25 October 2012 – Breaking down barriers and embracing diversity when it comes to people living with disabilities can change a person’s quality of life says Beth Cook, CEO of Progression – an equity owned organisation that offers a wide range of Human Resource Development and Transformation solutions, and one that has pioneered one of the most successful disability equity solutions in the country.
Progression recently partnered with Tsogo Sun to initiate and implement a company-wide Disability Equity Audit and Awareness campaign, at the group’s casino in Fourways, Montecasino.
The project was inspired by a Montecasino staff member, who was living with a disability—one leg was shorter than the other—and as a result she was too shy or scared to say that her job—clearing cash from the floor, standing for long periods of time—was causing discomfort and pain. Fortunately, the management team realised there could possibly be other people like her at the casino.
As part of our values, “The spirit of Tsogo is to afford our team both dignity and respect,” says Tati Tsunke, Human Resources Manager for Montecasino . “We didn’t want our employees to be afraid to speak up. The incident highlighted the need to create an environment that would allow everybody to be more effective, productive and feel included. Our Employment Equity Committee realised something important at that point in time—we had to eliminate barriers for people with disabilities to underscore the spirit of our organisation and to bolster productivity.”
Thus in May 2012, Progression was tasked with assisting Montecasino to better accommodate people living with disabilities in the future; but first the casino needed a clearer snapshot of their workforce and that would necessitate a full investigation in the form of a Disability Equity Audit.
Says Beth Cook: “Tsogo needed to try and get more of their employees to disclose their disability status and create awareness about disability within the organisation. In the end, Tsogo Sun would have far more insight into the tangible benefits of Disability Equity. More importantly, employees would be empowered—everyone would better understand their rights and the right to reasonable accommodation.”
From the start, Tsogo Sun showed its commitment to its own ideals of integrity, fairness and dignity within its busy workplace. “The Progression team was enthusiastic to work with the Montecasino team,” Cook goes on to say; “they were very energetic and positive about the project and showed a strong commitment to changing the lives of people with disabilities in their bustling family.”
The process has had a powerful and overwhelmingly positive effect on Montecasino. “With Progression’s help and guidance, we’ve been able to create a safe and open environment where people feel comfortable enough to disclose and talk about disability,” says Tsunke . “On the whole, people feel a lot more empowered when given choices and an opportunity to talk of their own lives and circumstances—which proves that there is a cogent link between education and performance.”
The audit process involved Montecasino staff across the board, points out Bryan, and this played a significant part in its success. “We needed to build capacity in managers and mentors in order to get buy-in on the project. In fact, Montecasino reported a 60% participation rate, which is significantly higher than most other case scenarios, according to Progression.
“Montecasino used multiple mediums to spread the message, hosting workshops and engaging with their staff,” Cook says. “This included high-impact material: posters, pamphlets, buttons, our animation products, as well as internal TV programmes and even a letter from the CEO.”
For Montecasino, possible solutions and future strategies are being blueprinted. “Since this process started, we have seen a definite change in perception. This has been a direct result of the audit,” he concluded.