Betty Holme, Director of Corporate Services for the London Convention Centre, has people with disabilities apply for jobs on a regular basis and she advises, “Don’t be afraid and shut that door. People need to be given that chance. If they are the best qualified person, take that chance.” That’s why the door is always open at the London Convention Centre.
Director of Corporate Services Betty Holme (left) and Guest Services Representative Janelle Jackson (right) at the London Convention Centre.
Holme admits there was a time when actively seeking to hire individuals with disabilities would never have crossed her mind. She says, “I didn’t know, and I think people are afraid of what they don’t know.” Becoming involved with the Ability First Coalition, of which Betty is now co-chair, made the difference because her experience grew along with her overall comfort level.
One common myth associated with hiring people with disabilities was quickly dispelled when Holme discovered accommodation costs were minimal. She says, “We have to make accommodations for almost all of our employees in some form or another. For instance, we installed ergonomic workstations for all of our administrative staff. We have absolutely spent more on that than on any accommodations for people with disabilities.”
When the London Convention Centre initially began to look for people with disabilities to fill job vacancies, Holme turned to Partners in Employment. Partners in Employment, also known as PIE, is made up of various London agencies that offer staffing solutions and ongoing support for both the employer and employee. By developing a relationship with a PIE member, where they get to know your business objectives, philosophy and needs as an employer, they are able to match individuals to your specific job requirements. If the necessity is there, the PIE member will also shadow the employee until they learn the job at no cost to the employer.
Holme says they once ran into a slight concern when one employee wasn’t picking up on key things quickly enough. They called the PIE member who came back in and spent additional time working with the employee. She says that the extra training “worked out really really well” and they never had to call for any additional support after that. Knowing that support is always there, “makes you more comfortable to try new things and know that it won’t be at your expense.” If the role of the employee ever changes or additional training is needed, there is never a time limit. The agency is there every step of the way for both the employer and employee.
At the London Convention Centre other employees also lend a hand in the training process. Holme recalls an employee who excelled at his job helping train another employee with a similar disability. She says, “Everyone supports each other. At the end of the day, people are expected to do their jobs and they do them, but if you fall down there’s always someone there to help you back up.” At the London Convention Centre, everyone is truly part of the team.
Holme believes having a diverse work force, which includes those with disabilities, gives the London Convention Centre a competitive edge. She says,
When you work with a diverse group it’s easier to deal with diverse client needs because you’re already used to dealing with people in different ways on a regular basis. Our employees take the same philosophy of dealing with their teammates to dealing with their clients. It’s a smoother transition for our clients. Because our staff are so used to accommodating individual needs, providing similar customization for our client’s needs becomes second nature. And the happier our clients are, the more they do business with us.
People with disabilities now apply to work at the London Convention Centre by responding directly to job postings on their website or in the newspaper. Holme says, “It’s better they can just come in, apply and get the job. We’re really doing what we say we’re going to do when it happens organically like this.” All of the London Convention Centre’s job postings carry the Ability First logo on them, which encourages people of all abilities to apply.
Holme encourages other businesses to take action by first meeting with one of the Partners in Employment and developing a relationship. She says, “They will know what you’re looking for and can help you fill the position with the right person. The more employers get involved with the different agencies the more their experience and overall comfort level will grow.”
Betty Holme is available to meet with any employers that would like to discuss her success in hiring for Ability First and the steps you can take in opening the door to your business. When you recognize, interview and hire Ability First you are making a sound business decision and a smart move.