Step 1: Identify a partner organisation and determine how you can add value
Our personal health business had done some volunteering projects with Halow, so I was familiar with the organisation and the way they empowered young people with learning disabilities to join the workforce. HR Director Jonathan Coles and I met with them and discussed how we might be able to work together. Given my background in talent acquisition, the obvious ways to provide support included training to write CVs or rehearsing for an interview, but there was a possibility for something more. We landed on the idea of finding a way to get to the stage where we could offer someone a meaningful role in our organisation.
Step 2: Register your company with Disability Confident
Disability Confident is a program designed to help recruit and retain people with disabilities and health conditions for their skills and talent, allowing employers to broaden their talent pool and connect with people who can become vital contributors to their organisation.
A Disability Confident employer has access to guidance and resources enabling their company to become more inclusive while learning how the program can help improve their business. Employers learn what sort of workplace adjustments may need to be made to support inclusivity and how to help people realize their potential and contribute fully to the success of their teams. “Working with Disability Confident and Halow meant there was always plenty of support,” explains Louise. “I never felt for a moment that I didn’t know where to turn for advice.”
Step 3: Build a partnership that enables co-creation of a meaningful program which can attract passionate participants
To kick off, we decided to host a company taster day that would give a group of young people from Halow a feel for what it’s like to work in different departments such as marketing, sales, customer service and operations. Once we spoke to the relevant divisions within Philips, everyone was supportive and happy to participate.
We worked closely with Halow to create the set up for the day and shared our agenda and the format with them for feedback and any necessary adjustments. “It was important to produce a program which was going to benefit both partners and provide a meaningful experience for the individuals involved, otherwise it wouldn’t work,” explains Louise. “Making sure it was a meaningful experience was the biggest challenge by far, and we became very protective of that philosophy because it helped drive the successful realization of our vision.”
Together with national sales manager Richard Grieveson, a number of employees created an engaging program for 15 young delegates aimed at appealing to diverse interests while providing a grassroots experience of working in the Guildford office. Ahead of the taster and in the effort to ensure participants felt relaxed and confident, there were preparations so they knew what to expect while also anticipating any extra help that might be required.
On the taster day, we had support teams in place involving many people from around Philips. At the start of the program, delegates familiarized themselves with some of our products which was followed by a sales exercise and exposure to customer service, including some role-playing to determine if it was something they might enjoy. Participants also had an opportunity to work on what proved to be a popular marketing exercise where they chose a product and developed a marketing plan. Likewise, the group also spent time in operations playing out different scenarios involving stock control and number crunching.
Step 4: Assess the impact and follow-up
At the end of the taster, all the participants received a Philips Sonicare toothbrush which reinforced the importance of good oral hygiene in our mission of improving people’s health while leaving a positive reminder of their experience with us. “The day was a great success and the anonymous feedback we collected from the attendees, business and the Halow volunteers gave us the insights to make necessary improvements,” reveals Louise. “After the taster day, we invited anyone who was interested to an assessment centre which provided participants with a more formal experience replicating the interview process and appraisal, giving them an opportunity to gain experiences they could apply in future job searches.”
It was encouraging to see the majority of people come back for the assessment which indicated that the overall experience was positive. Ultimately, Philips made an offer to two people for paid work experience. More than a year down the road, one recruit is on a successful track with Philips while the other decided to pursue a different career direction. We had similar success in our second year and have two new recruits joining us this year. Meanwhile, there’s a third taster day underway and Louise has created a model from which other employers can learn.
“I expected one of the biggest challenges to be getting people involved, but I was wrong about that because everyone was interested,” says Louise. “I also thought there could be risks such as it not being a positive experience for the young person or someone saying the wrong thing. However, we could address all these concerns by taking a slow and considered approach while developing the program over almost twelve months, supported closely by Halow and Disability Confident.”