S1. Ep. 4
A Powerful Partnership (Part 2)

Date

September 1, 2020

Time

20 minutes

Category

Amplify Inclusion Podcast

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Welcome to Amplify Inclusion, a podcast where we share authentic stories of inclusion in action.

“Implementation is where you see the real transformation take place.” As partnerships evolve, the positive impact extends outward. Brad Nardick, CEO of The Bazaar Inc., continues to discuss why partnering is worth it and how other companies can take action. Plus, learn about Manny’s story – he was employed and quickly promoted through this very same partnership. This episode is part of the Season 1 Series: ‘Workplace Transformation Starts Small’.  Listen now or view the full transcript below. 

This episode was produced by Aspire Inclusive Solutions and engineered, edited and mixed by Subframe Sound with music courtesy of Nealle DiPaolo.


Full Transcript

00:00:03 Clare 

Welcome to Amplify Inclusion. I’m Clare Killy, Director of Inclusive Solutions at Aspire. Thanks for joining us as we share real stories and conversations about the power and  importance of disability inclusion. Over the course of this series, we’ve focused on the  

idea that work place transformation starts small. In episode 3, we heard from Brad  Nardick of The Bazaar Inc. and Beth Ford of Aspire who discussed how their  partnership began. Today will hear from Manny, an employee at The Bazaar. He’ll  discuss the hiring process from his perspective and the impact of this career  opportunity. We’ll pick up where we left off with Brad discussing the progression of  the partnership… 

00:00:50 Brad 

What really shifted was this was always kind of a side project for me. and then when I  took over as CEO of the company one of the first things I did was say like this is part of  what we’re doing here now. And in my opinion, for people who are running a company  or who are in a leadership position in a company, it makes sense on so many levels – our turnover rate and our absentee rate have improved tremendously since we started  this program, our ability to recruit and hire people who are genuinely interested in  having a job has improved tremendously, but also culturally for the people who were  team members for a long time here. Now, we have a little bit more human mission  built into what we do and I think that there’s a lot of like an intangible sort of  excitement that is hard to create network environment. 

00:01:42 Beth 

Bargains came from a perspective of understanding – they opened their doors to us as  far as being able to be on site to do that job coaching, very open about that. The  typical job coach engagement timeline is intensive in the beginning, where we make  sure that the person is transitioning well into the role, that they’re trained appropriately for the role, and that they can identify supports in their environment and  then gradually fade those supports away and encourage more Independence. Often  times though, that isn’t the end of the story. Bargains has been really great about us  being able to come back on site if any issue should come up that may come with  maintaining and retaining the job.  

00:02:36 Brad 

So I almost think they were functioning like how consultants would early on for me,  you know, it was probably a year before I finally landed on a situation where we were  able to like have full-time staff working here and we were well set up to do the work  ourselves at which point in time we came up for another visit, but then the  conversation was a lot more: Here’s the positions we have. How do we keep hiring at  scale? What do you guys need from us? What do we need from you? What type of  people in terms of like personality and you know what other drives or ambitions? I’ll  use an example of somebody who came to us from Aspire, a young man named  Manny. He had an injury and he joined our team as an e-commerce fulfillment team  member. Manny is sharp and aggressive and a good a problem solver, a clear  communicator. He’s got a good attitude and right away, we were like ‘wow’. 

00:03:37 Manny 

My name is Manny. I’m from the Illinois area, born and raised here. I am 24 years old  and I was also in listed in the Illinois Army National Guard for roughly five years. I had  my end of time in service and then here I am now at The Bazaar, my title and position  at The Bazaar is a logistical customer service agent and I’m looking to move up and try  

to you know, make something for myself. I been here for about six or seven months. 

00:04:09 Beth 

So we have an individual who came to us in about, I believe it was December of last  year. He came to us looking for warehouse distribution work.  

