World Mental Health Day 2018: ‘Young people in a changing world’.

By Charles Clement, Business Disability Forum

When I started my first proper job for a large insurance firm about 20 years ago, I remember we had a welcome reception with wine and cheese (now that shows how long ago this was).

This was a chance for new recruits to meet senior staff and was part of the formal induction process. After quite a lot of cheese and some wine I got talking to a Director from a different part of the business. My tongue loosened by the wine, I told her that I was very unhappy in my new post. I didn’t think I fitted in, felt very anxious and I was probably depressed, having experienced depression in the past. After a few awkward moments the Director excused herself and went to mingle and I went home. The next day I went in to work and was immediately asked in to a meeting room by my Manager. I was told in no uncertain terms that he did not appreciate me talking about the department to other colleagues and that if I wasn’t happy then maybe it wasn’t the job for me. After this things were, not to put too fine a point on it, awkward – and I left soon after. To be honest Mental Health wasn’t widely spoken about back then so I don’t hold any ill will towards my Manager and as a new entrant to the labour market, I thought his reaction was pretty normal.

I contrast my own experiences to those of someone fairly new to the world of work. I recently spoke to Andrew who has been a Management Consultant at EY for about four years. Andrew, like me, had experienced depression at school and university. When looking for a graduate scheme to join, EYs reputation as a people centred business played a part in Andrew’s decision.

EY logo

EY

When he joined EY, Andrew wanted to explore whether he could create a wellbeing programme that was tailored to young people joining the world of work supporting them to manage their mental health and wellbeing, – perhaps they had moved to a new city away from family and friends for instance. Not only was this project supported by leadership at EY, it was positively encouraged. Andrew knows he can be open with his managers about his depression and has the flexibility to balance his own time with client needs in a way that works for him. So, it does appear that times, are changing.

So what does the future hold? Undoubtedly, mental health is spoken about more widely and has a greater profile in the media. This has gone some way to removing the stigma associated with poor mental health. However, as mental health becomes more widely discussed in the workplace it’s important that it doesn’t drop off the agenda or become a ‘non-issue’. Line managers should still be equipped to have conversations with employees who look like they are struggling with their Mental Health.

Technology is developing at an incredible rate. This allows us to have more agile and flexible workplaces, which can be of great benefit to someone who needs to work from home because of their mental health. Often, this new technology allows employees to work at times that suit them, which can be very useful if sleep patterns are erratic or a person is fatigued at certain times of the day. However, it is important that we make time to ‘check-in’ with our colleagues who work flexibly, to make sure they have the support they need. As in all things in life, getting the right balance is important.

Charles Clement

Charles Clement

The future provides challenges, certainly, but also many opportunities to get it right around mental health. I have worked at Business Disability Forum for six years and the progress made in that time makes me even more hopeful that in another six perhaps mental health will be discussed in the workplace, in the same way we discuss physical health.

Interested in more about mental health?

Business Disability Forum recently undertook a survey of 16-24 year olds to gauge their attitudes to mental health and the role of businesses and universities. While a huge majority of respondents wanted to talk more about mental health, few felt able to do so at their places of work or study, showing how outdated approaches are holding back the next generation.

For the full findings, visit our Media Centre. A report on the findings will be released in January 2019.

Developing a global approach to meeting the needs of disabled colleagues at Shell

Picture of cranes and commercial skyscraper

The Shell Building in London (far right)

By Sam Buckley, Business Disability Forum

When Business Disability Forum sought to create a global framework to enable multinational organisations to meet the needs of disabled employees and customers around the world, it called on leading organisations, with experience in the field, to join its Global Taskforce.

With her recent experience in helping global Shell develop its workplace adjustment programme, Georgia Silk, Senior Inclusion and Diversity Adviser at Shell, was asked Co-Chair the Taskforce.

