According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Germany accepts the most refugees in Europe, with 1.24 million refugees recognized in the country in 2021*. However, due to various barriers, it is not easy for refugees to find jobs in Germany. On the other hand, labor shortages have become a major problem in Germany in recent years. RGF Staffing Germany, a staffing company of Recruit Group, has provided employment support for refugees for the past several years under the service brand Unique, utilizing the immigration support experience it has cultivated since 2014. This includes their ongoing support of Ukrainian refugees.
* Referring to the HP of UNHCR
Support for Refugees Built Years of Immigration Support Experience
Unique has supported immigration to Germany through its International Recruiting team since 2014. “Although the situations of immigrants and refugees are quite different, they have many things in common in terms of support. The know-how and experience accumulated through immigration support is applicable to Unique’s support for refugees and turned out to be of good use," said Philipp Geyer, CEO of RGF Staffing Germany. “We offer all the necessary support for those who want to move here from Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe, from helping with administrative procedures and tax documentation to arranging apartments while also offering jobs to those making a new home in Germany.”
“Through this support, the International Recruiting team has acquired three skill areas: the first is social networking recruiting know-how. When recruiting prospective immigrants, in addition to direct recruitment in the target country, we often search for potential immigrants through social networking sites, connect with them, and provide services to help with their needs.”
The second key skill is communicating with empathy. Many prospective immigrants initially speak little to no German. “It is very stressful for them to start a new life in a country where they don't speak the language. We need to understand their anxiety, be there for them, and be a calming source of support. The International Recruiting team has been practicing our communication skills, ensuring we skillfully communicate with empathy.”
The third area is know-how on how to approach our clients to accept immigrants. “Germany has a chronic labor shortage, but it is not difficult to imagine that some companies are not very willing to hire immigrants. We work to change minds and find opportunities for the communities we support, helping new immigrants adjust to the workplace as quickly as possible. We stay connected and work to solve any problems that arise.”
What's Happening on the Frontlines of Refugee Employment Assistance
Backed by years of experience in immigrant employment assistance, Unique has also provided employment support to refugees for several years. There are refugees of various nationalities in Germany; half of them are from Syria. Refugees from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, Turkey, Iraq, and other countries with different languages and cultures have also come to Germany.
“As is the case with immigration assistance, the biggest challenge in assisting refugees is the language barrier. Our team is working hard to lower this barrier as much as possible,” Philipp said.
“For example, when starting refugee support, we first ask refugees to answer a number of questions to understand their situation. Because the questionnaire is written in German, which they cannot speak, Unique installed a dedicated service in the chat app so that the questions are automatically translated for the refugees according to their language preferences. Users’ answers in their language are instantly translated into German or English, allowing us to make them comfortable and proceed with the questionnaire. The introduction of this chat system has enabled us to begin providing support quickly, regardless of nationality.”
Steps of using a smartphone chat application. Send the first message and you'll instantly receive a list of questions
In addition, to support the increasing number of refugees from the MENA (Middle East North Africa), Unique is currently employing members who speak Arabic.
A dedicated translation device is given to the refugees at the clients' workplaces to reduce language barriers. In this day and age, it is possible to use a smartphone for basic translation functions. But some companies do not allow smartphones in the workplace, and since the translation is text-based, you have to take out your smartphone and show it to the other person each time. With a dedicated translation device, you can talk to the device and instantly output a voice translation, so you can use the device without interrupting the conversation.
The next challenge, Philipp said, is to convince corporate clients to accept flexible work styles for each individual. Refugees coming to Germany often have children or parents to care for, making it difficult to find immediate placement. It is essential to understand each individual's situation, persuade companies to accept flexible work styles, and provide long-term support.
Helping Ukrainian Refugees
Following the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine in early 2022, Germany still hosts many Ukrainian refugees. Unique initially provided urgently needed assistance such as financial donations to the Red Cross, medicines and finding volunteer pharmacists. But after a few months, Philipp looked around the refugee support centers and concluded: "In the short-term, we have to solve the problem at hand. But in the long-term, we want to support refugees being connected to Germany and finding employment that supports their families.”
While continuing to donate a part of their gross profit to supporting organizations, Philipp decided to support Ukrainian refugees getting employed, using their know-how and experience. However, there were no Ukrainian speakers on the International Recruiting team, so they had to start by recruiting Ukrainian members. Once they onboarded their team, they created a Ukrainian-language website and flyers, began distributing them at support centers and using social media to connect with refugees needing assistance.
Ukrainians Anita (left) and Yulia (right) are members of the Ukrainian Refugee Assistance Team. Both were previously employed in different capacities in Germany, but joined the team in May 2022 to assist refugees from Ukraine.
Within a few months, they connected with hundreds of Ukrainian refugees and helped 304 people find employment (as of September 2022). Once employed in Germany, refugees and their families get automatically eligible for German social security. “One of the refugees we helped once told us that “I have a family to care for and getting the security for my children was my top priority. I had never worked in a warehouse before, but I am so grateful that I was able to quickly find work in a foreign country where I didn't speak the language.’”
In Ukraine, there is a culture of giving chocolates as a token of gratitude, among which green chocolates are the highest level of appreciation. “Some Ukrainians we helped have given our staff these green chocolates on-site. We're so glad we could help them," Philipp said.
Billboard of Unique, placed in the city, with two-dimensional barcodes to contact a representative.
Finally, Philipp shared his philosophy of helping people in difficult situations. “As a CEO, it is important to look at the big picture. But most importantly, to see the workplace firsthand, listen to what people say, and be there for them as individuals. That way, we can see what is needed right now. We want to continue providing services close to the people who need our help."
CEO at RGF Staffing Germany
Philipp is directly responsible for all operations of RGF Staffing Germany. As CEO, he manages the strong growth of their operating brands. The focus of Philipp and his management team lies on recruitment initiatives and technologies combined with opening of new branches and sub-brands. He brings 16 years of leadership experience providing a wide scope from finance & back office, through post merger integration, IT, HR, recruitment to sales, solution business and branding strategies.