As we settle into the first week since early February with no Olympic activities, it is hard to believe that after years of planning and anticipation, it is really all over.
The focus now shifts to the legacy of the Games. Of course, there is much debate about whether the billions spent will be worth it; will the City, Province, Country see a lasting return on the huge investment? I believe that this question, while understandable in the political arena, is overly passive. Instead of waiting for the legacy to arrive, the right question for us as citizens and – for the readers of this blog – employers to ask is: what have we learned, and what positive change can we bring on the ebb of the incredible spirit that embodied the Games?
For me, one of the most striking opportunities for lasting impact comes from the Paralympic movement. USA Paralympic skier Ralph Green stated “The Olympics are about how much can be achieved in sport; the Paralympics are about how much can be achieved in life.” Many of us were captivated by the incredible displays of athleticism and perseverance of Brian McKeever and Lauren Woolstencroft in their multi medal performances. However, what strikes me more than what they, and other Paralympians do on the field, is what they deal with everyday. While we have come a long way with accessibility, let’s face it, managing life’s daily tasks is tougher if you are in a wheelchair or visually impaired. These athletes, and all persons with disabilities, persevere every minute of every day, overcoming obstacles that most people don’t even know are there.
As employers we are always in search of that candidate who possesses those elusive traits of adaptability, problem solving skills, loyalty and dedication. They are the traits that are near impossible to teach, which form the fabric of positive corporate cultures, and provide the foundation for competitive advantage. However statistics still show that persons with disabilities, whose daily routines call for these characteristics at off-the-chart levels, are in many cases still dramatically underemployed when compared to the overall workforce.
What a powerful legacy it would be if we could remember how we were moved by the images and stories of the Paralympics, and overcome some of the stigmas and barriers that still exist in the workplace for persons with disabilities. I am confident that we will all be better off for it.
If you are interested in making a start, check out www.linkup.ca
Matthew Brown is the VP of Human Resources at Credential Financial Inc. Credential offers Canadian credit unions and independent investment firms an integrated range of wealth management and investment solutions to meet the financial needs of Canadians In his spare time Matt is an avid triathlete. He is legally blind and a proud supporter of the CNIB.