Such is the spirit in Denver, said General Manager Derek Moon, especially since the new hires joined the team. In the past month, they hired 24 Afghanistan refugees. They have spots in the food production, warehouse, sanitation, maintenance and ghost kitchen teams.
To explain how this came about, it requires dating us back almost a decade. “As part of our recruitment plan, we would visit refugee centers, Asian community centers, LGBTQ centers and the ACC (African Community Center),” said Cheryl Williams, HR Manager at Denver. Their outreach had some success; as Derek explained, there were many factors at play. Nevertheless, the team maintained a good relationship with the centers – and then the pandemic hit.
With open positions to fill, Derek, Cheryl and Operations Manager Abdul “took some flyers and pins, jumped in the car and hit the centers” once again. This time, the response was “unbelievable”, said Cheryl. “They were so appreciative.”
Derek added: “We’ve implemented a program where we pay for public transportation. This gives them an unlimited access to city bus and trains, which is helpful for the refugees.”
While both Cheryl and Derek agree that the process thus far has been rewarding, it has not come without its challenges. For one, there was an initial hesitance from some of the team. “There’s always a natural fear of the unknown,” said Derek. That, however, has changed. “Everyone, 100 percent, turned around after working with them. The new joiners are good employees and good teammates, everyone is happy to have them in the team.”
The feeling goes both ways, it seems, as the new employees have begun referring their friends and family to joining the unit. This is in spite of the fact that not everyone speaks English – another challenge that the people in Denver have taken in stride. “We placed an employee who spoke very little English in maintenance and we weren’t sure how it would be received. But he’s been helpful in fixing things up and the team loves him,” said Derek.
Another member of the maintenance team is one of the two deaf men hired. Just as he has had to learn a new culture, so too has the team learned about him. “We found out he had been working with the US military for 20 years so he knows how to read lips in English,” explained Derek.
All this, Cheryl said, is testament to the team spirit in the Denver unit. “I’m so proud of how welcoming and patient the team has been. This is a story that really makes me smile.”
Derek added: “They want to do well and they want to be on-time. They just need patience and help.” It is about working with them and figuring out what they need to succeed.
That explains why Derek has a new item on his to-do list. He said: “I’ve noticed a lot of them smoke. I’m going to have to expand the smoking area.”