Our Inclusive Hiring Approach: Seeing ability instead of dis-ability.

We have an amazing workforce of vibrant, unique individuals.  We love hearing customers say things like, “You have such great staff!” because we think so too!

But like every small business, finding good help can be a major challenge.  Every year we spend hundreds of hours job-posting, resume reading, interviewing, and conducting work trials to try and find people we think will be just the right fit in our family business.  On top of that, we spend a few more hundred optimistic hours orienting, training and instilling our enthusiastic new found help with all the info and know-how they’ll need to be successful at Meridian. 99% of the time all that effort spent finding and training our new people pays off.  But it can be tough attracting the right applicants.

 

Brody McDearmid (accountant, company partner and trusty CFO of our family business) decided Meridian should take a new approach to the labour market.  He set his sights on an underemployed segment of our society that has been overlooked for far too long – those living with disabilities (also known as diverse-abilities).  Brody knew this group of individuals represented a treasure trove of talented people waiting be to be tapped into, so he got busy networking with people who could help Meridian connect with these applicants.  Not long after that, we hired several people living with diverse-abilities.

It’s been an endeavor close to his heart. You see at 4 years old, Brody’s son David was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  Since being diagnosed with ASD, David has surprised Brody and his wife Carrie over and over with his ever growing and evolving list of unique talents and abilities. He’s bright, funny, and has an outgoing, warm and charismatic personality. “It’s been amazing to see him mature and develop as a person,” said Brody.  “He’s fascinated by numbers, trains and airplanes but above all else He’s a Vancouver Canuck’s fanatic. David watches every game and can tell you the historical stats of every game they’ve played over the past season.” Brody further described some of David’s challenges: “In social settings, David is different than most other kids his age.  For instance, he doesn’t always pick up on typical social queues, doesn’t like loud noises, and often finds it challenging to interact with his peers. We wonder all the time what David’s life will be like when he’s older.  It’s just so hard to say at this point. We pray that David will enjoy a happy and full life, including a career that will bring him reward and fulfillment.”

As a father and a businessman, Brody has felt a strong sense of moral obligation and responsibility to see others as more than just their limitations by looking at their strengths and abilities.  Since embarking on his mission to hire more people with diverse-abilities, Brody has overseen the hiring of 7 people living with disabilities and many more are expected to join our Meridian family business in the coming months.

“When evaluating what a person with a diverse-ability is able to do, we follow the advice Randy Lewis of Walgreens (a large retail company in the USA) gave: ATP which stands for Ask the person!  This is the philosophy we’ve adopted at our company.  The individual has often been living with their disability for their entire life and they know what they can and cannot do. In most instances they are happy to tell you how they can go about accomplishing a task.” said Brody.

It’s important to note that hiring people with disabilities is not about charity.  While being an equal opportunity employer feels good, if a business is to be viable it needs to run its operations well and be fiscally responsible.  The fact is that hiring people with diverse-abilities makes good business sense. People with disabilities generally have better attendance, better loyalty, work safer and in many cases can do the same work (sometimes better work) than those who do not have a disability.

On March 5th, 2018, the BC Career Development Association (BCCDA) presented Brody McDearmid and his company with the Employer Partnership of the Year Award for 2018 for inclusive hiring practices.  The BCCDA is a non-profit professional association that supports career development practitioners and advocates of the profession.  We’re proud of Brody’s recognition by the BCCDA and feel good about the direction our company is going in becoming a more open and socially conscious organization when hiring.

Recently we posted signs in our stores to increase awareness that we feel sums up our family business stance on inclusive hiring. It reads:

“We are a family business and our team of staff includes people who live with autism and other disabilities.  Just like any family, we embrace the unique qualities, gifts and talents of every member. We’re grateful for the privilege we have to serve alongside one another, and do our best to make your Meridian experience remarkable!”

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BTW… April is Autism Awareness Month!  We’re fundraising again by donating $1 for every pound of Fresh Fraser Valley Chicken Wings sold.

 

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