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Blog: Integration is a two-way street - A training that prepares employers to hire refugees

Date:20 June 2019
Dr. Nina Hansen
Dr. Nina Hansen

A special day, Monday 3 June 2019. For 1.5 years we have been working on developing a training to prepare Dutch employers to hire and work with newcomers: ‘Dealing with cultural diversity, training for realistic tolerance at the workplace’. Now we were invited to present and discuss our research project to the Minster of Education, Science and Culture: Ingrid van Engelshoven in The Hague.

Employers need preparation too
Finding a job and being able to develop a new life is not only very important for the wellbeing of migrants but also for the host society. Sustainable integration is a two-way street: it requires efforts of the migrants and preparedness from employers and public institutions. However, a study conducted in the Netherlands showed a rather shocking result. Only 25% of the refugees who had arrived in 2014 and received a residence permit have found a paid job in 4 years (CBS, 2019). Newcomers receive language training and sometimes an introduction to the labour market but employers are hardly prepared. This is why we developed an action-based training in which employers learn to develop skills to effectively deal with cultural differences and help to integrate newcomers at the workplace.

Combining academic knowledge and field experience
Interestingly, a recent meta-analysis of 40 years ‘diversity training’ research showed that these trainings had little impact on creating an inclusive work climate. The only thing that seems to change people’s attitudes and behavior towards such a work climate, is increasing the awareness of cultural differences and stimulating skills to deal with them (Bezrukova et al. 2016). Toghether with colleagues Liesbet Heyse, Marloes Huis and Milka Yemane from Stichting Lemat we combined our expertise on theories, methods and relevant experience from the field to develop one concrete solution to improve the labour market integration of newcomers. Starting from a more realistic perspective of tolerance which acknowledges the tensions that may arise from cultural differences and miscommunication. Participants of our training learn to have the perspective of a newcomer and to apply a set of communication strategies to use in their daily work. Participants develop concrete goals on how they want to implement these new insights in their daily work. A grant from the Start Impuls of the National Science Agenda funded our project.

Promising results
So far we trained four groups in different cities in the Netherlands with more than 70 employers and work coaches. After the first day the results were very promising. The participation increased people’s cultural knowledge, awareness and perspective regarding miscommunication resulting from cultural differences. In a few months, we are able to analyze the long-term effects on whether people indeed manage to set goals to hire and work with newcomers.

High interest minister
The minister was especially interested in how we have developed the training by combining academic and applied expertise and evaluate the effectiveness of the training. Moreover, she was eager to learn how such kind of impactful research is acknowledged and supported at the UG.

About Nina Hansen
Nina Hansen is associate professor in Social Psychology at the Faculty of Behavioral and Social Sciences at the University of Groningen. Together with Liesbet Heyse, Marloes Huis, and Anne Kuschel she studies the role of cultural differences and how these can be overcome to improve the labour market integration of newcomers, people who were forced to migrate and have arrived since 2014.

See also the website of the Labor Market Integration of Refugees research group

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