It’s About Time!

Five Tips for Time Management

When you have limited time and resources, it is critically important to make sure you are using your time well. What tasks end up taking most of your time?

Do those tasks lead to the outcomes you need, or do you find that these tasks are using up important time and energy that would be better spent elsewhere? What can you do to correct course and stay focused on what’s most important?

Consider these tips, inspired by an article entitled “How to Manage Time with 10 Tips that Work,” which was posted a few years ago on Entrepreneur.com:

Do a time study: Track your time for a week to see where it all goes. This will help you identify where adjustments are needed by identifying the areas of your work where you are spending too much or too little time.

Make appointments with yourself: Block out time for your most important tasks, thoughts or conversations. Schedule time to deal with emails and phone calls so that they are not a constant distraction. Unplug (shut off your email or silence your phone) when you have a really important task to work on.

Stay focused on your results: Plan to spend at least 50 percent of your time engaged in the thoughts, activities and conversations that produce most of your results. Job Developers, for example, should be spending at least 50% of their time on employer outreach or activities directly related to obtaining employment for clients.

Plan on interruptions: Interruptions are inevitable, and part of the daily reality of working in refugee employment. Have a plan for how you are going to handle those unexpected client or employer requests. It may look like setting up a specific time to handle those requests (think “office hours”) or it may make more sense to build a cushion into your time that allows for interruptions (maybe assume that 15-20 minutes of every hour will go to something unexpected). Either way, having a plan for these situations will help.

Know what you want to accomplish and evaluate your own performance: Take five minutes before every call and task to decide what result you want to attain, and five minutes afterwards to evaluate how things went. This will help you refine your approach as you go, and make you more effective, whether you are working on case notes or speaking to an employer.

To read the whole article (which includes a few more tips!) from Entrepreneur.com, click here.

What time management strategies do you use in your work? Let us know in the comments section below!

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“Why I Love What I Do”

Dallas Refugee Employment Staff on What Keeps Them Going

Happy Monday! At a recent Higher workshop in Dallas, TX (which we highlighted in last Monday’s post) we asked the participants to share one reason why they love working in refugee employment services.

Here are a few of our favorite answers:

  • Every day we make a difference in our client’s lives
  • Waking up every day and working with people from all over the world
  • Working with coworkers who are like family and are passionate about the work that we do
  • Getting to watch the process of refugees going from knowing nothing [about life in the US], to getting jobs, paying taxes, starting businesses, and becoming citizens
  • As a former refugee, I do this work to give back
  • Seeing clients come back after a couple years and seeing how they are succeeding
  • Making great connections between clients and employers
  • Through empowering our clients it empowers me
  • Everything I do for my clients contributes to this great nation

We hope these reflections from your colleagues in Dallas will be a positive way to start your week!

What inspires you to do work with refugees? Let us know in the comments section!

Job Readiness Instructors from several Dallas and Fort Worth agencies participate in an activity during Higher’s workshop on April 6, 2017.

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Higher Texas Workshops Recap

Last month Higher was in Texas where we conducted 1-day workshops in both Houston and Dallas. In each location we brought together employment staff and resettlement directors representing 12 local resettlement offices from 6 of the 9 national resettlement agencies. The workshops were full of interactive activities focused on best practices in refugee employment, local collaboration, and strategies for success at a time when many refugee resettlement offices and employment teams are going through significant changes.

As is the case with all Higher events, we walked away inspired by the dedication and commitment that refugee employment staff bring to their work and the resiliency and creativity that the staff we interacted with in Texas are applying to their current challenges. We were also encouraged to hear about the outpouring of support that programs are experiencing both from surrounding communities and employers.

Thanks to all of the staff who participated in our workshops in Texas! You have provided us with valuable insight into your work which will inform our technical assistance activities for the next several months.

Here are some photos from the events:

Omar Al Sammarraie, a Job Developer at Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston, contributes his thoughts to an activity highlighting current challenges and opportunities in refugee employment.

 

Andre Shango, a Job Developer at Catholic Charities in Houston, reports out for his group on our activity discussing the elements of successful refugee employment programs.

 

Job Developers from Dallas and Fort Worth, TX

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A More Interactive Approach for Job Readiness Class

The infographic below contains several tips when designing your job club curriculum. Best courses for refugee learners should not only include more interactivity, but aim for greater retention.  The current best practice is to introduce new material in 20 minute chunks. This does not mean job readiness classes need to be short, rather the lesson should be designed to reinforce those main ideas and core concepts.

For example, when teaching workers’ rights, you teach the right to a work place free from discrimination. Give real life examples of what discrimination looks like and share a story of a client who experienced discrimination. Then ask the group if they have ever experienced discrimination.

