What we look for is the potential of all our staff

Kelly Hale, Joe Donally, head of contact centre Jason Roberts, training manager Matt Sadler and Joshua Draycott. Front: Lee Baxter, customer correspondence advisor. Picture Marie Caley
Kelly Hale, Joe Donally, head of contact centre Jason Roberts, training manager Matt Sadler and Joshua Draycott. Front: Lee Baxter, customer correspondence advisor. Picture Marie Caley

KNOWHOW LOOKS FOR THE POTENTIAL OF ALL STAFF

The #DisabilityWorks campaign aims to show the benefits of employing disabled talent, for tailored recruitment support: Click this link Or call 0114 2760039.

It’s all about ability, says a major city employer backing the #DisabilityWorks campaign.

Knowhow, the services brand of Dixons Carphone, has a 1,400-strong workforce at its national contact centre in Sheffield’s Nunnery Square and aims to set an example as an equal opportunities employer.

Some 200 staff have physical disabilities and conditions, learning problems or mental health issues.

Said contact centre head Jason Roberts: “We do not see disability as a problem. Why should we? Some of our most valued colleagues have disabilities. They do a brilliant job for us.

Joe Donally, customer correspondence advisor, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NSST KnowHow MC 10

Joe Donally, customer correspondence advisor, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NSST KnowHow MC 10

“In some of our analytical roles it is often very beneficial to have an employee who has a spectrum change. We know them to be very conscientious and excellent at collating and reporting data.

“I have colleagues who are wheelchair bound, walk with one stick, two sticks or get around our huge call centre on motorised scooters provided for them. Others may have mental health issues or disabilities.

“What we look for is people potential. At interview, if you have the skillset we are looking for, you will get the job. Then it’s up to us to make you as comfortable as we possibly can.”

He urges other companies to sign up to #DisabilityWorks campaign, which aims to prove to local employers that disability is no barrier to work.

Kelly Hale, customer service advisor

Kelly Hale, customer service advisor

Jason added: “Companies who don’t think that way are not only doing disabled people a massive disservice, they are doing their business a disservice, too.

“Embracing equality in the workplace is a positive thing for all employees. As they work side by side it creates more understanding.”

The Parkway-based centre, which provides support to customers of Currys PC World, is part of Dixons Carphone, Europe’s top electrical and telecommunications retailer and services company.

Jason added: “Understanding how individuals operate is key, so managers organise a sit-down interview to find out a disabled employee’s exact needs.”

Lee Baxter, KnowHow Customer Correspondence Advisor. Picture: Marie Caley

Lee Baxter, KnowHow Customer Correspondence Advisor. Picture: Marie Caley

Adjustments to shift patterns, hours, office working arrangements and furniture are made accordingly. ‘Being There For Me’, an internal campaign, is in place to raise awareness of mental illness and mental challenges and support employees having problems. In addition, counsellors, support or palliative care is available for employees facing serious illness, financial worries, stress and anxiety, drug or alcohol problems.

n Knowhow’s caring attitude had impressed cerebral palsy sufferer Kelly Hale before she had even done a day’s work for the company.

She got the job with the call centre’s white goods division last November, but an operation meant her start date had to be delayed by four months.

“I was worried whether they would still want me, but they were brilliant and held the job,” says Kelly, a 41-year-old mum-of-one from Monk Bretton, Barnsley.

She started work after recovering from a toe amputation, but needed further time off for more foot surgery a few months later.

“Again, managers couldn’t have been nicer,” said Kelly, who has endured more than 30 operations.

Joshua Draycott, apprentice technical customer service advisor. Pic Marie Caley

Joshua Draycott, apprentice technical customer service advisor. Pic Marie Caley

“Knowhow is the first place where I have not felt any less than anyone else. Bosses are on your side. I only have to look at my manager in a certain way and he knows I’m having more pain than usual.”

The #DisabilityWorks campaign aims to show the benefits of employing disabled talent, for tailored recruitment support: Click this link Or call 0114 2760039.

