Celebrating the success of our head office cleaning team

Employees happily showing their certificates

Three of our newest head office staff, Penni Yeboah, Kakra Yeboah and Faraz Khan, have celebrated their first anniversary with the Facilities First head office cleaning team. We are supremely proud of the three and we were thrilled to mark the occasion to thank them for a wonderful year – and their commitment to keeping our offices in great condition through COVID-19.

Twin sisters, Penni and Kakra, who have a mild intellectual disability, joined us via Northcott’s Vocational Training and Employment Service, which has supported the twins through their time with us.

While Penni and Kakra have developed their skills well over the past year, it’s also been a positive experience for the entire Facilities First team.

As Ben Bayot, our Chief Executive Office explains: “The motivation was purely about focusing on diversity and inclusion in the workforce and helping enable people to live a normal life. While it’s been fantastic for Penni and Kakra, I think it’s also opened the eyes of all of our staff to the fact that everyone has the ability to perform if provided with the right training, environment and opportunity.”

“We want to be ambassadors for diversity and inclusion,” says Janelle Dixon, our General Manager – People, Communications and Integration. “We really care and we are committed to our diversity and inclusion goals, and we want to demonstrate to other employers that it can be done.”

Happy twin ladies wearing uniform

Supported by Northcott

Northcott is one of Australia’s largest not-for-profit disability service providers. It provides a range of services from early childhood intervention to adult housing support.

As part of its vocational programs funded by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), it helps young adults gain crucial skills to transition into the workforce – and towards independence.

“We help our clients develop both task-based skills and soft skills such as good resilience,” explains Moya Maffey, Community Engagement Officer with Northcott. “We discover what they enjoy doing, find out what they are good at, we help them with the necessary paperwork, and we work with them on areas including workplace communication and money management.”

Northcott also partners with each employer to ensure they have a suitable workspace and the knowledge to support every Northcott customer.

Two women reviewing documents

Collaboration is essential

Facilities First commenced working with Ability First, a national body of leading disability service providers, two years ago.

“We tried about three years ago with different providers, but we just didn’t see success at the time,” explains Janelle. “We had a number of roles but they were consistently mismatched. We didn’t want our efforts to look and feel as though we were just ticking a box, so we worked closely with Ability First to understand what success could look like, and our partnership was forged.”

“The CEO of Ability First, Andrew Rowley, set us on the right path,” explains Janelle. “We worked together to understand how it works, how we could integrate that in our world, and we set out to change our thinking and that of our teams. A key takeout was that ‘disability’ doesn’t automatically equal a wheelchair.”

The Facilities First team looked at possible employment options including how to support our trades and maintenance teams, before deciding to focus on commercial cleaning.

Janelle explains:

“For our pilot group to be successful we had to take a considered approach to selecting their supervisor with care as we wanted someone with not only the skills and empathy but the ability to take the time training. Sam (Shyamanta) Barua was a good fit.”

“It was also really important to us that we directly employ our team to reinforce our commitment to the program and the individuals. We wanted them to feel part of the family, like everyone at Facilities First.”

Working with Facilities First

Over the past year, Penni and Kakra have worked two days with the Facilities First cleaning team and also attended Northcott Hornsby’s Everyday Life Skills and Vocational Skills services to help build social, community and work skills.

The two now complete their tasks with minimal supervision, standard quality checks and occasional reminders if needed.

“I work with both Janelle and Sam, Penni and Kakra’s direct supervisor, to ensure their team can support our customers as needed. Sam provides Penni and Kakra with training, and we follow through to ensure they continue to perform their tasks as instructed.”

For Moya, working with Facilities First has been a wholly positive experience. “They have been fantastic. They are very, very patient. There are few employers who are as accommodating and supportive,” she observes.

Janitor wiping table in office

Learning office cleaning and other skills

Moya explains that every Northcott customer goes through a journey to discover what work types are a good fit, and to understand their limits.

While that means not everyone will be ready to take up ongoing employment, Penni and Kakra have a firm commitment to stay with Facilities First.

“It’s awesome. I feel happy, grown-up and really proud of myself. I’m more adult and my responsibilities have changed,” says Penni. “It feels great to have a paid job.”

Moya has noticed changes in both Penni and Kakra. “They have a much better understanding of what it means to be corporate-clean (rather than just home-clean) and their workplace communication has improved. They have an amazing connection but had a habit of talking quite loudly across the floor to each other, regardless of people working,” she laughs.

Moya has also seen them take on a mentoring role to others in the Northcott programs. “It’s really all about gaining that feeling of empowerment that comes from pride in having a job and doing it well. It’s really great to see.”

The first of many inclusive programs

With Penni and Kakra’s success, Facilities First is looking forward to further expanding our inclusion and diversity.

“This program is just the tip of the iceberg, says Ben. “As an organisation, we’re committed to making a difference in our community. We want to increase these sorts of programs so that we can provide as many opportunities as we can for people who want to contribute.”

“It’s been great for our team too,” he adds. “I now have contract managers coming to me wanting to be involved.”

Facilities First continue to offer inclusive employment programs with contracts that include grounds maintenance. It’s just the next step in our long-term goal of inclusion and diversity across our facilities management, commercial cleaning and maintenance services for our valued customers.

If you would like to talk to us about our inclusive programs, please contact us. We would love to hear from you.

Contact Facilities First