00:04:20 Manny 

Yes. So after my accident, I was you know, just real eager to get back into the  workforce and you know, just do ,you know, something productive with my time and  you know, I really was just eager to get out of the house, you know back to my normal  routine. So, it was I was actually in fact very difficult to find work or you know, some  sort of placement in a company. Just because I’d always mentioned, you know, I do  have a disability and I would probably need accommodations, so that was you know  was really tough trying to get through with companies and trying to convey to them  that I could be a valuable member of their team, but you know after applying and then  trying and then just getting kind of the same response, I was told that there are  resources for people with disabilities in acquiring job placement, but the DRS they  connected me to Aspire and then from that point on Aspire, you know, I want to say a  week a couple of weeks maybe two at the most, you know, they were in contact with me. They had me meet up for an interview gave me, you know, tips on what to expect  and it was a whole new experience for me cause I hadn’t been disabled my whole life.  So it was really great having Aspire there to kind of walk me through everything of  what to expect and, you know, they really explain that, you know, what my rights were  what kind of jobs that they’d be looking for me and they asked me, you know,  everything so far as like what special needs I would need or what sort of  accommodating. 

00:05:49 Beth 

When an individual comes to us, we assess work history, find out interests as far as  career and placement goals and then one of the things that we frequently do, you  know, we prioritize our partners. So we look and see are there any roles that could be  a good fit and Bargains as a warehouse distribution, we went to them and we said I’ve  got this person… 

00:06:14 Manny 

And then after that Aspire gave me a couple of job positions available and then  introduced me to a couple of offers and Anna from Aspire was really helpful and she  helped set up this interview with The Bazaar and from then on every single step of the  way explaining to me, you know what to expect. It was like I said, it was a whole new  experience for me. It was like a stepping into a whole new world and share more or  less walked me through everything. So that’s how Aspire helped me find, you know, work placement.  

00:06:44 Beth 

I think what we do with Bargains that is helpful, and we’ve done this with other  companies as well, is that they can give a tour of the role to the individual. Sometimes  it’s called a job shadow, but the person can come and take a look at the role and see if  it’s something that they would feel comfortable doing. So we had him take a look at it  and see what he thought and then from there Bargains does the typical interview  process as any other company would do. We can be a part of that interview if the  individual would like us to, but we don’t have to. We would definitely do some  practicing of the interview with the customer, then the interviewing process happens  and then just like any other person, it’s the decision is made.  

00:07:31 Manny 

Yeah. So I remember right off the bat when I got here from the initial interview process it was really welcoming that they walked me through everything, really explaining to  me what The Bazaar consists of and how they operate their day-to-day basis. The  initial interview process was very warm and friendly, they explained to me that they’ve  worked with people with disabilities in the past and they know how challenging it  might be for someone you know, that needs help and that sometimes it’s not always  ask for help. But they really, you know focused on you know, making me try and feel like it was somewhere where I’d ,you know, wouldn’t need to be ashamed or scared to  ask for help or anything of that sort. That was a major distinction that I saw between  The Bazaar and other companies is that they took the time out of their day to let the  future employees or potential interviewees know that you know, it just wasn’t another  interview, you know, if you have any sort of question, you know, they wanted to make  it known that you got sort of the full experience from day one. 

00:08:29 Beth 

At that point, he was hired and you know started with his probation. Just like anybody  else, because it’s competitive integrated. It’s no different than any other employee that would be hired.  

00:08:42 Manny 

Yes. So I started off in an entry level position and from that moment. I got, you know,  really let management, and Brad as well, know what I wanted to do and how I wanted  to move up and then from there after being there for I want to say 3 months, the  positioned opened up for me to move up to the Logistical Customer Service Agent.  That was a big shift from working, you know, warehouse, forklift, stuff like that, to you  know, now, you know the office desk and computer. But what I do now essentially is  I’m the liaison between managers, the stores, Bargains In A Box warehouse and the  upper management. So I have to make sure that the right product goes on the right  pallet and the right pallet goes to the right store and it’s a really attention to detail  type of position. 

