- Case study
- Mar 5 2014
“Since we started diversifying our hiring process, I have seen positive customer experiences throughout our Walmart and Sam’s Club retail locations and offices,” says Sharon Orlopp, Global Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Vice President Corporate People. “Our employees help to create an awareness among our consumers about capabilities.”
Additionally, as the number of people with disabilities continues to grow worldwide, many customers are either disabled themselves, or have a friend or family member who lives with a disability. “It touches on a common humanity that we all share,” says Orlopp.
When management installed the UBIDUO system in some Sam’s Club locations, they intended to use the technology to improve communication between managers and deaf employees. The device allows two people to communicate instantaneously via typing. Once the system was installed, management noticed that customers, too, were using the equipment to communicate. As many hard-of-hearing customers tend to turn off their hearing aids upon entering crowded areas, this device proved to be a useful communication tool. Autistic customers also began to use the UBIDUO system to communicate their needs to employees.
Likewise, employees and managers who learned sign language to communicate with their deaf colleagues were also able to communicate with deaf or hard-of-hearing customers.
Whether a customer benefit emerges by happenstance or is the result of a calculated effort, a recent survey revealed that 98% of customers were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the service they received from employees with disabilities. It is perhaps in part due to this quality of service that 87% of customers actually prefer to conduct business with companies that hire workers who are disabled.
People who tend to be against or afraid of hiring employees with disabilities are generally just not familiar with the process, says Orlopp. “I would tell them to give every person a chance, see what the experience is like rather than starting off with an assumption.”
In an effort to raise awareness as well as help staff members grow in their careers, Sam’s Club holds a day of job shadowing every October. People in the community with disabilities are invited to job shadow someone at Sam’s Club in the Home Office or in the field in all Sam’s Club locations.
“Over the past several years working with employees with disabilities, my experience has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Orlopp. As the current unemployment rate among people with disabilities stands ten times greater than the national US unemployment rate, she finds that employees with disabilities are incredibly loyal and great performers.
With a strong work ethic and positive feedback from customers, it is not surprising that, 100% of managers with experience supervising employees with disabilities said they would “likely” to “very likely” recommend hiring workers with disabilities. Furthermore their great appreciation for their jobs and incredible level performance, often leads to promotions.
Can design contribute in a tangible way to creating a healing environment? Absolutely. Design in healthcare has the power to impact many people when they are at their most vulnerable, so it is important to think through the entire process of reducing stress and ensuring that the experience, whatever the pathology or condition, is as pleasant as possible for everyone involved. A healing environment is about much more than the design of a physical place. In fact, with the engagement of outreac...
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