by Marie Gervais, PhD., CEO Shift Management Inc, ERIEC Supporter and Guest Blogger

An opportunity to make a difference for someone in your company can not only improve their life opportunities, but also increase your workforce’s sense of pride and engagement. This is a story about how one company took advantage of an opportunity by just participating in a workplace conversation. How could your company do something like this?

“Never underestimate your ability to make someone else’s life better.” Greg Louganis

I was talking with one of my clients last week and happened to mention that I was finishing off a series of business breakfast speakers on the topic of workplace inclusion. He immediately lit up and asked, “Do you know want to know what we do to include people?”

Here is what Dylan Hartmann, a manager at Fenceline told me about how a chance opportunity for inclusion came up, and what they did with that opportunity. During an informal office chat, it became known that one of the staff’s spouses was looking after a man with a disability who had a keen interest in mechanics, but had never found an opportunity to learn the skills. Fleet Manager Curt Mowbray, happened to hear about this, and jumped at the opportunity to take the young man under his wing and show him a few tricks of the trade.

Ryan began by only spending an hour a week in Curt’s shop tinkering with the vehicles,  learning from Curtis, socializing with the employees and talking cars with Curtis. He enjoyed it so much, he now spends the entire afternoon on Wednesdays at Fenceline in the Fleet shop.

With three children of his own, Curtis is pleased to have an opportunity to be a role model in Ryan’s life and share what he knows. He looks forward to Ryan’s visits and plans to make each one enjoyable and unique, describing Ryan as focused and easy to train – a “real pleasure to spend time with.” Curtis recognizes that if his father hadn’t spent his free time teaching him about vehicles and bonding over this trade – he would not have ended up on the career path he so much enjoys, and would not have had been so positive in his life. Ryan has now become a valued addition to the shop and everyone looks forward to the Wednesday afternoons when he will be there.

“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time. They just have the heart.” Elizabeth Andrew

This experience has made Fenceline consider taking on more young people who would appreciate a chance to learn trades. A possible opportunity for this could be through the Transitions Rehab Assistance Group.

What struck me about this story is that when there is a solid company culture, individual employees feel free to suggest an initiative and leadership is open to taking on employee suggestions that seem to be a good fit. Willingness to allow an employee to take on an idea, even if it doesn’t have a direct line to cash flow but fits the company values, is a clear sign that there is strong employee engagement and good communication.

“Small ideas X lots of people = big change”

The result of willingness to make a difference for someone at work – and beyond? Happier employees, more satisfied customers, a better bottom line and a better world. Hats off to Fenceline for being an example of responsive inclusion!

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