Need a Responsible and Committed Workforce? Hire a Refugee. Here's How and Why You Should.

Happy Warehouse Workers

The city of Clarkston, Ga is a top destination for refugees and the Mayor, along with business leaders, have seized the opportunity to tap into a pool of workers who are responsible, committed and capable. Clarkston  is located  just 10 miles northeast of Atlanta that has earned the nickname “Ellis Island of the South.” In the 1990s, refugee programs in the United States identified Clarkston as a good fit for displaced persons of many different backgrounds based on its housing market and convenient access to public transportation and major highways.

This week in In Process, we speak with Clarkston Mayor Edward “Ted” Terry and Chris Chancey, CEO of Amplio Recruiting, a staffing company for the talented refugee workforce, about the innovative and compassionate things this small Georgia town has done to earn its tagline “Where Possibilities Grow.” 

Mayor Terry, the youngest person to hold this position in Clarkston’s 135-year history, has more than 17 years of experience in public service and is leading Clarkston's vision to become a more welcoming and compassionate community. Earlier in his career, Mayor Terry worked as a consultant for a wide array of legislators, school board members and non-profits. During that time, he helped raise millions of dollars for campaigns and causes, focusing on uniting individuals and businesses behind a common goal of creating a better society. 

“I’m a millennial mayor and have often been called a hipster, which I think is a compliment,” said Mayor Terry. “I came to Clarkston almost seven years ago just as a temporary situation, but got involved politically because I saw there was a need in the community. The more I learned about its 35-year history of refugee settlement, it became apparent to me that this really is the best of what America has to offer.”

For Mayor Terry, he saw an opportunity to build on the microcosm of what a “more peaceful and prosperous world could be like.”

Similarly, Amplio Recruiting’s Chris Chancey sees himself as a social entrepreneur. In 2014, Chris visited Clarkston to learn more about the refugee resettlement process in America. He saw an opportunity to employ these legal and diligent newcomers while providing much-needed resources for companies all over Atlanta.

The dream of staffing Atlanta companies with talented refugee workers became a quick reality. By 2016, refugees placed by Amplio Recruiting were deeply engaged with products and services offered by Wal-Mart, Google, Tesla and dozens of other companies in Atlanta. This year, Amplio Recruiting has launched locations in Raleigh, N.C., Austin, Dallas, and London.

“We've been in the process of opening the London office and have had conference calls with several major companies such as Starbucks and L'Oreal, as well as mom-and-pop stores and manufacturing facilities that are already interested in using our services there,” said Chris. “Clarkston has a good concept so we can look at that and replicate it  in other parts of the world where that same kind of collaboration and cohesiveness is needed to really find a path forward for refugees in need of a new start.”

According to Mayor Terry, refugees who come to America are almost exclusively families, and often three generations in one household. The goal is to help get one of the adults fully employed so the family can afford housing and transportation. To further help its residents, the city is focused on creating affordable housing, access to public transportation, and other refugee resettlement issues such as innovative new models around civilian-led policing, tiny-house development, and micro-farming. As if that’s not enough, Mayor Terry has also committed Clarkston to a goal of 100-percent clean energy by 2050.

“We’re creating a walkable community,” said Mayor Terry. “The grocery store, the schools, the community center, the library, the houses of worship―they're all literally in one square mile within a 10-minute walk.”

He believes there’s good reason why the city is nicknamed “Ellis Island of the South.” According to Mayor Terry, “The average refugee stays two to four years, some a lot longer. Once people gain employment, they are looking for homes to buy or other places to move to and expand, so it's a good entry point for a lot of new Americans.”

At the Intersection of Three Great Needs

Chris started Amplio Recruiting in 2014 after working with an international business in  microfinance. Helping people get capital enabled him to follow that process all the way to his own backyard and find a way to do something for the refugees who needed help getting settled in the United States. Despite the resistance to the refugee influx, and the fears some had about dangerous people coming into the country, Chris forged on with his venture to perform a vital recruiting service.

"Whether or not we agree that these refugees should be resettled in the United States or in Clarkston, they are here. If they can add value to our community and we can pay a living wage to them, then it seems like a great match,” said Chris. “There's one gentleman I recruited, a former Iraqi Air Force General under Saddam Hussein, who is now a property manager at an apartment complex. He resettled in Clarkston almost 15 years ago. Although I don’t think he ever thought he was going to become an Air Force General in the American military, we were able to apply those same skills in managing a really good property.”

According to Chris, most of the refugees are just looking for an opportunity to work, learn quickly, put food on the table and give their children a good education. Many of the golf-course communities in and around Atlanta have cooks, servers and turf maintenance people employed through his services.  

He also partners with The Lantern Project to help train people in construction skills. “Right now there's a ton of electricians who need a good place to work. They’ve been training for a year to go into welding or pipefitting. We have a lot of folks who are stepping into those roles, and as you know Atlanta is booming with opportunities in construction. There's a huge labor shortage, so it's been great to be able to fill in those spots,” Chris added.