To mark the launch of the Global Taskforce, we talked to Georgia to find out more about what Shell is doing to develop a global approach to supporting disabled colleagues – the kind of practice the Taskforce hopes to extend to many other organisations.

Developing a global approach

BDF - Business Disability Forum Conference 2018

Georgia Silk speaking at Business Disability Forum’s conference, ‘Disability in the Modern Workplace’ in April 2018

Shell is an innovation-driven global group of energy and petrochemical companies, with 92,000 employees across the world in more than 70 countries. Over the last two years, Shell has been rolling out its global workplace adjustment programme.

Prior to the creation of the programme, Shell carried out interviews with disabled employees to find out what they wanted and needed from a global accessibility programme.

Georgia Silk, Senior Inclusion and Diversity Adviser at Shell, said:

“During the interviews, I heard a story from one of our young employees in The Netherlands who had a rapidly deteriorating visual impairment. When I listened to her story about joining Shell and her initial experiences of trying to get the adjustments she needed, I was in all honesty a bit disappointed. In the end she got what she needed but it took far too long. I was left with a view that we could do better and should do better.

“I then became aware of a young graduate in Canada who had ADHD and was struggling. We have very stretching goals for our graduates on our programmes and he was struggling to meet the needs of that programme and his line manager felt he was failing. He came to see his HR person, they had a conversation, that HR person was able to direct him to an organisation externally that provided advice on ADHD. He was able to get some help, some strategies and has turned it completely around.

“Now, I was his HR person. I knew about that external organisation because I had a family member with ADHD. If I hadn’t known that, I think I would have drawn a blank on what we could do for that young man.

“These are two experiences that have informed my passion, for this subject and led me to want to make a difference”.

Shell’s global programme has been live since August 2017 and is now available to approximately 35,000 employees across 11 countries.

Removing unnecessary hurdles

A series of Business Disability Forum Global Taskforce flyers on a table

Georgia Silk said:

“We have a 3% demand on average which is close to what we forecast ie. 3% of our employee base where the service is live have requested an adjustment. Two thirds of those are Real Estate or facilities type adjustments, one third is IT and software.”

Silk highlights how Shell worked hard to remove any unnecessary hurdles form the programme, and in so doing, has made it more accessible and efficient.

“We have a self-serve catalogue of accessibility items online. It is trust based. That means we do not require you to prove that you have a disability or provide any justification, in fact we don’t require line manager approval. We learned from the best practices of other organisations that it was important to take line managers out of the loop because they often don’t know what they’re being asked to approve. These are in any case usually lower cost items, and we can speed up the process by removing additional approval hurdles.

“We also have an accessibility centre which we source internally using our HR services organisation. These are not disability experts but HR professionals who are there to guide people through the process.

“We have an infrastructure of an occupational health system we use for more complex cases and our Health team play an important part in helping us keep people in work and help them get back to work. In the past, some managers have sought to involve a medical opinion when it wasn’t really needed, so we have worked hard to ensure we don’t build in unnecessary medical involvement; that’s been very important to us, hence not requiring people to provide evidence in the case of small items.

“We have had to build some controls in for more expensive items, but wherever possible, we have removed additional approval hurdles.”

Shell has used its well-established case management tools to track workplace adjustments in its global locations and Silk highlights that many colleagues have welcomed the opportunity that the global process provides to offer improved Management Information.

Lessons learnt

Reflecting on learning from the process, Georgia Silk, said:

“I think listening to the voice of employees with disabilities has been key; employees with disabilities have helped us add new items to the catalogue, as well as promote the service

“We have also learnt that with a process like this it’s important to start with a manageable scope and then build from there, through continuous improvement and growth.

“Visible senior leadership support is also vital. It’s been essential to have senior leadership buy-in and support cross functionally because our project team has representatives from Real Estate, IT, HR and Occupational Health, and we could not deliver a ‘joined up’ process without this kind of cross-organisational collaboration.

