Following the first in our series on best practice case studies, helping inclusive employers learn from each other, this one is also around a new person joining the team. This case study is written in the employee’s own words, so my huge thanks to Aidan Kiely for taking the time to write it for us. Here is his story:
I am a temporary employee of Direct Line Group, working here since February 2012, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working for the company. I firmly believe that Direct Line Group is an employer of excellence for employees with disabilities. I know this not least because I’ve been working on developing the company’s diversity and inclusion strategy and seen firsthand the strong desire within this business to excel in how we treat our disabled employees, but also because of my own experience as an employee with a disability myself.
As a totally blind person with no previous work experience, starting a new job (and a first) was always going to be daunting. I had no idea what to expect. From the start, DLG’s resourcing team were absolutely fantastic. They regularly called me to discuss what adjustments would be needed, keep me updated as to what was happening, and assist me through our rigorous screening process. They really couldn’t have been more helpful. Once all the on boarding was over, I was then put in touch with the member of the team I was to work for, who was sorting out getting the adaptations in place, most important of which was a computer with screen-reading software installed.
When I arrived, I had a computer fully hooked up to the network, with the right software, and all my email settings already configured, which made life so much easier on my first day. My colleagues had already agreed that they would meet me at the train station, take me to the workplace and ensure I got back to the station on time in the evenings. This they have done for me every day since. We recently moved to new offices temporarily, much further away from the station. Normally for a blind person, such a move would cause a lot of problems, because you’d have to learn a new journey from scratch, and make preparations to ensure you got their okay in the meantime, then you’d need to orientate yourself with a new layout. But for me, this was not a problem at all.
When I got to the offices, I was shown where everything is and given all the practical help I needed. What was so refreshing was that I didn’t even had to ask, my colleagues had already thought of these things. And when I do need some assistance, I never feel like I’m troubling anyone by asking, and that everyone is happy to help.
I suppose that if I were to summarise what makes this a great place to work for me, it’s the culture. It’s the fact that people here understand that a person with a disability is, first and foremost, a person: some-one with likes and dislikes, a sense of humour, strengths and faults, and the ability to do a job. I think that they understood a lot quicker than some others do, that there’s no big secret to getting it right with disabled people. they’re part of your team and they want the same things as you: to do their job, to achieve and, hopefully, to enjoy yourself and find satisfaction in the work you do. There’s nothing nicer than the feeling that people are relaxed and comfortable around you, and I was struck from day 1 by the ease with which my colleagues accepted my disability.
I have a good sense of humour when it comes to my blindness and I’m glad that my colleagues have been so happy to share in that with me. It’s never been the elephant in the room but we talk openly about it when it comes up in conversation. People shouldn’t be afraid to say the wrong thing to a disabled person: most of us believe that it’s your intent, not your words, that people should ultimately judged upon. Essentially, I feel like a valued member of the team. Work colleagues have become good friends. The work I do is recognised, and I get very positive feedback. If I occasionally need a bit of help, for example turning an unreadable graph in to a readable spreadsheet, or to swap tasks around so I can do my fair share, I only have to ask. I am very fortunate that Direct Line Group saw what I could offer because of the person I am and the skills I have, and were able to look past the lack of work experience that I had as a result of my disability.
I leave the company in September 2012 and will be joining the NHS as a trainee manager, a position I would not have got without the skills that my work at DLG allowed me to develop. I joined the company at a time when it was in the process of separating from the RBS group, and building its own policies as a stand-alone business. I think that the work we’re doing to ensure we are an inclusive employer has and will continue to improve us as a business, but there is no doubt that the passion and commitment to this process, which is essential to delivering it, was already there from the start. I’m proud to be an employee of Direct Line Group.
My thanks to Aidan for writing this piece for Ecenbreak, and to Direct Line Group for recognising his talent.
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