00:09:31 Beth 

The team at Bargains really saw that he was dedicated employee and that he was  working very hard and making sure that he was performing up to their standards. And  so they saw that he had such potential in a larger role. So we see this as a success on  so many levels, obviously for Emmanual growing, and growing his skills, growing his  resume and we see this as a success for Bargains, that they gave somebody a chance  maybe who wouldn’t typically be in that role and have seen success from it. So we’re  very excited for his future at Bargains, I think he has a bright future there.  

00:10:17 Manny 

It’s definitely improved my social skills. Before I might have been afraid or maybe a  little shy of helping someone or approaching someone. It’s definitely worn off working  here and being able to talk to a huge range of folks. I’ve definitely learned how to do a  lot of things in the short time that I’ve been here. They really, you know moved me  from someone working, you know packing boxes or putting product in boxes to putting  me in an office setting. Just doing a lot of stuff that I wouldn’t have normally, you  know, never would have known if I would not been given this chance at The Bazaar  and you know, I think that can translate into you know, understanding what our  customers want and what they might need and then being able to work with them and being able to work with all types of people. It’s definitely had a positive effect on my  life. Just being able to go to work without having to worry about you know, other  things that I could experience at another worksite, you know, whether that be  discrimination or not being able to make as many advances as my peers because of my  disability. I’d say it really affects someone’s perspective on how they see life and it  gives you know a sense of value. It means a huge difference to someone when they  can come to work and know that they’re making a difference and not have to worry,  you know, about having to compete with your peers over a position, you know, and  you be at a huge disadvantage. Other places, I feel like that really is detrimental to  some people’s self0confidence and their self-esteem and here it’s amazing because the  sky’s the limit and wherever it is you want to be, it’s achievable. I can remember from  when I first applied just having that anxiety and that pressure of you know, what they  might think of you, what they might say about you, or how they might feel about you  or how it might affect your hiring process. If I could I would I would tell myself, you  know, go for it. You know, you’ll never really know unless you try. You just really have  to take that first step 

00:12:19 Brad 

The experience of building out a disability inclusion program has been totally  transformative, because for me personally it was the thing that I felt like I had to offer  this workplace. So it’s given me a new sense of confidence and faith that we’ve been  accomplishing these goals. We’ve been shifting our organizations workforce. We have  25% of our staff who are people with disabilities. And as a company were performing  the best we ever have and my big bet is that it’ll continue to work and that we can  grow the business through our efforts in the disability community, which for me, would be the most satisfying thing in the world to continue to hire and train and give  job skills to people with disabilities. So whether their work with us for a long time or a  short time, they’re better off for it. And I think in terms of how it’s informed my ideas  around leadership, I’d say it goes back to weaving this quilt that is cohesive and  community-led and I think the job of any leader is to try their best to enhance the lives  of the people in their organization first.  

00:13:28 Manny 

I saw Brad as a young CEO and you know very full of energy and then once I got to  know him more, I had much more admiration for him and the things he’s doing and the  position he’s taken. Brad, he’s a really understanding person. You know, he, you know,  whether it’s taking 5-10 minutes out of his day to hear what I have to say, or ask me  how my day is going, or if I’m feeling well, or if I need to take a break – and I truly  believe that he wants to make a difference for people with disabilities. And when I see  other people with disabilities and how Brad just really connects with them and you  know stops what he’s doing, whether he’s talking to someone in that position of  management, you know, he’ll take time to pause and really get on a one on one level and that’s with the employees and those in the disability the inclusion program, but  the workforce as a whole. 

00:14:25 Brad 

I guess like I kind of would outwardly speak out against private business owners who  take no time to understand how this kind of work works. And mainly because I think  that they’re leaving themselves short of making a really good business decision. 

00:14:32 Beth 

More companies should commit to hiring people with disabilities because more and  more research is showing that bringing neurodiversity into the workplace expands  creativity, increases problem solving and helps people reach more people in the  community. There’s also data that shows that companies are more productive if they  have people with different types of abilities on their team.  

