At the Diageo plant in Shieldhall, the 400-strong workforce has been joined since 2019 by a number of new employees who are finding internships, apprenticeships and bright futures at their largest Scotch whisky packaging plant, despite a range of disabilities.

These new recruits are part of ‘We Are All Able’ programme, an initiative designed to widen opportunities so that no-one with the skills and talent to contribute to the company is excluded.

At The Herald & GenAnalytics Diversity Conference, which will take place on Wednesday, May 4 at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Glasgow, Claire McKendrick, Shieldhall Site Director for Diageo, will tell audience members how a conversation with colleagues across the business formed the basis for a successful programme of inclusivity, not just for those who have now found new jobs, but for the workforce as a whole.

“Diageo was already one of the most equality-driven companies in the industry when we broached the idea of widening access,” says Claire.

“There are significant numbers of women on the board and in senior positions, but the company were very open to my idea of also actively recruiting from amongst the disabled community.”

The idea behind it was to attract and retain the most diverse talent, whilst creating an inclusive culture, but Claire also had a personal reason for wanting to add extra diversity to the workforce. Her daughter Morven (16) was born with significant mobility issues and Claire and her family have seen at first hand the obstacles that still stand in the way of people with physical or mental health conditions, or who are neuro-diverse.

The key to making the ‘We Are All Able’ programme a success, says Claire, has been getting to know recruits as individuals and working out what will work for them.

“We ask them to tell us how many hours they can work and what they feel capable of undertaking. We find out about the challenges they face in getting to work in the morning and we provide all the support they need, including as an example a downtime room.

“And what we’ve discovered is that these interns have a huge amount to contribute to Diageo. They come at things from a different angle and make us look at things afresh, true diversity.”

And in a manufacturing industry, strictly governed by health and safety regulations, what has come as a surprise to Claire is how little it has cost the company financially to make the workplace fit for purpose for people of all abilities.

“Not one of the ‘reasonable adjustments’ that we have put in place has cost more than £100.”

All interns recruited under the programme are paid the full wage for the job and diversity training given to all staff has helped to create a welcoming atmosphere where interns can flourish and some of the first recruits have already found permanent positions with the company.

This positive example of how a company as a whole can benefit from opening access to everyone will be just one of the success stories that will be told at The Herald & GenAnalytics Diversity Conference, when speakers will include Emma Bell, a resilience expert, former partner in Scotland’s largest law firm and author of the best-selling audiobook ‘9 Secrets to Thriving.’

Panel discussions throughout the day will focus on topics such as digital exclusion and online working and how to create a culture where diversity is welcomed.

The conference is supported by Skills Development Scotland, Diageo, BAE Systems, sportscotland and commercial law specialists, CMS.

Fergus McMillan, Head of Equality and Diversity, SDS, said: “We’re delighted to sponsor this year’s Herald Diversity Conference which highlights the importance of equality and diversity in modern Scotland” whilst Ren Ling Lee, Site Engineer at BAE Systems said: “BAE Systems Naval Ships are delighted to sponsor The Herald Diversity Conference for another year running and it gives us great pride to be able to support the event. At BAE Systems, we are committed to supporting the drive towards a diverse and inclusive culture and workplace. We are very much looking forward to the event to discuss and share valuable insights with other organisations who are attending the conference.”

And Allan Wernham, Managing Director, CMS in Scotland, said: “CMS are delighted to be sponsoring the conference once again this year. Our ongoing support underlines the importance of diversity & inclusion within CMS; we see it not as an aspiration but a business imperative.”

Along with access to the event and accompanying exhibition, ticket holders receive lunch, refreshments throughout the day and the official 2022 The Herald & GenAnalytics events programme.

Full details are available from https://newsquestscotlandevents.com/events/the-diversity-conference/

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