Keystone Procurement is a specialised procurement advisory business established in 2014. Their aim is to be innovative in the solutions that they propose to clients, whether they be from the public or private sector, whether they are small or medium enterprises or even larger organisations.
Ross McCarthy, Managing Director at Keystone Procurement, describes his sector as a looking-glass that reflects society at large; a snapshot of the policies and priorities of a State at a given time. Knowing this, it is no wonder that Ross and his colleagues are so vocal and proactive in the area of inclusive employment.
When Ross was recently asked about his diversity policy and inclusive workspace he replied instantly, insisting there is no ‘policy’ just the need to embrace diversity:
‘While naturally, we are aware of and compliant with employment law and equality legislation we do not a have specific policy, it is just what we do. Culture is what you do every day so we do not think it’s necessary to write anything specific as it is in our nature to treat staff equally and to embrace diversity’.
What seems like an obviously beneficial outlook is not typically replicated by other Irish SMEs operating globally. Ross views his staff as assets to the team, each one bringing a unique viewpoint on projects and proposals. He does not see hiring staff with a disability as a CSR strategy:
‘We hire people based on their ability to do the job. The essential skills required are to analyse and assess – nothing manual or physically demanding. A physical disability wouldn’t impede someone working in our sector. I’m hiring qualified, motivated people and that’s what’s most important.’
As society changes and technology improves, many employers are seeking more mobile working solutions for employees. This shift in working conditions can make the workplace more accessible for employees especially those with a disability:
‘Our business lends itself well to flexible working for staff. So much of our work is done via email, videoconferencing, smart cloud based tools and the phone. Our business is primarily dependent on internet access not access to transport or office space.’
The need to be a flexible employer does not just apply to staff with disabilities. Ross recently highlighted that employers are constantly proving they can be flexible when it comes to employees from looking after young children to caring for elderly parents. Accommodating someone’s disability should be no different. In his experience, he has found it is probably less difficult to accommodate someone’s disability than other categories of staff. While speaking about the members of his staff with a disability he said:
‘They’re simply an integral part of our company and we value all our staff regardless of disability.’
Ross was keen to address the misconception and debunk the attitudinal barriers that workers with disabilities have lower productivity than their non-disabled peers. This stereotypical viewpoint is damaging and holding back a large pool of talented and work ready individuals who are hungry for success. He highlighted that all staff at some stage of their careers will need additional support or training:
‘All staff need support such as education, training, mentoring and coaching – not just staff with disabilities.’
As well as the attitudinal barriers that exist, there are also structural and systematic barriers that have led to unemployment in the community. By not adapting our environment for people who need additional supports we are limiting a person’s capability to contribute meaningfully to society:
‘Disability affects all parts of someone’s life. It would be interesting to see a longitudinal study or even meta study of surveys over time with a composite longitudinal focus to see what has changed and what has not changed over say the past 30 years. I suspect that some of the largest barriers have barely been addressed like transport and aligning skills training with for instance, distance learning or entrepreneurial and start your own business programmes.’
Many traditional recruitment practices lead to situations where people get defined by their disability and as a result don’t receive the same equal opportunities are non-disabled people, regardless of talent and experience:
‘People with disabilities represent the deepest untapped reservoir of talent and are half as likely as their non-disabled peers to be unemployed.’
Keystone Procurement attracts entrepreneurial types of people, who are motivated and think outside of the box. They are exactly the kind of people who are used to getting things done. Ross describes the staff at Keystone Procurement as;
“… innovative and adept at problem solving, just like people with disabilities”
When looking to the future we must start to build workplaces where people are not disabled by their environment but are instead empowered to achieve their full potential. Government schemes need to be updated, according to Ross. Ireland need schemes that are compatible with the modern economy – “21st century solutions for 21st century companies.”
‘The existing Government support schemes are blunt instruments that only focus on supporting full time employees. People with certain disabilities can often find it difficult to do those long days. It would make more sense for the Government supports to go directly to people with disabilities and not the employer. I’d also like to see much stronger support for people with disabilities to become entrepreneurs in the own right. At least two start you own business programmes per annum per area should be accessible to people with disabilities to be able to follow by webcam with tutoring at a time and place that suits the people taking part. ’
Ross McCarthy, Managing Director
(01) 485 1280
If you are an employer and want to tap into a new diverse talent pool and want to know how, please contact Seònaid Ó Murchadha at email@example.com