September 1, 2020
Amplify Inclusion Podcast
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.
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…
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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