One of the most commonly asked questions we get about our Disability Inclusion Program is, “how?”. Taking a personal passion and incorporating it into a core part of your business isn’t something that happened overnight for us at the Bazaar. In fact, like most things people are eventually able to stand behind and be proud of, it took a lot of time, learnings, and admittedly several failures to build our DI program. But, at the end of the day, we preach that initiatives like these cannot stop at a gratuitous action to check a box for social change; they must be sustainable. And at the Bazaar, we practice what we preach.
You could ask several people at the Bazaar where the DI program started and get several answers, but truly it started when Bazaar President and CEO, Brad Nardick, was in second grade. As a young student, Brad was placed in Special Education courses at school. Up against a rigid, one-size-fits-all curriculum, Brad was told over and over again that he didn’t have the proper skills to succeed in the traditional sense. However, as Brad progressed through his education, he realized something — the issue wasn’t whether or not he would succeed, it was how he was going to build his own path toward success. Being disabled often means being told time and time again that you will have to settle in life for less than a traditionally abled person. But what institutions such as schools and businesses were failing to realize, was that by placing individuals in these boxes, they weren’t helping them; they were stifling them.
One of the earlier successes of the DI program at the Bazaar was in the hiring process. In traditional corporate hiring, candidates are mass screened for one entry level role. At the Bazaar, candidates were carefully evaluated to determine their individual skill sets. Did they thrive in logistical tasks? Were they meant to be in a social environment, surrounded by people? It wasn’t the goal of finding bodies to fill a role, but rather finding people who would be an asset to the Bazaar and working with them to figure out exactly where they belonged.
From the hiring process, the Bazaar employees were teamed up with specific managers. The end goal wasn’t just being employed, but thriving within their employment. Each and every Bazaar employee is encouraged to communicate with their manager about the parts of their jobs they like, things they want to improve at, and where they see themselves in the future. At the Bazaar, we often find that those who are disabled are robbed of a sense of independence from an early age. One of the pillars of our program is empowering every single person who works under our roof to take control of their careers, and to give them the tools and resources to do so.
Through all of these learnings since the inception of the DI program in 2014, we’d like to say our program is perfect. But, truthfully, we are constantly learning and evolving to better serve our community, who, ultimately, make the Bazaar the business it is today. The Bazaar has not only been a business that stands for social change, but a sustainable, profitable business over the past 60 years. From warehouse logistics to sales associates, the Bazaar and its success are a direct reflection of the people who make up our teams. Our DI program has afforded us the opportunity to thrive not only as a business, but as a community. As we continue to learn from the people around us, we make strides toward being a better business, as well as a cornerstone of the communities we serve.