A growth mindset is a quality every company desires in an employee, but very few have come to expect.
Growth mindset is simply defined as the belief that one’s talent, intellect, and condition in life can all be improved upon with hard work and perseverance. Individuals with a growth mindset embrace challenges, and take hold of every opportunity available to learn new skills and improve themselves every day.
By this simple description, it should be obvious why companies would want their employees to possess this mindset. Employees embody the company culture—where the culture goes, so goes the company. Therefore companies comprised of employees who are consistently learning and re-inventing themselves will, likewise, grow and innovate.
When it comes to employees who are eager to learn and grow, few can compare to the zeal of the refugee workforce. From our front-row seat at Amplio, we have come to recognize a growth mindset is a quite common attribute among refugees. However, hiring individuals with this mindset doesn’t guarantee magical results. Without a nurturing environment, these individuals will quickly become bored and dissatisfied, and it won’t be long before they move onto another company that will support their desire to grow. Conversely, companies that value this mindset and provide healthy paths and boundaries for learning, innovation, and growth will reap loyal employees who stick around for the long-run.
So how can leadership ensure that they are cultivating an environment that encourages their employees’ growth mindset?
Let’s explore five definitive behaviors growth mindset companies cultivate, and their benefits.
Behavior #1: Growth mindset companies praise right actions.
Every employee wants to be recognized for their contributions. As it turns out, most individuals aren’t satisfied solely by a paycheck, but have an innate need for verbal affirmation.
The problem is most leaders only praise right results, not right actions. In these environments, only the smartest and most high-achieving workers are recognized. This can become incredibly frustrating to employees who show up every day and put in their best effort, but don’t always experience the results they are after. When hitting goals becomes the only aim, employees most often either a.) become unmotivated, or b.) do anything (i.e. lie, cheat, and steal) to win. Neither is a desirable outcome.
By encouraging effort over results, you will create a culture where all employees feel appreciated and empowered. This kind of environment is especially important for refugees, most of whom grew up in honor-shame cultures and would rather quit than be publicly embarrassed and shame his or herself. When you praise right actions, you encourage the behavior and confidence that will eventually get you the results you’re after.
Behavior #2: Growth mindset companies encourage continuous learning.
Individuals with a growth mindset recognize that their current level of intelligence and experience doesn’t have to remain permanent. They are hungry to take in every ounce of information and training they can get their hands on that will help them improve. Companies that provide opportunities for these employees to learn by way of books, hands-on training, mentorship, conferences, and more will satisfy this hunger—and see their commitment soar.
When we started working with Booster Spirit Wear to place refugees in their screen-printing warehouse, they immediately recognized their new employees’ insatiable desire to learn. They made a bold decision they felt would best utilize this growth mindset. They told our employees that they were starting in an entry-level position, and would be expected to work a daily eight hour shift, minimum. However, if there was any equipment they wanted to learn how to use, in order to move into a higher-paying position, they could stay longer and be paid to train.
Each employee would be responsible for finding a mentor, who would also be paid for their time. It was a big risk, but the company knew it would pave the way for a better trained team in the future. James, one of the first employees hired under this program, learned how to operate every single machine—and is still with the company four years later.
Behavior #3: Growth mindset companies create and communicate clear career paths.
Growth mindset employees left to figure out a career path on their own will usually find one— right out of the company.
Commitment is the “holy grail” of what most companies are looking for these days.
Every employee represents an investment of time, energy and resources. Employers who want to make the most on this investment need to create and communicate a clear and actionable path forward.
If you want good employees to stay, be sure to cast a clear vision for their future within the company. Taking time to do this will create strong loyalty.
Studies have shown that refugees are naturally loyal, where they are welcomed. When given a clear career path, they are not only more loyal, but sprint harder and faster than anyone else I’ve ever witnessed. When Omega Thompson was hired on at a local hair and body product manufacturer, he worked so hard and picked up on skills so quickly that within days he had earned a raise, and was offered the opportunity to be trained on the forklift— which, of course, he did.
Behavior #4: Growth mindset companies provide actionable, constructive feedback.
The difference between criticism and feedback is investment.
While criticism is centered on finding fault, feedback communicates both an honest review and corrective solutions.
Criticism squelches the confidence needed to get back up and keep going. Growth mindset employees thrive when they are given the information and tools they need to learn from their mistakes, and improve next time. A refugee’s desire to prove his or herself makes them eager to please every time. They would rather hear honest feedback, even when it hurts, rather than find out later that you were disappointed in their performance. When giving feedback, it’s important to remember this: you can still be accepting of a person, while expressing disapproval of their actions.
Behavior #5: Growth mindset companies are accepting of failure and risk
One final consideration, for companies who desire to nourish a growth mindset, is this: create an environment where employees have the freedom to take smart risks.
Failure must be acceptable. Smart leaders know that failure is not an end, rather a stepping stone on the journey to success. Growth mindset employees are inherently unafraid of failure and risk. When a company nurtures an accepting environment, it frees these employees up to be more innovative.
Innovation isn’t just about creating new products, ideas or methods, but improving upon the old ones. When we first placed several refugees at Compac Industries, a leading baby product manufacturer in Atlanta, one of them suggested that inventory be moved to shelves right next to their work stations, instead of where it had always been— on the other side of the warehouse. No one had ever considered this detail before, but this one, simple action resulted in an immediate and drastic boost in productivity.
Nurturing an environment that is accepting of failure and risk will ensure your company won’t get stuck in the rut of “this is the way it’s always been done,” by encouraging constant innovation.
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Growth mindset is just one of the many benefits of hiring refugees we talk about in our new book, “Refugee Workforce,” releasing Fall 2019. “Refugee Workforce” weaves engaging real-life stories with supporting statistics to present a compelling case for hiring the displaced.
Visit our book website at www.refugeeworkforce.com to learn more, join the launch team, or sign up for email updates.