The world of work is changing and so are attitudes around what constitutes a team and how organisations can adapt to meet operational goals as well as social responsibilities, encompassing inclusive employment for people of all abilities. Society is also demanding more of organisations and these changing expectations mean that those organisations that can genuinely demonstrate empathy and understanding will innately gain the support of their communities. With the government’s release of the Social Procurement Framework, changes with the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), awareness across various industries of the value and abilities of those with disabilities is coming into the limelight.
But as I talk to organisations about Latrobe Valley Enterprises (LVE) and our employees, the feedback I receive is that while they ultimately support employing people with disabilities, their organisations just don’t have the resources to dedicate and support them. But employing people with disabilities is not as resource intensive as you might believe and the benefits for the employees themselves as well as the organisation as a whole, far outweigh the time spent supporting them. And depending on their disability, you are likely to find that having supported workers is easier than having mainstream workers.
At LVE we provide meaningful employment for people with disabilities, we’re based in Morwell and we operate 4 key functional areas; Business Support Services, Grounds Maintenance, Recycling & Secure Document Destruction and Signmaking. We currently have 14 Supervisors/Managers & Admin and 84 employees with disabilities. What is really inspiring at LVE is seeing people’s abilities and when you focus on people’s abilities rather than disabilities, that’s when you start to see the magic…………..
As a large employer of people with disabilities at LVE, I’ve seen first hand how providing meaningful employment and supporting them through additional skills training and guidance can significantly enhance their self-confidence and growth in their abilities and engagement. The simple reward of seeing a supported employee smile when they’ve learnt a new skill is immeasurable.
A great majority of people with disabilities want the same opportunities for work and to have a meaningful way to contribute to society. And if you’ve never experienced working with people with disabilities, you can expect to gain some amazing benefits, including; loyalty and long-term commitment (reduced hiring, onboarding and ongoing costs), increased OHS awareness and compliance, dedication, reliability, strong sense of teamwork, and it promotes a positive brand and increases community support. And you get the real satisfaction of making a significant difference to someone else’s life.
The OHS gains alone would be significant for any organisation and also appear to be a misunderstood barrier to a number of organisations that I speak to. A lot of organisations believe that having a person with a disability in their organisation will create a safety risk for them or other workers when in fact the opposite is what we’ve found to be the case. Our supported employees actively participate in our tool box meetings and OHS Committee, with representation across all our teams. Often its our supported employees that raise safety issues and they become the ambassadors and enforcers of safety – and that can never be a bad thing in any industry.
Other than the obvious business gains of employing people with disabilities, there are other less measurable benefits that all of us as supervisors and managers gain as self-development;
What do we learn and gain by working together
- how to break processes down into easy to understand pieces/chunks/bitesize
- how to manage behaviour and to be patient
- how to manage in an unpredictable environment
- We are constantly risk-aware and manage in a pre-emptive manner
- We learn what true resilience is
Then there are the wonderful things that the supported employees gain working with you;
- They gain the dignity of having a job
- They develop pride in doing a good job that is appreciated by a customer
- They get the feeling of belonging to something meaningful
- When they’re talking to friends, they get to say they “have a job” or they’re “going to work”
- They gain emotional support with a large network of ‘work colleagues’
- They gain social interaction every day
- They gain respect
- how to be grateful – because every day is a reminder that no matter how difficult your day is, there are those at LVE that have significant challenges, and manage to smile everyday
Working with people who are grateful to have a sense of purpose and to be employed, and who teach all of us to be more grateful in our own lives make this job, for me – the best role I’ve ever had !
Chief Executive Officer - Latrobe Valley Enterprises
As a CEO at Latrobe Valley Enterprises (LVE), I am fortunate enough to work with over 84 people with a disability and our amazing team of supervisors. The small things in my day like making one of our supported workers smile makes all the bigger things seem inconsequential. I've had an extensive career with experience gained through diverse employers and diverse roles, but this one is to date my most rewarding.