Below is an article originally written by Patrice Caine, Chairman and CEO at PowerToFly Partner Thales, and published on December 3, 2018. Go to Thales' page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It's an opportunity for all of us to remember that in France and around the world, half of us will face a disability at some time in our careers. Disabilities can be visible or invisible and may take many forms, such as debilitating diseases, physical or mental disabilities, chronic illnesses, vision or hearing impairments, and many others.
In addition to meeting mandatory disability employment rates in certain countries, we at Thales aspire to make our company a welcoming place to work and one where every employee feels their differences are valued.
Half of us will face a disability at some time in our careers.
Non-discrimination is of course the first step. It's a constant battle if we want to create a workplace in which people feel they are treated equally.
The second step is diversity. A company's workforce should be as rich and varied as society itself in terms of gender, age, generation, ethnic origin, social and educational background, sexual orientation, but also disability.
The third step is inclusion, meaning the ability of an organisation to value all profiles and enable them to contribute to collective success. In other words, our employees should feel that they can be themselves at all times.
We began our efforts in 1992 when we signed our first agreement to integrate people with disabilities into the company. We strive to share best practices across our different sites and entities to provide everyone with the best opportunities.
Then we revised our Human Resources policy to include disability requirements. To retain employees with disabilities, we are aiming for universal accessibility. We want to be sure that employees can get to work and access their desks or workstations, and that they have the IT tools they need.
We are also committed to partnership, like our recent partnership in France with the Aspie-Friendly network and Université Paris-Est Créteil (UPEC), and we put our commitments into practice by integrating and training employees with disabilities. We create partnerships with schools to bring young people into the labour market, and we are working with university researchers on ways to detect "weak signals" in the workplace that could indicate potential situations of professional exclusion.
Our aim is to adapt the workplace to people with disabilities, not isolate them. Practically, that means modifying workstations for the entire team when it makes sense, and informing, training and mentoring teams and managers, not only before a new employee with a disability joins the team but throughout their time at the company. We also provide management training to promote an inclusive environment.
Integrating people with disabilities is an opportunity and strength for our employees and for our Group as a whole.
I would like to share two examples of Thales employees who are making that inclusive company a reality.
Jean* was a young man training to become an electronics technician. Like thousands of young students before him, he needed to find a work-study internship in a company to receive his diploma. Jean is deaf. To integrate him into the Group, we installed technical equipment so he could communicate with his team, but even more importantly, we informed employees of his disability and provided basic sign language training for people in his team. Jean was able to complete his internship and has since joined the ranks of our 65,000 employees.
Pierre* was an engineering student on a work-study contract at Thales in France. Like all engineers in his class, Pierre had to complete an internship abroad to receive his diploma. Pierre has Asperger's Syndrome. Colleagues at his site in France came together to help him find an internship at Thales in the UK. In addition, his French internship supervisor went to meet with his internship supervisor in England, and Pierre had people to support him during his overseas adventure. Two employees, one English and one French, volunteered to help him — one in the UK and the other to serve as his mentor at his site in France. Thales even organised a visit for his parents so they could help Pierre settle into his new surroundings. Pierre has since finished his internship in the UK and has joined the Group.
Because Jean and Pierre were able to be themselves in these situations, and because they can count on their colleagues — and their colleagues can count on them — our company is becoming a place where sharing, mutual trust, open-mindedness and innovation reign. Integrating people with disabilities is an opportunity and a strength for our employees and for our Group as a whole. Disability is everybody's business!
* All names have been changed.