Research & Thought Leadership

Diversity Matters: Why diverse talent is the future of your workforce

Joakim Karlsson

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Picture this: you are visiting New York City and jump into a rideshare car or taxi. When you strike up a conversation with the driver, you learn that he was an engineer in his home country. Or you discover that your child’s babysitter is a doctor who couldn’t find a path to relicensing as a physician when she came to the U.S.

Many of us have had these experiences but may not realize just how common they are. More than two million skilled, work-authorized immigrants with a bachelor’s degree or higher are unemployed or seriously under-employed in the United States, due to the cultural and structural barriers they face in getting back to professional careers. Meanwhile, there are over 6 million open jobs in the country that employers are struggling to fill. With such a clear mismatch, we are asking one important question: are businesses missing a crucial talent pool?

Connecting companies to this untapped talent is part of the mission of Upwardly Global, a national non-profit organization that supports immigrant and refugee professionals in rebuilding careers in the United States. Through customized job search and training programs, UpGlo helps newcomers adapt their education and skills—resulting in 1,000 immigrants and refugees getting back to professional careers every year.

We had the opportunity to meet with Mary Lee, national director of employer engagement, and Emmanuel Imah, national employer partnership manager at Upwardly Global to find out more about the gap between these open job opportunities in high-demand fields, and the immigrant and refugee talent pool that businesses are missing.

“These are highly skilled, trained professionals who, for a variety of reasons when they immigrate, find themselves in low-wage jobs, working far below their talent and potential,” Lee said. “With the right assistance to overcome the hurdles they face, these individuals can instead apply their skills to filling gaps in the workforce and driving our economy forward.”

For many newcomers, English proficiency is one of the biggest hurdles to re-establishing a career, as well as understanding how to translate their skills and international experience to a U.S. job search.

This is where Upwardly Global’s mission comes into place. UpGlo creates a bridge between corporations that are looking for global and diverse talent and these individuals whose talents are under-recognized. They work closely with employers, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to tech start-ups, to develop high-impact partnerships around inclusion and talent access.

Benefits of a culturally diverse workforce

By 2050, new immigrants and their children will account for 83% of the growth in the working-age population. In an increasingly global economy, companies need global talent to stay competitive. As a result, more organizations are seeking ways to reach diverse candidates, and are focusing on providing tools to develop their workforce—introducing development programs such as language training.

According to Lee and Imah, there are many benefits to creating a culture of diversity that embraces international talent and experiences, including:

  • Increased ROI: Businesses with more culturally diverse executive teams are 33% more likely to see above-average profits.

  • A motivated workforce: Newcomers are a highly incentivized workforce eager to reclaim professional identity and succeed in the U.S.

  • Reduced employee turnover: Employers who hire refugees report a lower turnover rate.

  • Tapping into new markets: Global employees bring language skills and cultural awareness to support new and existing business in emerging economies.

  • Innovation: They also bring a new perspective and innovative ideas.

  • Adaptability: In a business world that changes constantly, adaptability is key.

  • Resilience: People who have started over in a new country have already demonstrated the ability grow and learn from challenges.

Accessing a more diverse talent pool

Even companies that recognize the advantages of hiring and integrating newcomers may struggle to access this talent pool. Lee and Imah have some tips on how to reach candidates:

Make sure that you’re not unintentionally screening out qualified new citizens early in the process. A person starting over in a new country is likely to have a gap in their resume, so don’t be deterred by this common red flag. Include options for foreign degrees and job locations outside the country.

Organizations often operate within the same network, accessing the same talent pool. HR leaders can reach more diverse channels through volunteer events that bring current employees and immigrant and refugee job seekers together, or by connecting with an organization that operates in diverse communities.

Rethinking HR screening processes and providing ongoing education to teams around diversity will enable companies to adapt and thrive in a changing marketplace. A modern workforce should incorporate a range of backgrounds and skills. Tapping into this rich talent pool of new Americans will help organizations build a more effective, inclusive workforce that works better for everyone.

We have joined forces with Upwardly to help professionals reach their potential. Testing 5.500 unique candidates to date through the EF SET – EF Standard English Test – and providing a comprehensive language training program to fill the gaps and help them reach the required language proficiency to successfully integrate into the workforce.

While company leaders play an important role in building diverse and inclusive workplaces, perhaps what matters most is how colleagues interact with each other. Upwardly Global’s #TeamWorks campaign, launched with Welcoming America and the Kindness Factory, encourages people to engage in small acts of inclusion to ensure that their co-workers feel connected and valued in their workplace. Learn more about how to participate in the campaign.

Find out more about how to connect with the newcomer talent pool, and take your diversity program to the next level:

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