On the occasion of the United Nations’ World Refugee Day, the European Commission is today releasing the EU Skills Profile Tool for Third-Country Nationals.

It is an off – and online web editor that will make it possible for non-EU nationals to present their skills, qualifications, and experiences in a way that is well understood by employers, education and training providers and organisations working with migrants across the whole European Union.

Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, said: “In today’s world of work we need everyone to be able to fully use their skills in our labour markets. The talents of non-EU nationals cannot be wasted. Our ‘Skills Profile Tool’ will facilitate their pathway towards work. It will also allow national administrations to have a clear understanding of their skills and qualifications, which will enable administrations to tackle challenges and seize opportunities relating to the integration of refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants in the labour market. This is a win-win for all.”

Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, said: “Migrants come with their own experience, talents and skills that can be real assets for our economies and societies. Investing in early labour market integration is therefore paramount. Successful integration is key if we want to turn migration into an opportunity for everyone involved. Our ‘Skills Profile’ will shorten the journey for newly arrived non-EU nationals to employment by making their individual skills sets visible.

The Skills Profile Tool will be a first instrument for reception centres, integration services, public employment services and other organisations offering services to non-EU nationals to make sure their skills and education are recognised, and to further guide them to training, education or employment. In addition to giving an overview of a non-EU national’s skills profile – comparable with a CV – the tool helps migration organisations to identify individuals’ specific needs for integration into the labour market. Ultimately this will simplify the process of matching jobseekers to vacancies.

Integration of non-EU nationals into the labour market is one of the most important challenges we face together, especially in light of the past, current and future inflow of refugees and asylum seekers. Indeed, the cost of non-integration is far greater in the long run than the cost of effective integration policies, and in light of digitalisation and an ageing society, Europe has an interest in becoming an attractive destination for the talent our economies need.To make the best of our human capital, we need to put all talent in the EU to use.

The ‘EU Skills Profile Tool’ is one of the ten Key Actions announced in the New Skills Agenda for Europe. One year on from the launch of the New Skills Agenda, the Commission has delivered on a number of key actions related to increasing skills levels and making better use of existing skills in Europe.

The Skills Profile Tool aims at addressing mismatches between skills and jobs of non-EU nationals. It targets both those with a high level of education – who perhaps need help to get their qualifications recognised – and those with a low level of education and who need further education and training to obtain the skills needed in our labour market. In addition, among some non-EU nationals, limited abilities in the host countries’ language(s) may hinder their labour market integration; the Skills Profile Tool will help to identify these gaps.The tool complements other tools for skills transparency such as Europass and the European Qualifications Framework, which have both been revised under the New Skills Agenda to allows employers, education and training providers and relevant authorities to compare national qualifications across the EU and internationally.

The EU Skills Profile Tool is also coherent with the European Commission’s Action Plan on the Integration of Third-Country Nationals, also launched one year ago, supporting Member States in the integration of the 20 million non-EU nationals residing legally in the EU. Since then, the Commission took a number of initiatives to improve the integration of third-country nationals into the labour market, the most recent one being the launch of the initiative “Employers together for integration” to promote employers’ efforts to support the integration of refugees and other migrants.

On the occasion of today’s launch of the Skills Profile Tool, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen visited a reception centre for asylum seekers based in Brussels and run by Fedasil. There she observed first-hand how the tool can be used to support refugees and asylum seekers, as well as the social workers and assistants who accompany them in their integration process.

There’s a growing skepticism about whether training is an effective tool to meet corporate goals. Critics of training contend that it doesn’t visibly move the needle on numbers, and can even backfire. Clearly, not all trainings are equally good — and none are a silver bullet. Training is effective only when designed intentionally to achieve discrete, and often narrow, outcomes. Anyone who believes training will quickly result in greater outcomes will be disappointed. On the other hand, companies that want to motivate employees to engage in new behaviors that complement and accelerate more structural efforts may find thoughtfully designed training to be an effective tool. Training can be an effective mechanism for educating employees and inspiring behavior change. 

Strike a careful balance between limiting defensiveness about unconscious bias, while communicating the importance of managing bias. One concern with teaching people about unconscious bias, or talking about diversity efforts more broadly, is that majority group members can become defensive. Training can be designed to reduce defensiveness by explaining that we don’t have unconscious biases because we’re bad people – we have them because we are people. Training can communicate this by highlighting that unconscious bias creeps into all aspects of our lives and decision-making, not simply in ways that negatively impact diversity and inclusion efforts. Although it’s important to reduce defensiveness, some trainings go too far and give the impression that, “we all do this, so it’s okay.” When unconscious bias is simply normalized, people’s actions can be more likely to be influenced by stereotypes. It’s important that training make clear the importance of managing bias and offer strategies to do so.

Structure the content around workplace situations. Many unconscious bias trainings draw on social science research, organizing it around psychological phenomena (such as “confirmation bias”) or demographics (“maternal bias”). To make training feel more relevant and memorable, we’ve found it’s better to organize content around specific workplace situations. Research shows that when information is presented in a way that is linked to our current schemas, we are better able to remember it. Our trainings are organized around three specific situations that our participants encounter in their day-to-day work: recruiting and hiring, team dynamics, and career development. In the post-workshop survey given at the global technology company, we asked participants to commit to one action they would take to manage bias. Months later, we found that 41% of respondents remembered their specific commitment, and of those, 91% had made progress in implementing that new behavior.

