Two months after the announcement of the 2016 Diversity Awards, NZBusiness revisits a winner and a finalist setting the example when it comes to valuing people in the community.
The Diversity Awards NZ recognise and celebrate local businesses and organisations championing diversity and inclusion in the workplace – and reaping the benefits.
Judging convenor Sarah Haydon says the calibre and range of initiatives demonstrating workplace diversity and highlighted at the awards this year was truly inspiring. She says the awards leaders showed leadership at every level and enormous energy to achieve incredibly positive outcomes.
Delivering changed perceptions
Nationwide pizza delivery company Hell Pizza, which took out the Diversability Award, is changing perceptions about how valuable people with intellectual disabilities can be in the workplace.
The company, which employs more than 1,100 people, formed a partnership with IHC subsidiary Idea Services in 2013 to set up a paid training and work experience program for youth with an intellectual disability.
Hell Pizza GM Ben Cumming says the Active in Hell initiative came about after one of the stores delivered pizzas to Active, a local Wellington organisation for youth with intellectual disabilities, and asked how the company could support them.
After discussions with staff and youth at Active, Hell Pizza management realised there were some very capable individuals there who could benefit from a fast-food training programme.
Now the goal is to help create opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to enter the workforce by dispelling myths and breaking down initial barriers.
Hell Pizza is committed to putting 64 trainees through the six-week programme each year.
Initially, the supported employment co-ordinators (from Idea Services) are hands-on in the training but become less involved as trainees gain confidence and competence.
Once the training is complete, each trainee receives a certificate signed by Ben and is encouraged to talk about their next career steps.
“For our Hell franchisees and employees it has been a very rewarding experience, and for some staff I’m sure it has changed their perceptions about how valuable people with intellectual disabilities can be in the workplace,” says Ben.
Every trainee who started the program has finished it, reports Ben. One Rotorua trainee recently gained a job outside of the food industry, in part due to the confidence and skills he developed during the programme.
Four Wellington trainees went on to complete the Food Safety Certificate Unit Standard 167 and three of them undertook First Aid training at St. John’s.
Hell has now permanently employed three graduates from the programme. The very first trainee secured a permanent job at Hell Pizza in Upper Hutt.
Store manager Camden Mitchell says it was good being able to give Janiece Pollock an opportunity to train and, ultimately, work at Hell Pizza.
“Janiece’s speed, hygiene and safety standards are exactly the same as all my other staff. So why not have her as one of my team members?”
Meanwhile, Ben says the improvement to staff morale and the company culture has been really noticeable since the program began.
“Adopting a diverse workforce can have immeasurable benefits. Research shows that diversity in a group encourages productivity and morale, and our experience certainly supports that. The trainees have shown reliability, enthusiasm, dedication, and skills, and their fun and engaging personalities have undoubtedly given us all a lift.
“We would always encourage other organisations to look into it,” he says. “There are a wide range of support agencies around who are more than willing to assist.”
Walking the talk: Serena Fiso
Selecting category winners in the Diversity Awards was no easy task. So even just being a finalist is a remarkable accomplishment – as in the case of Serena Fiso of Porirua-based call centre Connect Global.
Serena’s willingness to recognise enthusiasm and a positive attitude over experience and qualifications has created employment for people who may otherwise have limited opportunities for work. Connect Global’s philosophies and business practices closely mirror Serena and husband Siuai’s family values. Customers and staff often comment on the family feel of the business. Staff especially like the high level of connection that is felt on the job. As a result staff retention and commitment is impressive.
A little more than half of Global Connect’s workforce is under 25 years of age. Forty percent are Pacific Islanders, 30 percent of Maori descent, and 85 percent are female. Te Raumawhitu Kupenga, deputy secretary for the Environment, describes Serena as a great example of a woman growing a business to help a community. He is particularly impressed by her focus on training and developing Pacific Island and Maori women, many of whom come from vulnerable backgrounds. “Her attitude is not to see obstacles but rather to see stepping stones and launch pads for greater success,” he says.
Serena’s goal is to help communities with employment issues. This year she opened a call centre in Ruatoria, initially employing 14 people. In a town where unemployment runs at 18 percent, it’s a big deal for locals.
There are plans to open another call centre in South Taranaki.
The biggest impact from Serena’s approach to business has been on staff.
Norman Toleafoa started as an inexperienced telephone sales rep. “I was once afraid to succeed, afraid of failure,” he says, “and it wasn’t until I started working with Connect Global that I realised everyone can do it.” Norman has since moved into a leadership role.
“Hana Fox from our Ruatoria office, who is in her sixties, working alongside staff in their twenties, thought she was too old for a role,” says Serena. “She has not only proven that she can keep up with the young ones in a fast-paced environment, but proven that anyone can do it not matter what your age – if you really want it. She has been one of our highest performers for some time.”
Serena’s pleasantly surprised by the support from clients and the wider community. “Making a change in one person’s life creates a ripple effect – creating change in their immediate family, extended family, even sometimes to the whole community, as they change. Those around them observe and learn and change with them.”