May 28, 2013

Ingredients for a Good Employee

Aygul Sidayeva

The CWS Employment Program works hard to place refugees into jobs around the Lancaster area, and many employers have opened their doors to give them a chance. Most managers know that the best employees enjoy what they do, feel appreciated, and are good at their jobs. In an attempt to learn more about what makes an employee thrive, CWS interviewed the owner of Slow Rise Bakery and his long-standing employee, Aygul Sidayeva.   

A Strong Work Ethic: Aygul Sidayeva, her husband, and children left their home in Eastern Europe due to persecution based on their ethnicity.  In Russia, the government does not recognize Meskhetian Turks as citizens and denies them of their rights and place in the community. Aygul was determined to seek out a better life for her and her family - a wish granted through the US Refugee Resettlement program and CWS in 2004.

Because of their strong will to work, Aygul’s family was offered a place in an intensive employment program called Match Grant. The program requires participants to seek out and accept any reasonable job offer in order to become self sufficient and not to rely on governmental cash assistance. For this family, work could not come soon enough. Her son began working full time, her husband part time, and she obtained a part time job with nascent local business, Slow Rise Bakery.

Some Open-Mindedness: Brian Hernon heard about CWS from his church – Lancaster Friends Meeting. As a world traveler himself, having served in the Peace Corps for a number of years, Brian already had an interest in the global community. Around the time that Aygul’s family was settling into Lancaster, Brian happened to be opening his own small business baking bread. He named the bakery Slow Rise – an enterprise dedicated to following artisan standards for hand-made, organic breads.

Aygul Sidayeva with baked break

A Little Patience: Aygul says that she did not speak any English when she first started working with the company. Words like “yeast,” “oven,” or “knead” were new to her. What was the difference between “flower” and “flour” she wondered? Brian was not only her supervisor, he was her English teacher. In his view, Aygul had basic communication skills, but talking on the phone was a challenge. Many English language learners face this barrier – in-person communication allows for non-verbal cues to inform the conversation. However, Aygul’s children helped out with relaying information when telephone conversations were necessary. In the bakery, Brian could simply show Aygul what to do, and she was a fast and willing learner. Sometimes, Aygul would use a pocket electronic dictionary to facilitate communication. She remembers that any mistakes she made were treated with patience and an explanation about how she could improve.

“He is a really good guy,” Aygul says, now close to fluent in English. “He is really understanding of the people who work here.” Currently, Slow Rise Bakery employs several more refugees from different countries. Aygul is often in charge of running the bakery and giving instructions to a diverse set of people, demonstrating her own patience with their limited English skills.

Aygul Sidayeva handling baked bread

A lot of Love for Lancaster: The first day of work, Aygul knew that she would be happy here. “I liked the neighborhood and I could listen to the birds everyday before opening the door,” she says. Lancaster was calm and peaceful. Her children have pursued higher education, gotten married, and have had opportunities that would not have been open to them in Russia. Nine years after she started at Slow Rise Bakery, Aygul and her family are thriving. Aygul and her son are eager to mention that they are still in contact with the CWS team that helped them during their first months in America – Barbara, Laura, Andrea, and others.

With these ingredients combined, business is steady, lives have been improved, and friendships forged. Hiring a refugee may take patience, but the benefits are immeasurable.