African Immigrant Worker & Employer as Partners

This program seeks to ensure that the value of diversity goes beyond a mere head count and that minorities (such as the African immigrant worker) can succeed in this (American) culture and have good working relationships with their employers.

This aim presents quite the challenge, for in the ten years from 1990 to 1999, Minnesota residents born in Africa increased six-fold (from 4,800 to 34,000). These new Americans seek employment and education to better themselves and their families and to make a contribution to their new community. But like generations of immigrants and refugees before them, they struggle with the challenges of unfamiliar workplace expectations, communication protocols, and new cultural and religious customs. This is true even of the most educated African employees who are often underemployed in domestic US markets.

Miscommunication and conflicts arise typically in regard to the following issues:

• Satisfactory performance
• Stable work
• Quality services
• Rewarding workplaces

The employers of immigrants face similar challenges which lead to misunderstandings, conflict, reduced productivity, and ultimately high turnover. And this is costly for all parties concerned — economically and socially.

The African Immigrant Worker program addresses these problems specifically by creating more effective multicultural workplaces. This enables African immigrants to work within the bounds of the policies of their employer while at the same time also exercising their economic and social rights as well as their cultural and political rights. By means of techniques which lead each side to communicate effectively, resolve conflict, and understand and respect the needs of the other, we create a more productive workplace for all.

The program includes two workshops — one oriented to employers and the other to employees. The workshops can be brought to workplaces either as in-house training or as public classes open to any interested employer or employee. All workshops are co-presented by a professional trainer and a member of an African community. Optional customized consulting (on workplace policy, conflict resolution, etc) is available also on a fee basis.

In a nutshell the workshops provide basic information for employers and employees about the cultural differences between the United States and various African countries. They identify some of the unspoken expectations each party mistakenly takes for granted in the work relationship and in so doing they build greater knowledge and respect for what each needs. The workshops provide not only theory but also specific examples of communication and conflict problems and their solutions. And they offer in-house customized consultation and support for supervisors working directly with workers from Africa.

This program is designed to be cost-effective for the employer. A little knowledge goes a long way in preventing problems and maximizing the contributions of employees who want to do good work, keep good jobs, and make good lives for themselves and their families. Repeated turnover is expensive and can be avoided with some minor adjustments.