This story starts with what might seem some difficulty. I was working for a non-profit that helped people with disabilities get work. My supervisor, who tended to be a little on the pessimistic side, would measure the difficulty of a client getting a job, by how high the file was. The young man in question was named Alex and his file was measured in feet. I read the files and all of the opportunities were in assembly jobs. He was let go because he was said to be disruptive. I made an appointment to meet Alex and found him an outgoing happy person. He had a condition called Hydrocephaly. I asked him what jobs that he had done that he liked. He had none. What he did say that he wanted to do was work at the sports arena. His caseworker said that this was probably a bad idea as one of the behaviors of Alex was to be very erratic. You never new what he would do next.
I thought about it and made a decision to try something in customer service. My reason was that Alex seemed to lose jobs because he would wander off from his work and talk to people. So what I thought was, why not have a job where Alex would get paid to walk around and talk to people.
I went to the local sports arena and talked to the customer service company that had the contracts to run the food court at the arena. We discussed Alex and his personality and came up with a plan. Alex still needed to be able to get through the hiring and training process. I went to Alex and told him the news and all he was interested in was if he would get a uniform. I told him he would but he had to go through the training program.
So we began our adventure. We went to the Sports Arena and went to the training room. Alex was off the wall excited. The training consisted of a series of videos and I sat with Alex and asked if he understood what the videos were about. He did not really answer but he stayed all day and watched the video over three times.
I checked back with Alex’s supervisor about how he was doing. His supervisor was impressed and said that Alex was a very good employee. He was always on time and did his tasks to the best of his ability. I wanted to see for myself and went over to the Arena and found Alex in his uniform that Alex was very proud of. He told me his job was first to be nice to people and then also to clean up around the condiment stands that were spaced near the restaurants in the Arena. I watched him work for a while and saw that as he went from station to station he would greet people that were there for the event. He would say Hi my name is Alex I am having a good I hope you are too. He would then wait to see if there were any questions. He was like a happy machine. He was always friendly always polite and very thorough in cleaning each station.
Well not quite. As I mentioned the case Worker was concerned that Alex would go off. That he would be inappropriate. I said what could he do. The case worker was afraid that he wander down to center court during a televised professional Basketball game. Well that came true but not the way He expected. Alex was written up so many times by the fans that came to the arena that he won the employee of the year. His prize was to attend an event of his choice in the corporate skybox with all the bells and whistles a gourmet meal and he could bring 12 guests. Alex asked me but my company did not allow gifts. The really cool part of the evening was when he was invited over the loud speaker to go to center court with both teams present and receive an award. And all Alex’s fans cheered. This was really a wonderful thing.
Some months later I got a call from the executive VP of the arena that was not happy with the very poor showing of the basketball team that year. He called me at my office and simply said, well this year at least Alex knew what his job was and did it.
The main point of this story for business owners is to look for passion and drive in your employees. You can rearrange the job tasks to accommodate the individual. In this story the word “disability” was never part of the story. In any business situation excellent employees make a real difference.