What do we want? Diversity. When do we want it? Now.
New Ross has recently been chosen to become an Autism Friendly Town. According to publications, this will require the involvement of business and community groups. Parents of children with autism have also expressed an interest in getting involved.
There’s no doubt, it’s an extremely positive development for the South East town.
Type ‘Diversity’ and ‘Inclusion’ in Google and a barrage of material pops up. Promoting diversity, the best strategies and practices, diversity trends. Delve through the research and you’ll see endless benefits for diversity in the workplace.
Shift through the content and you’ll read about companies that are trailblazing and companies that are on the right track. Then there are those that have completely stopped still.
The message is clear. Diversity and inclusion make good business sense. Access to a bigger pool of talent; an advantage over competitors; a greater awareness when it comes to understanding the needs of all our clients.
However, scratch the surface and you’ll find something that can’t be measured by profit margins. Something of far more value.
Take our Enniscorthy office as an example. One of our directors, Linda Doran, met Breda Kearns and Niamh Coman, who both work for the organisation EmployAbility – supporting employment disability in Wexford – at the Enniscorthy Chamber.
Niamh was working with a young lady who had hearing difficulties. She was taking a break from college because she found the lectures etc. quite challenging as she lipreads.
This same girl began work experience in the Enniscorthy office (originally intended to last for four weeks) as she wanted her CV to show she had worked in an accountant’s office.
Linda has told me how working with this colleague has taught everyone an important lesson; on how to really communicate with someone and fully engage in the conversation.
Staff had to face this colleague when they spoke with her and ensure communication was clear and confirm she fully understood what was being discussed.
We were so impressed with her ability (and as Linda says herself, her ability outshone any other challenges she has) that once the four weeks were up, we created a role for her. This year, she is starting her professional exams with Baker Tilly as a trainee accountant.
Last year, EmployAbility also put our South East office in touch with a lady, who we interviewed for the position of trainee accountant.
She was hired because she excelled in her interview and stood out from all other candidates. Her attitude, her manner and academic record were exceptional.
As she requires the use of a wheelchair to go about her daily life, some changes were made to the office. She had access to the floor and a new office set up for her (which one of the managers willingly vacated).
We wanted her to have access to the mezzanine level where the staff kitchen was located so we hired a construction team to make new paths, door access, bathrooms etc. This was fully grant aided.
This lady now works in an office space, alongside her colleagues and is the centre of our team. She is bursting with an enthusiasm that is infectious and she is superb at her job.
She is currently on study leave, sitting her first year of professional exams with Chartered Accountants Ireland.
I’m not sharing this story because I want to blow Baker Tilly’s trumpet. I am not implying that we are accommodating people with disabilities or helping them get experience. Linda says, and I completely agree, they carve out their own path, and we are simply lucky enough that they chose to come and work with us.
To quote Linda:
“Both these women are excellent people and they will make excellent accountants one day.”
Businesses are influential so it’s important we strive to be representative of our community. We must, not only cultivate diversity, but advance it.
If you are interested in learning more about EmployAbility, go to: http://www.employabilitywexford.ie/
You can find out more about Baker Tilly’s Managing Partner, Neil Hughes by visiting his LinkedIn profile here.
Main image: Staff in our Enniscorthy office