With an increasing demand to diversify the work place, many companies are fighting for commercial validation to help shake off assigned negative labels that suggest they only hire rich white folk (yes BBC, I’m talking to you). Swedish company, Skanska, has always strived to be ahead of the game and make genuine efforts to inspire people from all walks of life; this time with their new involvement and support programmes for veterans and ex-criminals. Recognised for their forward-thinking policies, Skanska is a leading construction contractor, who promise ‘an inclusive, responsible business that’s helping build a better society’ (pun intended, I think).
One of Skanska’s employees, Katy, is helping to front their new improvement schemes. With a sharp focus on inclusivity and diversity, the programmes are there to work on re-introducing people back in to society; aiding them in finding sustainable careers. Katy elaborates: ‘[these are] some individuals who have been through a lot, and are now trying to get help to go into employment’.
Katy advocates the company, the understanding and support they show towards their employees- including those who struggle with mental health issues. With an epidemic in mental illness, it’s imperative we register it on the ‘inclusivity’ scale, as well as large corporations respecting it is as an illness that can be incredibly disabling. This is key one to successfully inspiring your desired clients: preach what you teach by making sure your employees feel looked after and their voices heard- so the message can then be passed on.
Now, to keep to the theme of inclusivity, Skanska has built new improvement programmes for those who’ve done more than their fair share for society: veterans. Many men and women who have enrolled in the army did so as young as age 16, and are used to working systematically. Having an enthralling yet, no doubt, traumatic job when you’re in your most impressionable years probably ensures boredom when then doing a mundane 9-5 job- leaving them feeling less than excited to rock up to work every day.
Alongside this, of course many veterans will be suffering from PTSD. This really highlights the importance in supporting mental health issues within the company, because how else can the company’s message be translated? If inspiration starts at the top of the pyramid, it can trickle down to the bottom. Actually, pyramid is not the right analogy. I would say more like a circle of empowerment; where inspiration can journey its way round, allowing wisdom and knowledge to flow- instead of it stilting at the bottom, as it would with a pyramid. But maybe that’s just the beginning of a hippy dictatorship.
‘The struggle we have with people who come into the business, is that many army people are used to following orders’ Katy elaborates, ‘of course, when they then come into a corporate environment, they find it really hard to adapt to that because they’re having to self-motivate. They’re having to try and learn what things are about, and do things [on their own accord]- rather than them being told constant instructions’.
But what happens when you make life-changing decisions at a young age that don’t please the community, and ensues society’s icy cold shoulder?
The programme’s second focus is on helping ex-criminals. Our offending youth who’ve done their time, and just want to integrate back into society. ‘These people who didn’t make the right decisions at a young age but who just want to turn they’re lives around. Actually, the whole of society just cuts you off’.
Katy’s comment reminds me of many of my friends when they were kids, who fought hard to get a skate park put in their hometowns- a feat that was denied by their local communities due to their beliefs that it would encourage ‘anti-social behaviour’. To me this isn’t just a petty prevention, but actually quite a mean one. Wouldn’t it be better to give bored children something to do, somewhere to have fun with their friends where the most harm done may be the occasionally shared joint? Projects like this are the counter-effect of anti-social behaviour: you’re keeping these kids off the street; preventing them from performing criminal activities in the first place.
In cases for those who have already offended; being allowed to integrate back in to society is an important part of their rehabilitation. Denying that chance breeds ill feelings and increases the rates of committing crimes again. What companies like Skanska are doing is so important. Giving legit opportunities to those who want to give it another shot, and helping to open up doors for people – with the aim of supporting and benefitting everyone – whilst ensuring this is all done in a controlled environment.
So how do we keep these people inspired to work? This is where the corporations step in. To inspire, you have to understand. Skanska runs a programme with one of the prisons, to learn about the environment and to encourage people to participate in ‘Experience Skanska’ – another of their programmes, where people can be offered placements and internships within the company. As the Times reported: ‘[they] give potential recruits an idea of what it’s like to work in the organisation’.
There’s a correlation here between ex-army officials and ex-criminals, in that many would have made pivotal decisions in late teen hood- so the most impressionable part of their lives were shaped by those early commitments. Katy explains: ‘[the programmes] are not always successful, and it’s hard work because people don’t always want to come back in to employment.’ Not to mention that, like the army, prisoners will be used to strict routines. For ex-offenders, these companies are a vital part in empowering them so that hopefully they can then embark on some enthralling life-rollercoasters; preferably ones that keeps them out of prison.
To maintain an inclusive society, it’s vital that we keep challenging conventional strategies in order to allow space for positive progression in the work place- a battle that’s successfully being fronted by companies like Skanska through their empowerment programmes. For corporations to inspire others, they have to be inspired themselves: they have to actually believe in the message they’re preaching, and not just be performing an act for commercial survival.
In an era of encompassing diversity in the work place, it’s refreshing to see a large corporation looking after its employees, and not being choosy on those that they are helping. By selecting their employees with care, and showing them the respect they deserve, a large-scale company is then enabled to translate their corporate message to the individual, whilst simultaneously guiding the masses.