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Someone’s background should never be a barrier to work

6 May 2017 By Jill McDonald

Halfords chief executive Jill McDonald explains why the retailer is backing the government’s See Potential campaign

We believe people’s backgrounds should never prevent them from getting into work, which is why we are proud to support the government’s See Potential campaign, which encourages employers to take the time to understand that there is much more to a prospective employee than their past.

Everyone has the potential to grow and succeed. Being inclusive is seeing the potential in people and helping individuals realise what they are capable of achieving. When it comes to hiring, it’s about spotting potential and nurturing talent with the right guidance and tools. It is important that we take the time to understand some of the widespread challenges in society and recognise that, to some degree, we all have a role to play in addressing these challenges.

Inclusion in the workplace is good for us all. It’s good for individuals to be valued equally for their contribution. It’s good for teams because with diversity comes broader thinking and fresh ideas through a wider range of experiences. It’s also good for business as it leads to a more dynamic and engaged team, which ultimately helps to drive productivity across the business.

Unfortunately not everyone has the same opportunities and some people face challenges that others might not, such as having to work around childcare requirements, a lack of formal qualifications or gaps in their employment history. Everyone deserves a chance, which is why we offer our colleagues support through initiatives such as providing alternative routes to employment through our traineeship programme.

I am especially proud of our Halfords Academy programmes at Onley and Drake Hall prisons. Our decision to set up these facilities was triggered by a desire to access a more diverse range of talent and to employ people based on their potential, rather than their background – which we’ve found really works from a business point of view.

Setting up the rehabilitation programme hasn’t been without its challenges. These included finding a prison willing to work with us to set up the training facility, negotiating the judicial and political landscape, finding and recruiting the most appropriate candidates and supporting successful recruits on their release. We’re proud that, to date, 28 people have graduated from Halfords Academy at Onley and have been offered a position after training.

Offering people a chance to take charge of their career path is important. We’re very proud of the fact that as a business we are in the position to offer a vast range of positions. Joining Halfords can mean a career in a genuinely skilled profession – not everyone has the know-how to hardwire a dash cam, fix a bike puncture or change a wiper blade, which is why our colleagues are trained to offer a helping hand and become experts in their own right. We offer individuals a chance to tailor their path to fulfil their goals, whether they're massively into cars, cycling mad or both.

Seeing potential is a win, win, win situation – it’s a win for colleagues as we help them to realise what they’re capable of, a win for business in terms of access to wider resource, and a win for us all, because of its positive impact on society.

I hope the See Potential campaign inspires other businesses to think differently about recruiting and developing talent.

Jill McDonald is chief executive at Halfords

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