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Inclusive Employers Excellence Awards Returns!

Nearly 200 people attended this year’s Inclusive Employers’ Excellence Awards (IEEA) celebrating inclusive hiring in Abbotsford. The event was the culmination of months of planning by the four organizations presenting the awards: Archway Community Services, Bethesda, Communitas, and WorkBC. The IEEA was created as a way to honour local businesses who intentionally make it part of their business plan to hire people with diverse abilities.

“We want to celebrate businesses that are doing a great job with inclusive hiring and encourage this further,” says Caleb Wee, employment services manager with Bethesda. “We also want to show our appreciation for all they do to support the people we serve.”

As part of the panel discussion, Dan Penner, employment specialist with Communitas, speaks on behalf of Carly (centre) an employee with Abbotsford Mission Recycling, run by Archway. Left is Laura Midan, who manages the recycling program.

The awards event is an opportunity to create awareness within the business community that inclusive hiring is good for business. Statistics show that businesses who do so improve their employee retention rate by 72%, increase their innovation capacity by as much as 20%, and that customers prefer to give their business to companies that hire inclusively.

Simren Thind is an employment specialist with Archway. She was impressed by the number of employers nominated and that each one had a different story to tell.

“Each story was a success story and to me, that showed how much the employer cared about the employee,” she says. “It also showed us the different opportunities that employers were willing to give their employees to help them be part of their team.”

Twenty-six businesses were nominated by the public in several categories. The winning businesses are:

• Emergent Employer of the Year – Everclean Facilities Services at Sevenoaks Shopping Centre (not pictured)

• Creative Workplace Solutions – McDonald’s – McCallum Junction

• Outstanding Commitment to Inclusive Hiring (small business) – VSSL

• Outstanding Commitment to Inclusive Hiring (large business) – Staples Abbotsford

• Community Champion for Inclusive Hiring – Fraser Valley Child Development Centre

• Inclusive Employer of the Year – Canucks Sports and Entertainment, Abbotsford Centre

Marvin Robbins accepted the award on behalf of the Canucks. Robbins has hired inclusively for years and became quite emotional as he reflected on his experience.

Marvin Robbins accepts the award on behalf of the Abbotsford Centre, and Canucks Sports and Entertainment

“This means a lot to me. Working with these people is so amazing,” he said. “They’ve become my friends. If you find the right job for the right person, you’ve got a good employee.”

Robbins’ comments reflected what employment specialists know to be true: that when a business takes the step to hire inclusively, the experience has an impact. Christian Saint Cyr is the community engagement manager for WorkBC Abbotsford-Mission. He was moved by the IEEA event.

“There’s a real business case for inclusive hiring and yet, what we saw at the awards event is that inclusive hiring doesn’t just improve business, it also changes hearts and minds,” he says.

Matt Dirks, chief innovation officer with Communitas, agrees. His advice to any employer who might be hesitant about inclusive hiring is to take a chance.

“It’s not as hard or complicated as you think it is,” Dirks says. “There’s lots of support in the community and from us as service providers. It’s all about making an investment in people and the returns on that investment are excellent.”

The Inclusive Employers Excellence Awards event itself was sponsored by Vancity, Rotary at Work, and Inclusion BC and was held at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Centre in Abbotsford.

All images by Dale Klippenstein

Interested in inclusive hiring? Click on the agency hotlinks above or connect with Communitas here!

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