To give another example, when preparing clients for job interviews, you could do a lesson on hygiene and appropriate clothes to wear and then give clients 5 minutes to pick out a perfect interview outfit from a pile of clothes.

What have you found works best for your clients? Tell us your job readiness success stories or contact us for help on how to design a great curriculum. Email us at information@higheradvantage.org.

 

 

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10 Tips for Newly Hired Employment Managers

Congratulations! After all the long and hard hours you’ve worked building innovative and successful employment programs, you are now a manager. This new role is important and well-deserved but comes with a whole new set of goals and demands. New managers need just as much guidance in their role so here are a few helpful tips to all the new managers out there:

1) Address the shift immediately: If you find yourself managing your former peers you must address the new dynamics immediately. Have a meeting with the staff and your supervisor. Have your supervisor explain the shift and your new role so everyone is clear about the new team dynamic. Whereas you may have gone out with co-workers after work before, that friendship dynamic may no longer be possible. Please keep in mind that some colleagues may be resentful of your promotions but just be professional and focus on running a great program.

2)  Communication- It’s a two way street: A great manager knows how to listen effectively and does not talk down to their employees. Take the time to understand and appreciate the thoughts and feelings of your staff. Have a weekly team meeting where you give a few updates but also allow time for the staff to give updates. A few ideas to get staff talking: have your staff come prepared to discuss a difficult client story, a successful client story, and an issue they need advice on. Then talk through each situation as a team.

3) Effective and Efficient Meetings: In the refugee resettlement world everyone is working at such a fast pace. In order to get your staff to slow down and take the time to comprehend what you need them to learn, be wise about when and how often you schedule meetings. If you don’t have enough information to fill up an agenda, don’t call a meeting. Decide what and when new information needs to be shared. For example ORR changes to programs or problems with TANF are going to lead your agenda. Try to focus on 3 to 5 key issues in each meeting, and try not to meet more than once a week as a team.

4) Delegation: A great manager knows the strengths and weaknesses of their staff. It’s your job now to make sure the workload is divided. A manager does not take on all the work themselves; rather they know what needs to be accomplished and can identify which team member is best suited to accomplish the task. You are there to oversee and guide your staff, not to do their work for them. 

5) Accept Responsibility: Problems arise. Accept responsibility for your own actions, and accept responsibility for your team’s actions. Failure to accept responsibility makes a manager look weak to both superiors and subordinates.

6) One-on-one meetings: These meetings are a great way to learn what your employees need. Employees can sometimes be shy to share in a large groups. Here you will want to focus these meetings on the employee’s: needs, strengths, problems with clients. Ask if they want additional training and how are they managing their time. Some people need help managing their workload and this may mean helping them create a strict weekly schedule. These meetings should also be a chance for employees to hear from you. Positive feedback is always going to be better received. Try to make plans to help employee improve their performance instead of just pointing out their weaknesses. 

7) Continued Professional Development: A manager is someone who is constantly learning and growing. There are tons of great seminars out there on how to be an effective manager, but there are also lots of webinars and resources that can help you advance and grow your employment programs. At the end of this article are a few resources.

8) Find a Mentor: Find someone who is an inspiring manager and ask them if they might become a mentor to you. Advice from someone you respect will go a long way. A mentor can also be a great resource and sounding board for your ideas and problems. Be open about how you are feeling in your new role and what support you need in order to continue growing as a manager. 

9) Passion for the Mission: As a manager you will be asked to address many stakeholders in your community, including employers, funders, and government officials. Public speaking may not be your forte but it will improve over time if you can passionately convey your work. Passion for the clients and your organization’s mission will go a long way in the success of your work and will keep you coming to work with a smile on your face and set a great example for your staff.

10 )Lead by Example: Don’t just tell your staff what to do; show them. A great manager knows how to do the work, not just teach it. Instead of asking new staff to teach job club, give them the opportunity to observe you or another seasoned staff member so that they can learn by example. Offer to sit with them if they have a difficult client, or need support with tasks such as intake paperwork or a food stamp re-certification. Staying engaged in the work of your staff will also give you a chance to exercise and refresh your skills. Above all, inspire others to want to help you accomplish desired goals. People who want to do something are far more effective than people who have to do something.

Additional Tools and Resources for Supervisors and Managers:

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Discussing the Changes to the FY17 Matching Grant Program Guidelines

In June, the Office of Refugee Resettlement released the FY17 Program Guidelines for Matching Grant. MG is a highly competitive program and requires significant program outcomes so staying aware of changes to the program guidelines is very important.

