Annual Report 2020-2021

GEMMA’S STORY – Equal Opportunities at Novotel

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Working collaboratively and building relationships with other organisations is important for Deaf Aotearoa and our service users across the wide range of services we provide. Our strong partnership with the teams at Novotel and Ibis hotel chains has been invaluable for a motivated Deaf woman, Gemma Billing, seeking an opportunity for employment. Gemma came to Deaf Aotearoa for assistance to be work ready. Through our Employment service as well as advocacy and advice guided by Facilitator Jessie Grigg, Gemma was successfully offered a Housekeeper role at one of the world’s leading hospitality companies, Novotel, in Christchurch.

Novotel and Ibis Talent & Culture Manager, Jason Viljoen, said “Jessie put Gemma forward for a possible vacancy at the Novotel. When we interviewed Gemma, she came across as a wonderful person. She was fun, energetic and really motivated to get back into the workforce.”

Settling into a new job and having a supportive inclusive environment is crucial to an employee and their team’s experience and engagement. A great range of resources and advice on NZSL and Deaf Awareness were shared with Gemma’s managers to support the transition – from how to apply for funding for New Zealand Sign Language interpreters and how to use New Zealand Relay Services for staff meetings, to suggestions on embedding safe and inclusive emergency procedures in the workplace. Learning how to communicate with Gemma day-today as also supplemented with information on the annual NZSL Week Taster Classes and where management and staff can learn NZSL.

Jason was pleased to welcome Gemma into their team, furthering their values of diversity and a culture of inclusion.

“Once we offered Gemma the role, she very quickly became an asset to the company. Her friendly personality saw her making many meaningful relationships with her colleagues”.

“To help promote better communication and understanding, we have signed up annually to Deaf Aotearoa’s NZSL Week Taster Classes, which have been incredibly beneficial for all.”

As a result, Gemma feels happier in her job. Not only has NZSL Week helped her colleagues with understanding Deaf people’s needs, the support provided has made her feel equal with everyone else.

“Over time I built a lot of confidence at work, because of the positivity, professionalism and team work in the workplace. We all understand each other and accept our differences, and it’s all about putting our hearts into the workplace.”

As we face COVID-19, there is a lot more need to overcome daily challenges and ensure clear communication. Employment support was extended through the COVID-19 lockdown, with document translations and ensuring Gemma was well-informed of the impacts of COVID-19 at work.

Jason expressed his gratitude for Deaf Aotearoa’s guidance which has helped make the whole process of recruitment, onboarding and training with Gemma seamless.

“Even during lockdown when communication is so important and sometimes quite difficult, Jessie was there to assist and set up a Zoom meeting to explain the lockdown and subsidy processes… Having Gemma on the team has helped us to challenge the way we see and do things”

“Gemma has certainly become part of our family at work and once we have more vacancies available, we will definitely approach Deaf Aotearoa for candidates.”

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