those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

The business culture will most likely be different from what they are used to, so help educate and support them toward a successful transition. Make sure they have a “safe start”.

We also get a lot of questions about how to deal with trauma from leaders in the workplace. Most refugees are really driven and determined to look forward to their new life and take advantage of great opportunities. So, treat them as you would any other staff member. If you're concerned for their mental health, again proceed as you would with any other staff that is experiencing a tough time. 

How Glow Up Careers equips organizations for success with refugees

Equipping coaches and leaders with the tools to be coaches

At Glow Up Careers, we're equipping leaders and staff with the tools to become amazing career coaches and insights into how to hire and support refugees and migrants. We do this through a range of training and workshop options for businesses.

Our professional development accreditation helps leaders self-reflect on their own careers, and support their teams, but it also gives them deep insight into supporting those from diverse and clturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. We give our coaches a lived experience of coaching a refugee or migrant, fostering diversity advocates in their organization.

We have been delighted to welcome coaches from organizations including Cisco, Merivale, Atlassian, Microsoft, Opera Australia, Endeavour Energy, and many more.


Driving advocacy around mapping career pathways for refugees

We are doing a lot of advocacy and education on the importance of mapping career pathways for refugees before they start in a role. We want them to have the best chance of success and to tap into all their strengths, which we've found takes a proactive approach from leaders and coaches in communicating the pathways that are available.

Often. refugees can be humble and not step forward proactively for roles or their careers. This is where supporting them to build confidence in their career journey and highlighting opportunities for them is key — and understanding the opportunities and learning & development courses that match their skill sets is the first step. 


These snapshots from Yvonne Kelly, exploring how you can help move the dial and responsibility and successfully hire refugees into meaningful employment, are in service of helping move our mindset around what is possible in the world of work right now, with the right support and guidance. 

Don’t forget; Yvonne and Glow Up Careers are there for you if you want to know more about engaging refugees in the working world at your business.

And if you know of or run a support service for refugees in Australia or the USA please get in touch!

We’d love to hear from you and provide insights into why, what, and how you do what you do to help.

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