The Source matches Joshua with dream job

“At school, it did cross my mind I might one day struggle to find a job. But I believed there would be companies out there who would put equality first and give opportunities to people like me.”

At 19, Joshua Draycott’s faith has paid off.

He has just started a year-long IT apprenticeship which he hopes will lead to a permanent job and a career in IT.

The Owlthorpe teen found his dream placement thanks to the work-based learning team at the Source Skills Academy, the city’s training and skills centre at Meadowhall.

The Source matched him for a role as a technical support advisor at Knowhow. He started in October and is using the qualifications he gained at Sheffield College and developing his customer service and problem-solving skills.

“My job is to help Currys PC World customers who contact us over issues with laptops, TV, video and audio equipment,” said Josh.

He’s getting plenty of help himself, too. “My managers at Knowhow and my tutor at The Source has been faultless. They are always there if I need them,” he says.

Josh has lived with cerebral palsy from birth. Despite six leg operations he can only walk with the aid of two sticks.

“It shouldn’t have to be hard to get a job when you have a disability.

“A few simple adjustments in the workplace could be all it takes for people to be able to do the job just as well as an able-bodied person in comfort and safety,” he says.

“That’s what has happened for me at Knowhow. I cannot fault them.

“On day one my manager asked what the company could do to help me.

She told me never to worry if I needed time off for hospital appointments or illness. If the weather is bad, I have permission to leave work early so my journey home is safer.

“I’ve even been offered a scooter to get around the call centre. I don’t need it at the moment but I know it’s there if I do. I think this is the way all employers should be. There’s no reason why they can’t be.”

Franca Kelly, work-based learning team leader at The Source, said: “Josh is one of 75 apprentices we have placed within four departments at Knowhow this year.

“We have been working with the contact centre on their apprenticeship programme for four years and during that time they have provided some great employment opportunities for disabled apprentices.

“Our experience is that their teams nurture disabled apprentices.

“Where necessary, managers adapt the role to cater for someone’s difficulties, whether physical or otherwise.

“By doing this, they are enabling each person to achieve their personal aspirations.”

Debbie Hood, who has fibromyalgia and arthritis, says: “A happy worker is a loyal worker who wants to do their best.”

Since joining the Knowhow call centre in February, she has been a devoted, hard-working employee.

“The minute I walked in, the caring attitude was apparent,” she says. “I been supported in every way possible.”

The #DisabilityWorks campaign aims to show the benefits of employing disabled talent, for tailored recruitment support: Click this link Or call 0114 2760039.

Joseph has long-term goals

Knowhow employee Joseph Donally has an ambition…

He’s aiming for a 50-year long service award with his employers.

“I started here seven years ago and want to stay as long as possible. I enjoy my job. It’s a nice place to work, I have made friends and feel like I fit in here. It has helped me be more confident in life,” he says.

Joseph has Asperger’s Syndrome and myotonic dystrophy, which weakens his muscles as he gets older.

His manager arranged for him to work the day shift only, and the constant routine helps his autism. He knows his condition affects how he communicates - “Sometimes you can say things without thinking,” he acknowledges - but also knows it gives him numerous strengths at work.

“Employers need to be more receptive to people with autism. I’d urge them not to overlook someone who could be a very valuable member of staff,” says the 27-year-old, who lives in Firth Park.

“But I would also urge people with autism to talk about their condition at interview and stress the positives - there are many abilities autism gives you that other candidates may not have.

“Every day I deal with emails and letters from customers with complaints and problems who need help with things like deliveries.

“It’s in my nature to be very thorough and do my research. I am very focused and like to resolve things.

“I don’t like letting people down and go as far as it takes to help customers. One person’s problem took 21 days to resolve.

“She was very pleased I had stuck with it from start to finish.”

The #DisabilityWorks campaign aims to show the benefits of employing disabled talent, for tailored recruitment support: Click this link Or call 0114 2760039.