Many of you are already familiar with the FY17 changes, but just in case you missed the memo, here are two important changes you need to know about:

  1. Home visits are required for non-R&P clients (any client not resettled by your agency). Here are a few examples of clients that that this policy would apply to:
    • A family of 4 asylees was granted asylum just 12 days ago and comes to your office requesting employment services. After verifying their date of asylum, copying their eligibility documents and conducting a through intake and assessment you decide (you may need to request permission from headquarters) to enroll the family in MG.
    • Another agency calls and says they have a family of 3 recently arrived SIV recipients. After meeting the family, conducting an intake and assessment, and verifying eligibility and requesting permission from the other agency, you enroll the family in MG.
    • A Cuban parolee comes to your office on day 30 and has already applied for her EAD and you live in a state where the EAD come in quickly. You assess the situation and decide to enroll the client in MG.

A home visit must be conducted for each of these clients if they are enrolled in your MG program if they are receiving funds for housing. The home visit should ideally be conducted with an interpreter to ensure the housing is safe then the staff must be documented in the client’s case notes. Please check with your RA for specifics of how to conduct this visit. 

2.Potential clients who arrive without the benefit of R&P services must be screened for human trafficking. If there is reason to believe that the client has been trafficked an appropriate referral must be made. This change pertains to potential MG clients who did not come through the Reception and Placement program. Examples include:

    • Cuban or Haitian entrants with paroled status
    • SIV recipients who travel to the United States on their own
    • Asylees

Photo credit CWS Durham

ORR does say that this rule will only apply after the Office of Trafficking in Persons (under the Administration for Children and Families) and Refugee Council USA have jointly developed a screening procedure. After speaking with RCUSA that policy has yet to be developed. If this changes, Higher will be sure to send an update. It is important that refugee MG programs regularly review and train staff on the MG guidelines as ORR will continue to ramp up it site monitoring of this program throughout FY17.

The FY17 MG Program Guidelines with highlighted changes can be accessed here..

Higher is here to support you. If you need additional support related to MG, please let us know at information@higheradvantage.org.

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Higher’s Holiday Gift Guide

Earlier this month, when we asked for suggestions to inform our annual gift guide, we hoped to learn about one or two new businesses or products that help refugees earn more than minimum wage in jobs that offer dignity, training opportunities and supportive work environments. Thanks to the incredible response from across the refugee employment network, we received more recommendations than we can list, so here are the top 12. Enjoy!

anchor-of-hopeAnchor of Hope – A subscription service to receive monthly or quarterly boxes filled with items lovingly handmade by refugees, survivors of human trafficking and others in vulnerable situations, most living right here in the United States.

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Beautiful Day Granola – Tastes great. Employs and trains refugees. They have several flavors to choose from, but if you’re new to Beautiful Day, try Keith’s Originala – it’s so good!

blb3Better Life Bags – Located in Detroit, Better Life Bags employs workers with barriers to employment including refugees/asylees.

broadwick-fibersBroadwick Fibers – We work with ACC here in Denver to employ refugees (well, just one right now but plans for more in the near future) who have come here from East Africa.    -Camille McMurry, owner of Broadwick Fibers

 

edEkata Designs – A Memphis based Jewelry business that exists to provide employment, income and training to refugees as they transition to a new life in America.

 

Kei & Molly Textiles A small, women owned and run business who has hired two of our Congolese clients!   -Kiri Mathsen, Job Developer at Lutheran Family Services of Rocky Mountains in Albuquerque, NM  

 

15056691_1142776845843269_4146344282048954368_nGAIA Empowered Women – Through a living wage and continued training and development, the goal of this Dallas-based social enterprise is to lead the women to financial independence and self-sufficiency.

 

knotty-tie-co-2Knotty Tie Co. – This company hires refugees who graduate from ECDC’s African Community Center of Denver’s “We Made This sewing program and teaches them to make beautiful, high quality ties and scarves.

 

artisan_candle_compactProsperity Candle – Refugee women help select the scents and make the gorgeous candles in collaboration with their artisan colleagues in Iraq.  Read more in a previous Higher blog post.

 

Threadies – Threadies are hand-sewn by a team of women in the West Bank who receive a living wage and valuable job training. When you purchase a Thready teddy bear, its twin goes to a child refugee, along with tools vital to help them cope with trauma.

 

usful-glassŪsful Glassworks – A Denver-based nonprofit with a mission to help people with employment barriers find jobs by providing on-the-job and vocational training to those in the community who need help, including refugees. 

 

wornWorn – A socially-conscious business of Catholic Charities Fort Worth with a mission to provide refugee women living in the United States a supplemental source of income, empowering them to rise above poverty. All products are hand-knit in the U.S. by women who have survived the afflictions of their war-torn and poverty-stricken homelands.

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Greetings from the new Program Manager of Higher!

