All too often, the news reports that fill our screens are tales where something bad has happened, so it is lovely when a genuinely heart warming tale goes viral that reminds us all of the capacity we all have to make a positive difference to others, especially when they really need it.
One such tale brought a tear to my eye recently and that was the incredible story of the Sainsbury’s employee, Mrs Salomon. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-43290747). If you missed the story I thoroughly recommend you read it now (or the twitter thread from her son, @DoronSalomon).
What really struck me is the dignity all the staff at the Kenton store afforded her; they treated her with the kind of humanity we would all want for those we love. They nurtured her and cherished her and gave her a purpose and routine that meant a great deal to Mrs Salomon and her family.
I will be honest, as a parent of a teenager with additional needs, this story struck a particular chord with me. I know that my son will also need colleagues like the team at this Sainsbury’s store to embrace his unique qualities and help him to be valued member of the team, wherever his career takes him. It is lovely to know it is possible.
I was reflecting on this again when I heard the sad news of the death of the remarkable Professor Stephen Hawking yesterday. He truly achieved greatness in the face of terrible adversity. Yet how much of his story would have been possible if his employers hadn’t been prepared to support him? What would the world have missed out on if for all those years ‘reasonable adjustments’ weren’t made to ensure he could carry on with his work?
For me, it is stories like Mrs Salomon and Professor Hawking that are a great reminder to all of us of the importance of inclusion and equality. It is more than a legal obligation, it is the right thing to do.
As training professionals, we have a unique opportunity to make equality and diversity at the heart of our orgnaisations' values; to say “this is what we stand for”.
As ever, this will begin by role modelling the right behaviours and attitude ourselves. But we also need to give people a reason to embrace it too.
Simply quoting their legal obligations at them will never do it; this is about engaging their hearts and their minds.
It's about making others understand how often we make assumptions about others (their behaviours, their needs, their abilities) and what happens when they keep an open mind.
It's about helping them make the connection between the amazing stories that make the headlines (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/skiing_blind_crashing_at_70mph) and their day to day opportunities to facilitate inclusion.
It is about making people ask themselves: "If someone I loved was facing this situation, what would I want the organisation to do?"
Put in that context, we can make embracing equality and diversity feel like a priviledge, not a chore. I hope that you agree, that this would be quite a wonderful thing to be able to achieve.
I shall leave you with a final thought from Professor Hawking:
“And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you just don’t give up.”
About Frances Ferguson
I work with busy L&D professionals who understand the power of great training to effectively develop and grow the skills of the people in the organisation(s) they work in. They know that standing at the front of the room, armed only with a large deck of slides and a couple of sheets of flipchart paper, is never going to deliver the results that makes their contribution count.
My mission is to help busy trainers (whether part of a training team, or working as an independent freelancer) have access to training materials that are engaging, memorable, enjoyable and, above all, effective in changing behaviours back in the workplace.
So if the idea of delivering training like that makes your heart sing, but you don’t always have the time and resources to make it happen, then I am the perfect person to speak to because I can make it happen.