IBM Refugee Mentoring Update: "I Am Only Available after Work Hours”
IBM ended the program season with a 'Høstfest'
IBM's 2017 mentors and mentees from the kick-off event in May

IBM Denmark has recently marked the formal ending of the second season of their refugee mentoring program. The program aims to accelerate the integration of refugees into the Danish labor market and was launched in partnership with the U.S. Embassy, AmCham Denmark and Foreningen Nydansker.

In this article, Corporate Citizenship Manager Sanne Urbak (IBM Denmark) shares the company's remarkable results and accomplishments from the first two seasons.


"I Am Only Available after Work Hours”

This is the best reply you can ever get on an invitation – when the reply comes from the mentees in your mentor program for highly skilled refugees. 

At IBM Denmark, we have recently marked the formal ending of the second season of our mentor program for refugees. A program that aims to accelerate the integration of refugees into the Danish labor market.

The mentor program has a duration of 6 months so it was time to end the formal program for the 20 IBM mentors and mentees with a 'Høstfest' event. IBM's CEO Henrik Bodskov, the 50 participants from last year’s program, our program partners Foreningen Nydansker, Business Forum for Social Responsibility (VFSA), AmCham Denmark, the U.S. Embassy of Denmark and other friends of the house were all present to help us mark another succesful season with the refugee mentoring program. So there were plenty of opportunity to share stories and do some important networking for all.  

We invited to ‘an early evening’ arrangement – since many of the mentees actually are in occupation or busy with education or internships or apprenticeship.  

That is probably the best indication we can get; the mentor program creates the anticipated value and that many of the participating mentees through our ’integration fast-track’ successfully integrate into the Danish labor market and education system. 

Many of our mentor couples decide to continue their mentor relationship after the formal program concludes. As some of them say: ”We want to finish the job together” and others again tell us that they have become personal friends and now are like family members.

Not all mentees are in skill-aligned jobs yet. And that cannot be a success criterion in itself. The path can be more complex and other things must be overcome for some of the mentees, so in these situation focus is on creating clarity for the refugees on the next relevant steps. That is alright. Overall, they all tell us that they have gained more self-confidence and belief in the possibility of succeeding in Denmark and that they have obtained tools and resources to continue their development.  That is exactly what we can contribute with in the mentor relationships when we share our expertise, experience and network.

We have conducted a survey amongst all mentees and mentors from 2016 and 2017:












It is our hope that more businesses in Denmark will join the effort with similar programs. This is about Employee Engagement and a Corporate Citizenship program that yield on all the bottom lines.

We cooperate with Foreningen Nydansker who is responsible for the contact with the job centers at the municipalities, who generates the important mentor-mentees matches and as well as educates our IBM mentors and follow-up with the mentor couples during the course of the program.

IBM Global HC honored the program in 2016 with an Employee Engagement Global Excellence Award

Positive Impacts for Mentees
A considerable number of mentees reported that they, to a high or moderate extent, had experienced an increase in understanding Danish culture (81%), Danish Workplace culture (88%), an increase in their professional and social network (75%), they feel more motivated (75%), less stressed (87%), more confident (75%), and more capable in navigating the labour market (81%).

Positive Impacts for Mentors
For our employees, across both years, we deployed the same assessment process as with the mentees.The areas where positive impacts were measured include increased knowledge related to the field of integration (97%), wanting to engage more in volunteering activities (86%), a greater and more diverse understanding of cultural differences (90%), a higher sense of workplace proudness (97%).Respondents also reported that having the possibility to engage in volunteering activities is important for their workplace happiness (83%), and experienced an increase in skills that are related to leadership practice, such as a better understanding of how to motivate people (94%), and an increment in empathy (84%).

Results: A total of 44 mentees have participated in the IBM Mentoring Program

  • 27 % of the mentees have found regular employment during or after the mentorship program
  • 39 % have strengthened their attachment to the Danish work force trough internship, part time job or student job, admission at university or an apprenticeship 

AmCham partner Forening Nydansker has created a short video from the IBM harvest party, where you can learn more about what mentors and mentees have gained by participating.

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