5 Opportunities with deaf employees in Manufacturing

Victoria Williams

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1 in 12 people in your workforce are either deaf or have a hearing loss.

In this article we will explore 5 opportunities to support deaf employees within the manufacturing industry.

We will start by helping you to identify your team members who are deaf or have a hearing loss, and then talk about the opportunity to address the skills shortage, creating inclusive communications, fostering cohesive teamwork and creating an inclusive working environment.

Deafness is a hidden disability, so often the only way to tell someone is deaf is by either seeing them wearing a hearing aid or using sign language.

2 million people in the UK wear hearing aids, and 6.7 million could benefit from wearing them.

54% of employees with a hearing loss are reluctant to tell their employer, which makes the situation even more challenging.

We will now share five opportunities with deaf employees in your business.

 

1. Who are your deaf staff?

Within manufacturing, it is likely that there will be higher levels of people who are deaf or have a hearing loss.

But do you know who these individuals are? 

First, you will need to find out who in your current workforce is deaf or has a hearing loss.

A good way to find this out is through employee surveys.

 

Some questions you could ask:

 

How can we make your working life at YOUR COMPANY NAME the best it can be?

Is there anything we can do/put in place to help you at work?

These questions are not asking if a colleague has a disability but finding out about their experiences in the workplace.

You then want to start identifying the different touchpoints in the employee journey/s and building in similar questions so that you are capturing this throughout the employee experience.

This is offering your teams multiple opportunities to enter into this conversation with you. 

2. Address the skills shortage

Prof Stephen Roper, Professor of Enterprise at Warwick Business School said that the most common challenge facing manufacturing in the UK is staff recruitment and skills.

Skills play a crucial role in efficiency and also in terms of ‘absorptive capacity’, meaning businesses’ ability to develop and adopt new innovations. International evidence suggests that UK firms are slower to adopt new technologies than those in our international competitors.

There is so much untapped talent in the deaf community.

By employing deaf people, you are embracing a more diverse workforce.  Deaf people see the world differently and use their unique perspectives to problem solve – bringing great value to your business.

If you want to hire more deaf talent into your business, do the following:

  • Make sure that you use your job adverts to explain that you are an inclusive employer
  • Tell applicants if you are signed up to the Disability Confident Scheme, using the icon on the job adverts and also on your website recruitment pages
  • Promote your roles directly to the deaf community by advertising on deaf job sites
 

3. Accessible communication in the
workplace

British Sign Language (BSL) is the first or preferred language used by 150,000 deaf people in the UK. 

BSL has a different grammatical structure to English, take a look here at the structural difference:

So, if you now imagine taking the BSL grammatical structure and reading large amounts of text, I am sure you will agree that this would be challenging.

Therefore, we would also advise that businesses use Plain English.

By using headings, bullet points and keeping sentences short, you are making content much easier to digest.

This benefits everyone, creating accessible communications for all and saving time.

4. Cohesive teamwork

To create an effective team, it really helps if colleagues understand each other’s needs.

This is where Deaf Awareness Training comes in.

The biggest barrier that deaf people face is access to communication.

Imagine turning up on site and colleagues are enjoying a bit of workplace banter, and not having any idea what they are talking about.

This is the experience that deaf people face every day.

Deaf Awareness Training is the perfect solution to give your teams confidence in communicating with deaf colleagues and customers.

5. An inclusive working environment

We consider an inclusive working environment, starting from the moment you enter the workplace.

This incorporates:

  • Signage to make it easier to navigate around the building
  • Lighting to make lipreading easier for deaf employees
  • Fire Alarm System that provides visual alerts as well as audio alerts
  • Making sure that working environments are conducive to cohesive communication.

Taking time to assess and understand the environment will benefit far more than just your deaf employees.

Where we have seen this work

The team at MOOG have been working with terptree for a number of years to support a profoundly deaf team member.

WHY:

To ensure that the deaf team member has an inclusive work experience and environment.

WHAT:

Used our experience to guide the HR team, and put in place the relevant support and Communication Professionals.

OUTCOME:

HR team received the support they needed to support their colleague and the deaf team member received the adjustments needed.

I joined MOOG when terptree’s services were already in place, supporting a profoundly deaf employee. For me, this was the first time I had ever worked in an environment with a deaf employee, so I was quite nervous.

I would absolutely recommend terptree! Every member of staff that I have spoken to are professional and helpful. We want to do the right thing by our employees, to ensure that they are looked after and comfortable at work. Having terptree providing support at these meetings means we can ensure this is happening.

Nicole Rowland, HR Advisor, MOOG
Victoria Williams

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