Hello everyone! Last Monday, (November 14, 2016) I became the new Program Manager for Higher. I’ve received a wonderful welcome from my co-workers Sarah and Daniel, as well as from the blog comments and network at large. Thank you for making me feel so welcome!

nicole-headshotPrior to coming to Higher, I worked in employment for a number of years with USCRI in their North Carolina field office. When I began with USCRI, my first project was to revitalize a Match Grant (MG) program with an 11% self-sufficiency rate (out of a 200 slot program). I worked as a job developer to establish new employer relationships and to design a job readiness curriculum that would lead my clients on a path to success. My network of peers, headquarters staff and the Higher team helped support me with the resources and connections I needed to build successful programs.

For four years I worked hard to secure funding to increase our capacity, while designing effective programs that would better serve our clients. I’m happy to say that when I left USCRI, we had four successful job programs and a job upgrade program that I established and saw funded before I left. The site now has a 96% self-sufficiency rate, a seven week job readiness curriculum, four programs and six staff.

I’m excited to take my work to the national level. I look forward to learning from all of you as well. At times employment staff can be both loved and hated by clients because our job links clients to their financial, social, and permanent success in the U.S. I know how hard the work that you do is, but I also know how talented and passionate every one of you is about the clients you serve. I hope that each of you will reach out to me at any time. I would like to hear your success stories so that I can celebrate you at a higher level.

Have a wonderful holiday and thank you for your service and partnership with refugees and immigrants!

Please keep in touch,

Nicole

nredford@lirs.org

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Holiday Gift Guide – Any Recommendations?

Do you know of any businesses or products that should be featured in Higher’s annual holiday gift guide?  We have a great list started for this year’s guide, but it can always be better!  

Stay tuned for our annual holiday gift guide blog post. We’ll put all of your recommendations into one post to make your holiday shopping as easy as possible.  

Please submit your recommendations by commenting below or by contacting us.

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5 Takeaways from Higher’s 3rd Annual Refugee Employment Workshop

Denver Skyline by tcmulder www.deviantart.com

Denver Skyline by tcmulder
www.deviantart.com

We just got back from our 3rd Annual Refugee Employment workshop in Denver, CO, where about 150 refugee employment professionals from all over the nation met to learn, network, and share their expertise.

While we were thrilled with the turnout, we know that there are a lot of folks in our network who could not attend.

So in case you missed out this year, here are 5 takeaways that will keep you in the loop:

 

1. Not only is Colorado a beautiful state, but it is leading the way on many fronts when it comes to refugee resettlement. Aside from being early adopters of the Consultative Selling job development model and forging new and creative career pathways models for refugees (see number 3 below), the state has invested in extensive research on what works and what doesn’t in refugee integration. Check out Colorado’s recently published Refugee Integration Survey and Evaluation (RISE) report.

2. Susan Downs-Karkos from Welcoming America participated in our Refugee and Immigrant Economic Integration panel, and talked about how welcoming communities lead to economic prosperity for immigrants and refugees, which in turn leads to thriving communities. Many of the the insights she shared can be found in Welcoming America’s Guide to Immigrant Economic Development, as well as Welcoming America’s recent webinar Creating Inclusive Economies: How to Open Up Opportunities to Refugees.

3. While much work remains to be done in developing career pathways for refugees, there has been significant progress in this area, and there are strong examples around the country of vocational training programs offered by refugee serving organizations or of these organizations partnering with (or securing funding from) the mainstream workforce development system. Here are a few of the programs that were highlighted at this year’s workshop:

  • The Denver-area African Community Center’s  training programs in sewing, food safety, and retail
  • Bankwork$– a free training program for careers in the financial services industry, available to adults from a low-income background and minority communities
  • Colorado Welcome Back Center by Spring Institute helps foreign-trained healthcare professionals reestablish healthcare careers in Colorado.
  • Emily Griffith Technical College’s Transitions Program– “Bridge” training programs designed to transition non-native English speakers into post-secondary career and technical programs .

4. Knotty Tie Co. – One of the employer’s on this year’s employer panel was a company called Knotty Tie Co., whose social mission is to “create dignified employment opportunities for skilled resettled refugees.” The company hires refugees who graduate from the African Community Center’s “We Made This” sewing program, and teaches them to make beautiful, high quality ties and scarves. Pick one up for your next employer meeting!

5. Our network is young, diverse, and innovative. Higher met so many people this past week who are thinking creatively about refugee employment, starting social enterprises, collaborating with mainstream workforce development, and thinking of new and innovative ways to help our clients succeed. We walked away with a long list of things to highlight on the blog in the coming year that will help you in your work, so stay tuned!

If you couldn’t make it this year, we hope that these 5 takeaways made you feel a little more connected. Know that we missed you and want to hear from you.  Let us know what is going on at your office. Tell us about the challenges you are facing. Share your success stories. Put your innovative project on our radar.

You can get in touch with us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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