Thursday, 14 November 2019

Hidden Talent

I was invited to sit on a panel and do a short talk at Surrey County Council’s We are Surrey event last week, which was aimed at companies wanting to do “social value” in the course of their work – or to put it simply, to do good. The picture shows me with Bob Pickles of Canon and the other panel members. 

Here’s the gist of my talk.  Many employers in Surrey are finding it hard to recruit and are looking for new avenues to find talented staff.  If this is you, here’s some suggestions you may not have thought of.

Have you heard of Sabrina Hatten Cohen who has just been made chief fire officer at West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service? According to the Guardian, she is the youngest Chief Fire Officer in the country, aged 36, and one of only six female Chief Fire Officers. She also has a PhD in behavioural neuroscience and is writing a book.

You may be wondering what she has to do with the title, Hidden Talent? Age 15, she was homeless. She lived on the streets for some considerable time, selling the Big Issue and going to school. These experiences have almost certainly helped build her character – to help her become resilient and determined – characteristics that employers undoubtably value.

So, if you are looking for new employees, may I suggest that you may like to seek out Hidden Talent – young people who maybe do not fit the traditional mould but who nevertheless could make you very good employees. Others potential new employees that you may like to consider:
  • People with Learning Disabilities and Difficulties have a range of talents and their disability does not mean that they person cannot be a very useful employee, although in some cases you may need to make some adjustments. Some very much like repetitive jobs and could be perfect for a role that you find hard to fill long-term. Per the stereotype, some with high functioning autism are brilliant with numbers or at testing software.
  • I know of a blind person who has been working as an administrator for ten years for a multinational in Surrey. She is a valuable employee and they particularly value her loyalty.
  • Have you been to have your keys cut at Timpsons recently? They are very successful retail chain around the Country. They employ 1,200 ex-offenders and say that have a high retention rate of these staff. Ex-offenders again are another group that have lots of skills, often they just need to be given the opportunity to use them in a law-abiding way.
  • The final group that I want to mention is care leavers. Young people who have had a difficult start in life, perhaps suffered a bereavement or domestic abuse which means they have had to leave their homes. I often meet care leavers through work and my impression always is that they are amazingly resourceful, wise beyond their years. They have had to duck and dive and adapt to survive some difficult situations and these are skills which are very transferable to the workplace. 
So when you next walk past a homeless person I hope that the first thought that pops into your head is Hidden Talent. When you next drive past a prison, Hidden Talent. When you see a person with a disability, you think Hidden Talent and when you hear that a person has been in care, Hidden Talent. They could be the person that your organisation really needs.

My lovely colleague, Paula Neal, at Surrey County Council is looking for employers to interview about Hidden Talent to help generate ideas and solutions to enhance opportunities for employing Hidden Talent by Surrey businesses. Please contact Paula if you would like to take part.

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