Recently SPUD Calgary has been getting some recognition for our inclusive hiring practices, and we even won a Disability Employment Awareness Month award this past week! We asked Corbin Bouree, SPUD’s managing director for Alberta, to share a little bit about why inclusive hiring is so important to him:
To me, it’s important to view people as people. At SPUD, we take the viewpoint that anyone who works for us wakes up every morning with the intention to do her job as well as possible, to contribute to something meaningful, to enjoy her work, and to learn and improve her abilities. An excellent local example is the young man who works at SPUD, who I will call Paul here, and was one of the first people we hired through an employment agency. Paul is early for every shift, knows all of our 65 team members’ names by heart, and tells us after every shift that he has never been happier than when he first started working for us. Like almost all people, he goes through a growth period when he learns new skills, and he gets frustrated when he does not immediately understand how to do something. These are normal, human feelings and emotions that manifest for almost anyone, regardless of whether or not he or she has a disability. That being said, his ability to complete his assigned tasks is hands-down the best of any person we employ. He has talents that are not exhibited by team members who don’t have a disability, and he is better in his position than anyone else we currently or have previously employed in that role. On weeks when he has gone on vacation, we immediately run out of the supplies that he cleans and sanitizes at his regular shifts. He is never late, even in circumstances outside of his control, and he only ever comes to work with an attitude that is overwhelmingly positive. We literally have to force him to take breaks. In terms of attitude AND ability, he’s a model team member. Finally, and equally as important, he’s a pleasure to be around as a person. He makes people laugh, he remembers everyone’s name, even after meeting someone once, and truly wants to work hard and make a difference in his role.
Of course, there challenges that come with hiring inclusively. Anytime you work with someone who is different from you – whether she is from a different cultural background, has different work experience, or is being asked to perform a new task – communication becomes even more important. Communication IS challenging. Training new people is fraught with difficulties. Building a team and culture that allows for creativity, innovation and the ability to change with market conditions outside of our control is not easy. That being said, the inclusion of people in our company with different skills and backgrounds has allowed us to continue to grow and expand our service, while at the same time creating a sense of belonging that allows every team member to contribute in a meaningful way in the workplace. And since we started championing inclusive hiring, we have seen changes that have resulted in a marked improvement in communication across the board.
A relevant example of improved communication borne from inclusive hiring is in our daily morning huddles with 30-plus team members. One of our team members is deaf, and an initial challenge was incorporating her into this important communication forum to share the day’s plan with the entire group. Through a combination of whiteboards, written plans, and teaching our team leads basic sign language, we now have someone who is working full-time and has reported that she has never felt as included in an employment setting as she does currently. She also participates on a daily basis by teaching our entire team two new sign language words per day, thereby improving our everyone’s capacity to communicate with one another, and strengthening the bonds between team members at all levels in our organization.
Finding good people in any industry is a challenge – I won’t misrepresent that, and don’t pretend to have any magic solutions on how to solve that. However, when it comes to having people on your team who are talented, hardworking, eager to learn and bring the best attitude you can ask for as a leader, I can assure you that having an inclusive workplace will yield all of these benefits and more for your organization and your people.
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