“We started small and built on our ambition. We started with physical adjustments only and targeted our larger office locations. We are now expanding into non-physical adjustments, although our focus there is not about a process but about providing guidance to employees and managers.”

Silk’s final thoughts on the process and advice to other organisations seeking to do the same:

“Keep learning and keep asking for feedback. Track and improve metrics to know what you are achieving, and lastly maintain the resilience to keep going, keep building and knowing that you are doing the right thing.”

Going global: it’s time for businesses to think big on disability

IMG_6805

Members of the Global Taskforce meeting to discuss the next steps for the group

By Brendan Roach, Business Disability Forum

Forty-five per cent of the organisations that we support at Business Disability Forum, at a corporate level, are global. Between them, they employ more than 8 million people globally. 

Members and Partners are increasingly telling us that their ambition is to get it right for employees and customers with disabilities wherever they are in world.

Whilst it’s relatively early days, we’re already seeing some brilliant examples of organisations approaching disability as a global business issue.

For example:

Thinking big

Our members told us they needed a practical tool to support them to systematically improve their disability performance globally.

We responded by bringing together a Global Taskforce with members of our Partner Group, and working with them to develop that tool: The Global Business Disability Framework.

Our Global Taskforce comprises members of our Partner group, including Atos, Barclays, EY, GlaxoSmithKline, Shell (who also provide our co-chair, Georgia Silk), Accenture, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, HSBC, KPMG and the Royal Bank of Scotland).

Launched at the UK government’s Global Disability Summit in July 2018, the Global Framework enables global organisations to measure, and then systematically improve, their corporate approach to disability inclusion.

IMG_6804In developing the Global Framework, we’ve also been grateful for input from companies such as Lilly and Microsoft and from experts in the field such as Stefan Tromel from the International Labour Organisation’s Global Business and Disability Network, Kate Nash, CEO of PurpleSpace and Susan Scott-Parker, CEO of business disability international and founder and Honorary Vice President of Business Disability Forum.

How does it work?

The Global Business Disability Framework builds on the principles of Business Disability Forum’s Disability Standard management tool. The Disability Standard has been used by our members in the UK since 2005 and has been adapted for use in countries as varied as Australia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The Global Framework uses a ‘whole organisation’ approach to disability inclusion. In our experience, this kind of approach is essential for an organisation to become truly disability-smart. Leading organisations understand that disability is just as relevant to customer service and procurement as it is to recruitment and HR.

With this in mind, the Framework enables colleagues with global responsibility to rate their organization’s performance across 10 key business areas, ranging from recruitment to digital technology.

These areas are measured against four levels of ‘maturity’, from Awareness (Level One) through Embedding (Two), Advancing (Three) and Leading (Four).

Under each level is a specific set of criteria which allows an organisation to make a relatively quick assessment of current performance and identify ways to improve.

Example diagram showing scoring, on a scale of 1 to 4, of 10 features of a business

The Framework will award an organisation an average score based how advanced different areas of the business are

We’re already working with some early adopters and looking forward to seeing how other organisations use the Framework. Based on their experiences, we will evolve the tool and develop more resources.

You can find more information about our Global Taskforce, and the Global Business Disability Framework, on our website.

 

When great customer service makes an impact

Katherine Beavis wearing a headset

Katherine Beavis

As told to Ebunola Adenipekun, Business Disability Forum

‘My name is Katherine, I’m in my 50s and I have been working from the age of 15. My long term condition is congenital right-sided semi-hemiparesis with spasticity, partial epilepsy and bilateral schizencephaly. Apparently, there are only an estimated 7,000 cases reported. Schizencephaly is the second rarest known brain malformation. According to a study in the UK, the probability of having Schizencephaly is 1.48 for every 100,000 births. But hey, I am no one special and just get on with it and try and enjoy life to the max.

I like travelling, listening to music such as soul, jazz, funk, fusion and rare groove – and a variety of other sounds too and love a good dance. I also love socialising and meeting new people and being with my family, as well as my pet cats Yin and Yang. Also I do like to solve a Sudoku puzzle! I always wanted to be an announcer or do voiceover work for characters in adverts and films etc.

