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Head, Heart, Hands: A Strategy for Employer Conversations

This blog post was written by Higher Employment Services Technical Assistance and is included as an archived post on the Switchboard blog.

When I was a rookie job developer just starting out I came up with a little strategy that I would use when approaching employers. I called it Head, Heart, Hands, and it represented 3 simple messages that I wanted to communicate to employers:

  1. Head: It makes good business sense to hire refugees- it will be a good investment.
  2. Heart: I’m doing something positive by hiring refugees- I’m helping someone rebuild their life.
  3. Hands: It will make my life easier to work with this job developer and hire refugees.

While I had initially thought of the elements of Head, Heart and Hands as the three points on my employer pitch outline, what I began to realize was that it wasn’t as important to hit all three points, but rather to identify which of the elements was the driving motivation for the employer.

Some employers’ primary concerns may be business issues such as high turnover, frequent employee absences, lazy workers, or issues affecting their bottom line. For these employers you take the “Head” approach and emphasize how your clients will meet the employers’ need where past employees have fallen short. You might highlight client retention rates, strong work ethic or the Work Opportunity Tax Credit incentive.

Other employers just need workers fast. They’re looking for an easy solution to their current labor shortage. For those employers, you take the “Hands” approach, and emphasize how you can solve that problem by getting them work-authorized, motivated and dependable employees quickly.

Finally, there are employers out there who get really excited about the “Heart” aspect. Some may be immigrants or descendants of immigrants and identify with the struggle from that perspective. Others may just have a strong motivation to help others. Although the “business case” is typically much more effective than the “charity pitch,” if you can tell that an employer is really excited to help refugees from more of a humanitarian perspective, then run with it!

The key to identifying the employer’s motivations is to ask them more questions than they ask you during your first meeting. Don’t feel like you need to give them a speech about refugee resettlement. Give them the basics, and then turn the attention to them and their needs. Employers will be motivated to work with you when you tailor your services (and your pitch) to their needs.

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