In 2017 all successful businesses have to be socially aware. You can’t expect to recruit the best people and open your business up to the right markets if you limit your visibility and close your mind to vast areas of enthusiasm and potential, and this extends to all areas of the organisation.

At Ison Harrison we have always prided ourselves on having a diverse workforce, and working so much with the local community across our network of branches in the Yorkshire area, we couldn’t possibly hope to relate to people’s everyday problems and be able to offer the right advice if we weren’t socially aware.

Two years ago we took this a stage further. Pushing boundaries has never been a problem to us, but this has usually been branching out into new areas of law, or opening new offices even further afield from our central Leeds base. This time we took up an opportunity to partner with Shipley College, who offered us two work experience students with disabilities, and while this was a long way from winning high profile cases and building a 200+ strong team of some of the most qualified and professional solicitors in the UK, it has turned into one of the most rewarding exercises Ison Harrison has ever got involved in.

Introducing Jack and Sumaira

Jack is 21 and has autism. When he joined us he was nervous, visibly overwhelmed and struggled to make eye contact with anyone he was in the room with. Jack would arrive by train each day from Shipley and find it hard to speak to anyone so we fully expect there were days when it was a real struggle to leave the security of home. Leeds city centre can be a daunting place, the rail station is an intimidating hub of busy people eager to go about their business, and our offices are tall, imposing and a hive of activity. Quite literally another world.

Sumaira is 19 and has learning difficulties. She also joined us full of apprehension and plagued by anxieties over whether she could fit in, be useful and be accepted. Sumaira has an infectious smile and a real eagerness to please, and sometimes that is all you need to break down boundaries and unlock an inherent good nature in other people, and that is what both Jack and Sumaira have found at Ison Harrison.

Showing patience and understanding and adopting a structured approach to their development, under our guidance both Jack and Sumaira have blossomed in our offices. We very quickly identified key skills in both, while they found a natural place within our organisation where they not only added value, but more importantly, felt valued themselves.

The video here shows a little of this story. It is a heart-warming tale that we are proud to have been part of. It has opened our eyes and given us a thirst for more achievements on this scale.

Jack and Sumaira are now permanent members of our staff as part-time Administration Assistants, and they provide a huge contribution to the success of our business. Not only that, they both interact naturally with other members of staff, they work and travel independently – Jack has even passed his driving test recently – and they are both an asset to our organisation.

People Development At Ison Harrison

The key to this is that sometimes you have to go the extra mile and look within yourself to contribute to society and see the positive potential in people. Ison Harrison didn’t have to do this, we were already a well-known, successful and trusted Leeds law firm. Paul Allinson, our Facilities Manager, had to change his working practices and develop new skills himself to ensure that both Jack and Sumaira felt accepted, felt equal and were given every opportunity to thrive. For Paul this was also a challenge, learning new ways to communicate and finding fresh competences within himself.

For Paul, Jack and Sumaira’s success has been extremely rewarding. He says: “I had no experience of working with young staff with learning difficulties, neither did the company as a whole really, it was unchartered territory for everyone, but the company said ‘yes’ and I said ‘yes’ immediately, and it is one of the best projects I have ever been involved in.”

Jack says of his permanent position: “I am very proud of getting a job with Ison Harrison. It is the first job I have ever had and I really enjoy coming here every day.” Sumaira talks about the friends she has made at work and how her computer skills have improved greatly, saying “I have lots of responsibilities in my job, but I love the work I do. Once I got used to the offices and the people, it very quickly felt like home.”

Ison Harrison Partnering With Shipley College

While Ison Harrison have always lead the field in terms of legal expertise and our customer-focused approach, we have always had strong people development skills. This has been enhanced further by our partnership with Shipley College, not just in unlocking the potential and nurturing the natural enthusiasm of Jack and Sumaira, but in opening the eyes of our existing staff, who have developed new skills in communication and acceptance that they can adapt to everyday life outside of the office to improve society.

We know many other organisations support opportunities and diversity too, there are many ways to do this and we are happy to share our very rewarding experiences because it can truly enhance your business. Social awareness needs to run through a business from top to bottom, and undoubtedly, creating a happy community with Jack and Sumaira and all our existing staff within it, makes our organisation stronger.

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