What mostly impacts my day-to-day life is some people’s assumptions of me, e.g. some people assume I don’t have a life, don’t have a social life, assume I haven’t worked my entire life, never had relationships of any kind and don’t have certain capabilities, so I’m “disabled” according to them. What’s worse is some people thinking and saying what they “know” of me but never bothering to “really” get to know me. But that’s their issue, not mine.

The range of customer experience I get from day to day varies but one place that sticks out is my local Halifax branch in Fulham Broadway. Maria Gouveia, one of the Bank Consultants is so caring and devoted and that’s with also with the rest of the team. Maria gives you all the time you need, not just on financial matters but on your welfare/your wellbeing, on any other personal issues you may have and even will talk to you if you’re pet lover about pets too. She has been by my side from the start on how to finance and purchase my bike/mobility scooter –  Maria is a brilliant person, a real people’s person.

Going to my local family-run shop Best One & Post Office in Fulham, we always have a laugh and some banter, but they are also very kind and helpful e.g. one of the members changed my light bulb in my home because I couldn’t do it myself and fixed my curtain rail when it came down and he didn’t charge me to fix it back up and I know if I asked if I could pay on another day they would let me.

Great customer service to me is when you listen to your customers and you show that you care when someone is buying a product or service, but also great customer service when it goes wrong can also turn out or lead to a great outcome e.g. you brought a product and it wasn’t what you asked for as a customer – but then the customer service gets involved and pulls out all the stops for you in trying to solve the problem/s, constantly keeping you (the customer) in touch with progress and reassuring you (as the customer) they are on it. Most of all getting the product/s right for his/her customer leaving the customer totally satisfied by the end of the day.

Another place is my local Sainsbury’s (Fulham Wharf branch), most of their staff are friendly, helpful and so approachable and are willing to serve you.

I have chosen the Halifax branch in Fulham Broadway as nominee for the Disabled People’s Choice Award because they are just very helpful and very supportive towards me in my day-to-day life, have been for many years and they always let me know that they will always be there for me and will serve and protect me in the best way they can.

The reason I think Disability-Smart Awards and Disabled People’s Choice Awards are important is because I believe individuals and companies/organisations deserve to get recognition for their hard work in giving the best service they can to the general public and it’s good for business.’

You can nominate for ‘Disabled People’s Choice Award for the most inclusive service provider, employer or experience’ here

 

CamdenAbility looks to new heights for second year and beyond

Colourful shop fronts in Camden, London

By Samuel Buckley, Business Disability Forum

CamdenAbility, a joint project improving employment opportunities for disabled people in Camden and now in its second year of delivery has an ambitious goal of creating a network of employers who have improved how they attract, recruit and retain disabled people in the area.

CamdenAbility is delivered by Business Disability Forum (BDF) with Cross River Partnership, and funded by Camden Council. It aims to improve disability confidence in businesses throughout the London Borough of Camden, and therefore to increase employment opportunities for Camden residents with disabilities, impairments or long term health conditions.

Building on success in 2017

During 2017, CamdenAbility created 24 employment or work experience opportunities. The project team also:

  • Provided coaching to 78 people to prepare them for work.
  • Secured the support of 23 employers, who joined the CamdenAbility network.
  • Ran 6 training and awareness workshops for employers.

In its second year CamdenAbility has enlarged its network to 30 employers, and is working towards specific deliverables such as;

  • Providing specialist support to 60 people to help them prepare to enter employment
  • Securing jobs for 20 people
  • Securing work experience, interview practice, and job shadowing for 30 people
  • Enhancing disability awareness amongst the 30 employers involved in the project to help them improve how they attract, recruit and retain people with disabilities

A unique approach

This employability model is unique in that there is comprehensive candidate support (provided by Cross River Partnership) and extensive employer support (provided by Business Disability Forum).  This approach enables candidates to be better prepared for entering employment and ensures that employers are able to remove the barriers that disabled people historically have faced in recruitment processes.

