Congratulations to 2015 Large Business Nominee, Lowe’s Home Improvement. The Large Business Award recognizes a company over 50 employees, that develops and applies the concept of ability first and best practices in recruitment, retention, and talent management.
The annual Ability First Coalition Champion Awards celebrate and honour businesses, companies, individuals and organizations that have hired and retained people with disabilities in London, Ontario and surrounding area.
Nominee: Lowe’s Home Improvement #2641
Representatives: Mike Jensen, Store Manager & Gayla Holmes, Human Resources Manager
Can you tell us a little about your business?
Lowe’s is a home improvement retailer that is dedicated to providing customer-valued solutions with the best products at the best price. We do this by hiring great people, who have a passion for execution, and are customer-focused. Our employees enjoy opportunities to develop product knowledge and expand their people skills, while working in a great team environment.
How long have you been in business?
Lowe’s opened in North Carolina in 1946. The first store in Canada opened its doors in 2007 and we opened our London store in 2010. We have just celebrated our 5th year anniversary in London.
How many employees do you have?
Between 130 – 160.
Did you have any prior experience working with people with disabilities?
Yes. We have worked with Leads Employment Servies for a few summers now, when we have been recruiting to add associates in a variety of contract positions for our busiest season (Spring/Summer).
How has your experience helped shape your outlook?
Our overall experience has been positive. We have found our associates to be very dedicated, hard-working and eager to do their best and go the extra mile. We offered one of our contract associates a permanent position this year, which he accepted, and he is doing great!
Why did you decide to hire someone with a disability?
Our decision was based on the same reasons that we hire anyone at Lowe’s – based on our interview, we felt that these associates were a good fit for our company. They were friendly, had the ability to do the job, and were focused on doing their best. As a company, we are open to embracing diversity, and we try to support our community as a whole.
How did you go about finding the right people for the jobs?
With the assistance of a great case manager at Leads who pre-selects qualified candidates for us, we go through the regular interview process, and try to match up our hiring needs with their skills. Leads has been a great partner for us in helping us to find the right people to fill some of our positions.
Can you describe one of the positions filled?
One of our positions was the “Garden Centre Watering Associate”. We have had a difficult time in the past finding people that wish to get up that early for this shift, as it can start at 5:00 a.m. They, like most of our associates, are also expected to work on evenings and week-ends. It is an important position that requires very reliable associates and a commitment to the position. Our garden centre carries a large volume of plants, shrubs and trees, and daily watering is imperative so that we do not lose product to damages.
How has this employee worked out for you?
We hired two Watering Associates this year. They both worked out very well as we did not have any attendance issues and had the best year yet for minimal damage write-offs. One of the associates showed us that he had very good customer service skills and has moved into a permanent position as a Front-End Cashier. He is performing great, is wonderful with customers and staff, and has learned his new skills very quickly.
What were your initial feelings on hiring someone with a disability?
We found we were a little nervous leaving the associate on their own – we wanted to “protect” them from any negative events that can sometimes happen in retail. We also had concerns about productivity, thinking that we would have to get another associate to assist. I guess we felt that managing this person would take more time and effort.
How has working with someone with a disability changed these preconceptions?
We were happy to realize that were wrong: our hires were all able to work very independently once given the appropriate training and an understanding of our expectations. This is exactly the same process we do for EVERY new hire. No more time was needed and it was great to be able to rely on them as part of our team.
What are some of the most common misconceptions you hear other employers talk about when they learn you’ve hired people with disabilities?
There are concerns about productivity and management of the associates.
How do you attempt to correct these misconceptions?
Talk about our positive experiences.
What is your advice for other employers?
Keep an open mind – everyone deserves an opportunity.
Please finish this sentence, “I hire for Ability First because…”
It’s the right thing to do, for both the company and the community. You won’t regret it.
What does being nominated for the Champion Awards mean to your business?
It means that we are supporting our community in a positive way by embracing diversity, and in exchange for that we are getting great associates that are a definite asset to our business.