Companies are often apprehensive about hiring refugees who don’t speak English as their first language. However, for companies like Berry Global, it’s a necessity to go the extra mile with the resettling process for refugees.
“If you give them grace and have patience, they are the most fun to work with. You just have to meet them there and understand them,” said Kim Jaber, Human Resources Manager at Berry Global.
Berry Global is a global plastic manufacturer that is home to 270 locations in 39 countries across six continents. In recent months, Bettendorf’s Berry Global became the third location to start up a program for refugees. The company holds much pride in the services and opportunities they provide for refugees.
“We tend to do things untraditionally,” Kim said. “The tradition is to ask, ‘what are you going to do for me’. But for us, we want to know what we can do for them.”
This summer, through its partnership with World Relief Quad Cities, Berry Global hired their first 17 refugees, who now make up ten percent of their workforce.
“We understand that they do not have a solid work history, so if World Relief trusts them to send our way, we trust them,” Kim exclaimed.
Berry Global’s efforts to integrate refugees don’t end at hiring. After their first group of refugee workers started, Berry Global incorporated several new services to help them succeed in the workforce.
“We use a third-party provider, a 24/7 translator service that speaks 27 languages,” Kim said. “We want to make sure everything is confidential.”
The language barrier can be intimidating for employers, especially when training new employees. Kim shared that the first step is to shift your mindset and to not “view it short sided.”
“We use lots of hand gestures and pictures for training, and it’s also easier to hire them in a group because they are surrounded by people just like themselves and that brings lots of comfort,” Kim said.
Although it may take longer to train refugees than those who grew up speaking English in the U.S., the high retention rates of refugee workers make it all worth it.
“Put the challenges on a piece of paper and instead of using them as reason to not hire, compare it with a list of possibilities,” Kim said. “Make a pro and cons list and try to find a way to overcome that.”
Another new service Berry Global provides for refugees is transportation.
“We partner with a company called Share Mobility, we designated 3 pick-up locations, and we are absorbing the cost for now,” Kim said. But there’s more to transportation services than to just get employees from home to work and from work to home.
“We want to teach them what to expect culturally, things that are different from the countries they come from,” she continued, “Time concept isn’t always the same, they have to know that they have to be here at a certain time, it gives them a clear picture of the way American culture is and we do it gracefully.”
Overall, Berry Global’s goal is to also help refugees build a solid foundation in the U.S. to succeed.
“We want them to eventually get their license, get their own car and rely on themselves, and we are helping them get to that point,” Kim said. “We would do it 100 times all over again and hope to continue to do it in the future.”
Kim encourages other companies to do more than what meets the eyes and to look beyond the challenges when considering hiring refugees.
“Take the chance, it will be totally worth it, you will see the benefits in the partnership for sure, just do the right things,” Kim said. “It’s so refreshing to give someone an opportunity and see them be so grateful for it.”
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Kler Soe is the Communications Specialist at World Relief Quad Cities. She joined the team after graduating from St. Ambrose University in May of 2023 with a degree in Public Relations and Strategic Communication. As a refugee herself, she hopes to bring awareness to World Relief’s work through stories.