Next steps

Picture of Adrian Ward

Adrian Ward, Senior Disability Consultant at Business Disability Forum

Adrian Ward, Senior Disability Consultant at Business Disability Forum, is part of the CamdenAbility project team.

Adrian said:

“We have increased the scale of this project in order to increase the reach and impact of this work. This year we are working with more employers and more candidates with the ultimate aim of creating more employment opportunities.  We are always keen for more employers to join the project, particularly employers who are willing to offer employment opportunities to the candidates involved in CamdenAbility.

“Our ambition is to leave a legacy of a network of employers who have increased their disability awareness as a result of participating in the project and as such have increased the number of disabled people who successfully apply for roles within their organisation.

“Beyond the life of this project we are currently identifying funding opportunities to expand the project to focus on multiple London boroughs or on locations outside of London.  This is an exciting and challenging ambition for this project but we know we have developed a model which can be lifted and replicated elsewhere and are keen to do so.”

Find out more about the CamdenAbility project on our website.

Santander: Being honest about challenges – and overcoming them

By Sam Buckley, Business Disability Forum

An honest approach to learning from the experiences of disabled employees at Santander is reflected in a new case study that shares the stories of two recruits with Asperger’s Syndrome.

The case study, aimed at people thinking of applying for jobs at the bank, takes an different approach to similar documents by others in presenting a very honest account of the high points and low points in the journeys of two new starters.

Jon Butler, who line manages the two employees summed up the message of the case study: “I’m super proud of both of them, but there’s a lot we can learn from their experiences.”

Daniel

DanSantanderDaniel joined Santander after university, and despite initially facing challenges found that with the right support he flourished in his role in the bank’s contact centre.

Upon taking up management of Daniel and Isabel, Jon researched Asperger’s Syndrome to identify potential adjustments to put in place, and continuously checked with them on how he could support them both.

Daniel said: “I’m now much happier and more confident in my job than I was before. It’s amazing what having the right support can do. What’s more, I’ve recently started taking on extra roles. I now audit and coach my team for risk and I’m an active member of Santander’s Disability Support Forum, attending quarterly meetings in Milton Keynes.”

Isabel

IsabelSantanderSimilarly to her fellow new starter Daniel, Isabel initially faced barriers when starting work but was enabled by workplace adjustments. With these, and the support and understanding of her manager Jon, Isabel was able to thrive.

“Continued support at the start of a career and reasonable adjustments really make a difference,” Isabel said. “I’ve received many ‘Thank Yous’ and recognition awards and have become a digital advocate, presenting to other teams. Our Retail Business Manager recently presented me with an award for  positive customer feedback.”

Jon said: “It’s tough reading about the challenges Daniel and Isabel had to overcome at the start. When I first met Daniel and Isabel, what impressed me was their passion; the job was vital to them, an opportunity they couldn’t afford to lose. Daniel and Isabel pointed me to articles and videos to better understand Asperger’s and we focused on getting through probation by planning for success.

“We developed coping strategies together, including preparing for change, handling conflict and emotional customers. I also had a lot of support from Health, Safety & Wellbeing. We met with our Regional Health & Safety Consultant, who helped agree and set down some reasonable adjustments. Something as simple as 20% adjustment on call length has helped Daniel and Isabel develop their communication skills and had a real positive impact.

“Fast forward 18 months and both of them are delivering outstanding service.  Daniel supports our team to improve their risk performance and Isabel delivers digital advocacy training to new joiners.”

Daniel added: “It’s absolutely fantastic to be a Co-Chair of our disability support network, Enable! I’ve worked in disability support before now and it’s something I’m very passionate about.