Make it action oriented. Because raising awareness about bias can backfire when not paired with strategies for managing bias, it’s essential that unconscious bias training equip participants with action-oriented strategies. For example, we talk about strategies to increase feelings of belonging, and the importance of defining what qualifications matter before making people-related decisions. Sharing such strategies seems to have long-ranging impacts on participants. One question we asked employees in our training evaluation was whether, when interviewing multiple candidates for the same role, they ask all candidates the same questions. This method of structured interviewing has been shown to promote more objective, less biased decision-making. As much as eight months after our training, employees reported a 25% increase in use of this method. Other employees reported they “stopped giving resumes in advance of tech interviews to reduce bias in expectations of a candidate’s potential ability.” Another shared: “Anytime I witness someone being interrupted, I speak up to ensure that person can voice their input after the person who interrupted them is done speaking.”

Unconscious bias training can be a useful component of efforts, but only if it’s thoughtfully designed with research in mind and its limitations are well understood. By using the strategies outlined above, organizations can design training that engage employees, motivate them to adopt behaviors that mitigate bias. But these outcomes can only take an organization so far. Ultimately it is a commitment to consistently evaluate and innovate organizational processes — including the systems that allow for bias in the first place — that will have the most sustained impact on achieving goals.

Most successful companies make a substantial investment into workplace learning initiatives. Companies that embrace modern approaches to workplace learning initiatives also receive a substantial boost to productivity, better employee retention, and improved product quality.

But how do you make learning interesting for employees and encourage them to improve their skills? Traditional forms of workplace training can feel regimented and boring to many employees. Employees often feel like training sessions are mundane and not directly relevant to their workplace performance.

The key to having successful workplace learning is to reduce the emphasis on formal learning obtained in workshops and to use more informal learning – the kind of learning that most of us are used to in the real world. Children are great exponents of messy learning. Somehow, we try to formalize learning too soon and once most of us have gone through the school system, our ability to learn has become less adaptable and flexible.

Informal learning is usually a messy experience — people haphazardly pick up new skills and knowledge as they attempt to complete new tasks. It often involves mistakes and trying many solutions before reaching the right one. We often refer to this type of learning as messy learning. It always involves learning new skills, asking questions, brainstorming, being creative, making mistakes then learning from them, finding information and collaborating with others. Think of it as the natural way that people learn new things.

Messy learning can be incorporated into the workplace in a number of ways. Project-based learning initiatives are particularly useful for encouraging messy learning and developing the skills of your employees. These learning initiatives involve employees being given a specific set of project goals they must achieve — but they must discover the best way to reach those goals by themselves.

  1. Outline the goals of the project

The project should have specific goals that challenge employees and require them to learn new skills. The outcomes of the project don’t have to directly benefit the business but the skills that employees learn should be relevant. The projects that work best are multi-disciplinary and encourage employees with different skills to work together. While the goals of the project should be firm, employees should be given the freedom to learn as they see fit and try new approaches.

  1. Include resources that you wish employees to learn from

While messy learning involves giving employees a great deal of freedom, they should have the resources necessary to complete the project. That includes textbooks, help from other employees, and online eLearning resources. eLearning is particularly useful for messy learning, because workers can obtain the information they need very quickly.

  1. Step back and allow employees to engage with one another

Informal learning often involves having conversations with co-workers and sharing knowledge. Encourage employees to impart their knowledge to their co-workers. Many of the “eureka moments” that occur when learning something new are a result of employees brainstorming with one another — encourage this form of messy learning. Expect the group to go in unexpected directions that don’t always work out. While messy learning is usually a hands-off approach for facilitators, be available to provide advice if the group becomes stuck.

  1. Remember that learning comes from failure as well as success

Messy learning involves frustration, inspiration, collaboration, and eventually — success. Participants stumble along, uncovering new ideas, learning new skills, and developing bonds with their co-workers. Don’t be afraid of mistakes or failure. Everything is a learning opportunity, with invaluable skills and knowledge being accumulated throughout the process.

  1. Set milestones and manage time

Although the learning process is largely unguided, there must be clearly defined milestones and a timeline.

  1. Evaluate what was learnt

After the project has been completed, use discussions and surveys to learn what new knowledge and skills have been obtained by employees. You will be astonished by the new ideas that employees have come across while working together and the improvements that your business obtain from messy learning. Share the results of the project with other employees to motivate them.

Informal learning can also be encouraged in the workplace by giving employees the time and resources to incorporate learning into everyday actions. Try the following approaches to encourage informal learning:

  • Encourage staff to regularly collaborate and share knowledge with one another
  • Host regular lunch-and-learn events, where a speaker comes to your workplace to share knowledge
  • Start an office library with useful books and links to online resources
  • Each week, allot some time for collaborative projects and share the results of past projects

By embracing messy learning, your employees will develop the skills necessary to overcome any obstacle! 

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