Banking on Remploy to staff back office operation
"The Remploy candidates were so good and fitted in so well we didn’t want to lose them!”
Since Lloyds Banking Group started working with Remploy 18 months ago, it has offered disabled candidates invaluable work experience through supported placements in its Glasgow – based Central Payments team where they gained practical experience of the world of work as they helped process direct debits and handled enquiries from Lloyds Bank branches.
Remploy’s Glasgow office is able to draw on a huge pool of untapped talent with more than 450 highly motivated individuals on its books. All have various learning difficulties, physical disabilities or health conditions that without support can act as a barrier to employment.
However, in the majority of cases relatively minor adjustments will enable candidates to work around the obstacle, enabling them to make a valuable contribution in the workplace.
In the short time Remploy and Lloyds have been working together, the bank has organised two rounds of four-week placements, which gave four promising candidates all-important work experience, working 16 hours a week. There was heavy demand for the placements with more than 20 candidates applying for just one opening during the first round.
Sandra Steenson, Front Line Manager for Lloyds Bank, who manages the Central Payments team, visited Remploy’s Glasgow office to explain to prospective candidates what the role involved and, with the help of Remploy recruiter Alan O’Rourke, the most suitable individuals were identified to draw up a shortlist. Keen not to miss out on high calibre candidates Lloyds increased the number of supported placements available to two and selected the most promising applicants. Sandra explains, “The Remploy candidates were so good and fitted in so well that we didn’t want to lose them!”
Stephen Leishman, Remploy’s Account Manager for Lloyds Banking Group, was responsible for ensuring the Remploy candidates had the support they needed to make the placements a success on the ground. He says, “The great thing about Lloyds is the word ‘disability’ never entered their vocabulary. They were very much focused on what our people could do, not what they couldn’t.”
Together, Stephen and Sandra explored simple adjustments that could be made to enable the Remploy candidates to work productively. One of the trainees is profoundly deaf so Remploy initially provided her with an interpreter but, before long, Lloyds discovered two members of staff were trained in sign language and able to help with communications on a day-to-day basis. A form of instant messaging system allows her to follow team meetings.
“If you have Asperger syndrome, understanding conversation is like trying to understand a foreign language.”
National Autistic Society
Another candidate, Peter, has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism. Problems with social communication mean Peter, 28, finds it harder to pick up on the signals such as facial expression, tone of voice and body language that most of us take for granted.
This can make it difficult knowing when to start or end a conversation and choosing topics to talk about. Peter is also very literal. Remploy organised a meeting between its In-Work Support Adviser, Sandra Steenson of Lloyds and Peter to discuss what simple adaptations could be made. This included training for the team that explained the challenges presented by Asperger’s and shared practical tips on how to communicate effectively with Peter. This explained how people with the condition can find it uncomfortable to make eye contact, will take instructions literally and may not always understand office banter.
As Peter finds it harder than most to talk on the phone he was not expected to answer incoming calls and these were gladly picked up by other members of his understanding team. Peter finds changes to his routine stressful so Sandra Steenson tries to shield him from unnecessary changes and, where they are unavoidable, gives him as much notice as possible.
As well as Asperger’s, Peter has heightened sensitivity to light and is susceptible to migraines, loss of concentration and exhaustion. To help reduce Peter’s migraines support included moving his desk to a quieter area, changing the lighting around his workspace, fitting an anti-glare screen to his computer and breaking up his work day with small, frequent breaks rather than a lunch hour. Remploy’s In-Work Support team secured funding for the necessary equipment through the government’s Access to Work scheme.
Some adjustments made to help Peter cope at work are being enjoyed by the rest of the team too. For example, team meetings are now shorter, more focused and interactive instead of enduring lengthy ‘Death by PowerPoint’ presentations. This more engaging approach not only holds Peter’s attention but increases involvement by everyone else.
Despite these workplace adaptations, in the early days of his new job the unfamiliar surroundings and stress of dealing with other people meant Peter was still experiencing migraines. As a caring employer, Sandra Steenson supported Peter by encouraging him to work reduced hours for the first four weeks until he became used to the office environment.
“There’s no question of making allowances, concessions or going easy on them – they’re doing exactly the same job as everyone else and doing it well.” Sandra Steenson, Front Line Manager, Lloyds Bank
The modest accommodations made by Lloyds allowed the Remploy interns to perform to their full potential, with their work rate on a par with able-bodied colleagues. Perhaps the biggest testament to their success came from Sandra Steenson who remarked, “You wouldn’t have said they were on work placement – they’re just like any other member of the team.” In fact, Sandra was so delighted with their performance that she offered them permanent jobs once the placement had ended!
Eighteen months on she reports, “There’s no question of making allowances, concessions or going easy on them – they’re doing exactly the same job as everyone else and doing it well. They have the same targets, work very efficiently and keep up with the rest of the team.”
Through the partnership with Remploy, Sandra recognised that some other employees could also benefit from Remploy’s specialist help and contracted services under Remploy’s In-Work Retention Programme and the Workplace Mental Health Support Service, designed to support individuals with common conditions such as depression, anxiety or stress.
As a result of the successful trial Lloyds now plans to rollout the programme nationally in partnership with Remploy.
Lloyds discovered that with Remploy’s expertise and experience, hiring people with disabilities need not be difficult or costly. What’s more, apart from being ‘the right thing to do’, it has resulted in many business benefits including:
- Employees with a real drive, desire and motivation to work – These individuals, many of whom are highly experienced, demonstrate huge commitment to their job
- Improved retention rate – As Lloyds knows about the individual’s health condition or disability from the very start, it can make any necessary adjustments with the result that they have lower absenteeism due to ill health and tend to stay in the job longer
- Creates a more supportive culture – Experience shows that colleagues tend to pull together as a team to support an employee with disabilities and this really drives good behaviour in the workplace
- Certain disabilities can be an advantage – For example, some autistic spectrum traits such as methodical behaviour and a perfectionist approach are a positive advantage for process-driven jobs in which accuracy and a conscientious attitude are essential
Sandra Steenson, who is responsible for a team of 48 people, remarks, “With so much on my plate I needed the Remploy interns to fit in seamlessly with the team – obviously having been given the right support – and they have. The fact I don’t have to think about it from one day to the next makes my job that bit easier.”
Remploy is the UK’s leading provider of specialist employment services to people who experience complex barriers to work