“When I joined Santander as a customer service advisor three years ago as my first full time job, I never imagined that this is where it would lead. I didn’t even realise that a business like Santander would have something like this in place. It’s an absolutely incredible thing to be a part of though and it’s wonderful to be able to do what I love, to support other colleagues and to have a team of people who are dedicated to helping others.

“It really is inspirational and I can’t wait to see where the future takes us.”

To read the full case study, click here 

Partner Group Reception 2018: Bringing your whole self to work

By Ebunola Adenipekun, Business Disability Forum

“Bringing your whole self to work no matter your disability, this will be the ‘New Normal'” stated John Brady, from Royal Bank of Scotland, host of Business Disability Forum’s Partner Group Reception.

John Brady, RBS at the lectern

John Brady, RBS

This key point honed in on the theme of the event as we rang in our new financial year:  ‘Identity’, as we also heard from disabled people about how their disabilities inform and overlap with their own identities.

Business Disability Forum’s Partner Group Reception, held at the RBS / Natwest building in Bishopsgate was turned into a Summer Serenity Garden on 26 July.

Floral archway entrance to the Partner Group Reception

Entrance to the Partner Group Reception

Partner Group Reception: Water fountain

Partner Group Reception: Water fountain

It felt fitting, given that it was one of the hottest days of the year, to ‘bring the outside in’ for the event, creating a tranquil indoor garden for our Partner Groups to network and talk about the themes of the Reception.

Signs to the Serenity Garden & Bar as well as the Lecture Theatre

Signs to the Serenity Garden & Bar as well as the Lecture Theatre

Oliver Lam-Watson talking into a microphone

Oliver Lam-Watson

As we turned to the speeches, one of our speakers was Oliver Lam-Watson, who won second place at our Film Festival in 2017. Oliver’s speech asked the question: “Is your identity something that other people give you or something you create for yourself?  The choice to create it for yourself can be a profoundly personal journey.”

This was a question Oliver had faced himself, in the form of preconceptions and assumptions by his peers about what he could or couldn’t do. Oliver has lived by the maxim that having a disability doesn’t mean being any less able to do whatever you want, and in addition to being a filmmaker Oliver is hoping to qualify for the next Paralympics as part of Team GB. In conclusion Oliver made a great point about disability and identity; that it needs to be something that is not imposed on someone by society.

Lucy Ruck talking

Lucy Ruck

We also heard from Lucy Ruck, Business Disability Forum’s Technology Taskforce Manager, about being an amputee has shaped her life and ambitions – from being a trainee hairdresser to taking on leadership of our Technology Taskforce which turned 10 this year. Before losing her leg after she was hit by a train when she was 17, she had never met a disabled person before in her life and she became disabled overnight. And she has shared a conversation about it with Diane Lightfoot in our new podcast series “Who are we? The people behind the job title”.

BDF - Partner Group Reception

Diane Lightfoot and Interpreter

One point that was raised was that some people don’t feel disabled enough to use that term or label, Graeme Whippy asked, if you adopt the social model of disability should you only use the word disabled about yourself if you have encountered barriers that disable you?

Graeme Whippy

Graeme Whippy, Disability Consultant

All the speakers had internally decided that their disability was just part of who they are and as John Brady also pointed out, once a disability is acquired you adapt to the “new normal” and society and employers need to accept and adapt to the new normal too.

Everyone is a three dimensional fully rounded person who can be “shallow as well as deep” in Fazilet Hadi’s words, and has different identities professionally and personally.

Fazilet Hadi from RNIB standing at the lectern

Fazilet Hadi from RNIB

A closing thought was that for organisations to succeed on disability they need to “maintain the tension”, that meaning continuing to focus on what needs to be done.

Other highlights of the event included the Roving Artist who impressed guests with his beautiful silhouettes – and of course, the networking!

A big thank you to everyone who attended!

Roving Artist and guest holding the guest's silhouette

Roving Artist (left) and guest

We look forward to hosting our Partners next year, find out more about our events here.