Over the years, Chris has witnessed the impact his efforts have had on the business community. For those companies that hire refugees, they learn quickly that a hard work ethic, combined with investments in training, pays off. The business gains a qualified, dedicated employee; the workers are able to give their families stability in an unstable world; and the community becomes more acquainted with the refugees and embraces them―instead of fearing them.

Chris and Mayor Terry are believers in pushing one’s comfort zone. “Chris is connecting people face to face,” said Mayor Terry. “That's what we’ve got to focus on now. Forget the media, forget what's on the Internet, and take that next step out into the real world and see for yourself.”

Stream the conversation in the player below to hear about the interesting ways Mayor Ted Terry and Chris Chancey are helping to build a city that serves as a safe landing spot for refugees, while giving employers access to an eager, dedicated and dependable workforce. You can also subscribe to In Process on iTunes to receive this episode as well as future updates from the show on your smartphone.

Career and Leadership Counsel for Upping Your Game in the Legal Profession

Chess Pieces

Trusted Counsel's Managing Partner, Evelyn Ashley, participated in Q&A with Bernadette Boas, a consultant, leadership coach, author and speaker. Evelyn shares her opinions and candid advice on effective leadership qualities, top challenges lawyers experience in building their practices, and her three pieces of advice for female lawyers looking to advance their careers.

Evelyn Ashley

When to Talk; When to Text

When to Talk or Text

It’s not just you; many of us are talking less these days and texting or emailing much more to communicate with one another. This week, we revisit one of the most universally relevant topics we’ve ever covered: the art of conversation in the digital age.

“I absolutely believe that technology is often negatively affecting the way that human beings interact with each other,” says Evelyn Ashley, Managing Partner of Trusted Counsel. “The reality is that technology is brilliant, but the challenge, especially in business, is the reliance on email or technology to take the place of a conversation or a face-to-face meeting where you can actually build the relationship in order to achieve your goals.”

In this episode of In Process Podcast, Trusted Counsel talks with Elaine Rosenblum, founder of ProForm U, and Jodi Fleisig, Senior Vice President of Media Strategy & Relations for Porter Novelli. They discuss the communication hurdles we face as technology is more and more ubiquitous in modern society.

Our perception of ourselves compared to our peers is skewed.
“What people do is they present a false self, and that has raised the standard for the way people think they have to present themselves,” says Elaine. “I think what that has caused, in terms of the quality of communication, is that people have felt like they need to present a false self. That lack of trust that comes from the false self is a problem.” With today’s culture of over-sharing, people actually think they need to present themselves as something more or bigger than what they actually are. “When people present false selves, of course people believe some of it. But I think people know in their hearts—they may not be able to articulate it, but they know on some level—that it is a false self. That makes them less likely to risk themselves,” says Elaine. “That goes to trust, and trust is where you build relationships and that’s actually where creativity and innovation come from. “

When it comes to conversation, you are in control.
“Conversation is a muscle, and you have to work it,” says Jodi.  The popularity of text messaging and chat puts us in the habit of using snippets to communicate rather than fleshed-out thought, rendering newcomers to the work force helpless when it comes to introduction emails and cover letters. Jodi tells her clients who get anxiety about conversations (whether those conversations are interviews, public speaking engagements or everyday encounters), to come up with three key messages you want to your listeners to remember. “Everyone needs to learn: you are in control,” says Jodi. “You have to practice. Just because you’re brilliant in science doesn’t mean you’re great in English. Just because you’re a great CEO in subject X doesn’t mean you’re a good communicator. You have to learn how to communicate, whether it’s asking for a raise or appearing on a radio show or speaking to the board or just speaking to the people on your team. You don’t have to turn into an extrovert, but you need to have the confidence to say what you mean.”

Don’t rule out technology in conflict resolution—but don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and talk, either.
“Technology can be very efficient and very effective.  I think where you have to be careful is word choice,” says Elaine. “Our default word choice, especially since we move so fast, tends to be extreme and judgmental. We are inundated with judgmental comments from movies, media. Our default tone becomes judgmental. Based on whether you neutralize that language, you can get into an uncomfortable conversation or an easy conversation.” If a conversation is escalating into unpleasant territory via email, though, it’s a good idea to pick up the phone and talk things out.

Nothing can replace an in-person meeting.
According to Jodi, technology is a tool. “The most important thing that you have to sell is yourself, and the best way to do that is to connect with people through chemistry. You can tell so much about a person when you meet them. I think you can use technology as a tool to further that relationship. One doesn’t substitute for another.”

In the technology you do use to communicate, it’s important not to be too guarded. Remember, the most effective message is going to be one that reflects the “you” that the person on the receiving end is familiar with. “You do need to put your own personality into your technology – into the emails that you write, and what you post to Facebook and Twitter. You need to break out from the clutter,” says Jodi. 

Stream the conversation in the player below to learn more. Don’t miss an episode, subscribe to In Process Podcast on iTunes to receive this episode as well as future updates from the show to your smartphone.