00:15:00 Brad 

I think the reason I would hear probably most often from any business owner is that I  am busy. I am busy running a company. I cannot take the time to try and build out this  network of Community Partners and build out the supports and teach my management  team how to work along people with disabilities, and I think there’s a lot of  misunderstanding within that – because I think that people make it more complicated  than it really is.  

00:15:29 Manny 

I like to think that there are a lot of people that thought really break that stereotype  and rise above and are much better than their counterparts that aren’t disabled. And  it’s really just trusting people and giving people a chance to really show for themselves  what they can be, you know. I wish that it were much more frequent and much more  accepting in today’s world and I think employers could really benefit from you know,  having people on their team that are disabled. So I would ask that they would sort of  ask themselves. What is it that’s holding me back? Is it because of their work ethic or  simply, you know, my own preconceived notion that like simply can’t. I feel like we as a  society as the whole can benefit to be more understanding and you know, not just see  people with disabilities or think of them, as not my problem, but you know working  next to them and working with them and understanding that, you know, they’re just  like me and you. 

00:16:26 Brad 

If there’s any part of a leader who says I really want to have people with disabilities on  my team, you have to carve out the time to explore that. So if I could go back to the  beginning and integrate this program, in day one I would look for kind of my dedicated  partner. I would not go at it alone. And I would also include the management team that’s going to be part of working day-to-day along people with disabilities, you know,  the term and takes a village applies here.  

00:16:55 Beth 

I would say if a company is interested in beginning the process of hiring people with  disabilities, a good first step is to kind of take a look at their team and try and identify  any roles that they think could be a good fit. After that, I think it’s very valuable to  engage an agency, because we can really assist you in taking those first steps and we  can develop a plan with you that is particular to your company. Whether that’s training  your staff on ways to support an individual with a disability within the workforce or  taking a look at the physical environment and suggesting ways that someone with a  disability may be able to negotiate the environment more easily or just looking at  particular roles and seeing if we think it could be a good fit for somebody with a  disability.  

00:17:49 Brad 

I don’t think disability hiring is some groundbreaking new thing. It’s been happening for  a long time. What I think is a new thing would be the idea that people with disabilities  can be small business owners and be their own entrepreneurship but might need  systems and supports that level the playing field for people with disabilities to become  their own entrepreneur. So I would say that’s like the big vision, you know, and my  hope is to use the experience we’re getting here doing the hiring and partnering with  the Community Partners to gain a deeper understanding of the problems and the  barriers so that will be well set up to address those issues. 

What I see is that when a person grows up with a disability in the modern world, there’s just no choice but to learn how to navigate life differently than a person  without a disability would. The physical spaces weren’t necessarily designed with them  in mind, the school systems generally speaking weren’t necessarily designed with them  in mind, and the workplace wasn’t necessarily designed with people with disabilities in  mind. So those people who go through that need to learn to adapt and find their angle  that’ll work for them to succeed. I think that through that built-in challenge of needing to adapt, you find people who are incredibly creative, incredibly resilient, and I think  that part of the solution to the problems we see in our communities requires a really  unique diverse perspective. So I think the reason why disability hiring matters in the  world as a whole, I would say is if we don’t incorporate people with disabilities into the  workplace, at any level of leadership in the workplace, the world would be missing out  on a very unique perspective.  

00:19:38 Clare 

I’d like to thank Manny, Brad and Beth for sharing their experience. Our hope for this  podcast is that these unique perspectives and success stories will prompt you to  consider the potential benefits of disability inclusion, not just for employers and  employees, but entire communities. We look forward to sharing more stories and conversations with you in our next series later this year. For now, please rate, review  and subscribe to Amplify Inclusion and stay connected with us at aspirechicago.com.  Thanks for joining us! 

This episode was produced by the Aspire inclusive Solutions team and co-produced  and engineered by Subframe Sound. 

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