Fear, anxiety, financial difficulties, and a lack of control over what the future holds are all symptoms of the COVID-19 pandemic. But crucially, they are parallels to the everyday struggles of refugees in our community.

Indianapolis has become home to over 20,000 refugees from around the world since 1975. While education, resources, and an increasingly globalized perspective have promoted better support and inclusion of refugees, there continue to be dramatic systemic obstacles.

And, in a time of taking action against systemic racial inequality — a divide that swallows refugees and citizens of color alike — businesses and corporations are being held responsible like never before. 

As the leader of a national company headquartered here in Indianapolis, I see our role in the erosion of blind-eye systemic bias is actively doing more in our business practices for the refugee community. Because it’s clear we aren’t yet doing enough. Business empathy is an essential tool, not just as the right thing to do but for boosting your bottom line — the future of business IS empathy. This month’s World Refugee Day shines a light on the dire need for truly inclusive corporate structures.

The upcoming celebration for refugees and their contributions comes hot on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic. The highly-praised essential workers who managed to keep our world operating were previously branded as “low skilled” when referencing their value to our economy. And many are refugees and migrants. 

It’s an embarrassment that the public eye only praises our refugees when we need them. It reveals a stunning lack of empathy in our business practices.

By 2025, millennials are predicted to make up 75 percent of the workforce. And, within the millennials’ working lifetime, groups that were historically underrepresented will reach majority status.

Modern consumers, especially millennials, choose their business based on who shares their values. They demand to know where corporations stand on polarizing issues, not just which character traits are painted on the wall. All companies have a platform, which means they have power to make the changes that consumers care about.

Taking a stand — and taking action to back it up — is not only the ethical road, but it’s part of the long-term economic game. 

Diversity in leadership boosts the bottom line even higher. Time and time again, inclusive companies make better decisions and outperform competitors. As a plus, these cultures are happier places to work.

Leading a staffing company means it’s important for us to have a direct connection with our teammates — many of whom are refugees and migrants — to empower them and lift them up through the capacity of a career. We build structures to support this mission and to galvanize our team around it.

Our partnerships with Exodus Refugee, Catholic Charities, Immigrant Welcome Center, and others are one of our ways of constructing these systems. If we have an employee in need, we know where to connect them. We choose partners who we can support with resources and job opportunities, who they themselves have tangible missions and activities that aid this population. These partnerships are a strong thread to finding untapped pools of talent, as well as investing in the community.

I urge leaders to commit to building systems to support your activism long-term. This may require some restructuring and discomfort. But, if recent events have revealed anything, it’s that the status quo isn’t what we want to maintain. The burden falls on us. It’s a long play. 

Marginalized communities are finally empowered to speak up. Corporations not only need to announce their support on social media and donate to worthy causes, they need to take action and examine their internal practices to bolster their statements of support. 

We all have a choice right now — to regress and go back to what was once normal, or to use the truth of what we have been shown to choose solidarity and adjust our business practices to reflect it.

The collective challenge of the year 2020 has brought many business communities to our knees. But, there is value in this humility. As the pandemic crisis highlights the cracks in our armor, we are forced to see the opportunities for change. For growth. For action. As we celebrate World Refugee Day this year, I urge business leaders to practice empathy.

Seth Morales is president and CEO of Morales Group, Inc., a global, mission-driven talent-sourcing agency. Together with local community organizations, The Morales Group is attracting individuals from all ends of the globe to offer qualified, screened talent that solves business’s specific workforce needs, building better futures one story at a time.

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