‘At a distance from the labour market.’ That's what it's called nowadays if, for example, you're in a wheelchair, you have autism, or you suffer from a bipolar disorder. VodafoneZiggo wants to reduce that distance, or perhaps eliminate it altogether. Everyone has something to offer, right? That is why we regularly employ people with – and here’s another one of those terms – a permanent reduced ability to work. Internal job coach Iris Koorn is responsible for ensuring that they too can be their best selves here.

You only come into contact with Iris once you have been hired. “You’re not required to specify that you have a physical, mental or psychological disability. Once this is known, I can join in the discussions.” The manager will also provide input, because they know how you can best perform specific tasks. Iris looks mainly at the structures in the workplace. Can you work well there? “A simple example is that there are wheelchair-friendly toilets in buildings, but not on every floor. Is there sufficient time between meetings and tasks to take a break? I look for a solution to every obstacle that we encounter.”

Iris also aligns colleagues’ expectations. For example, it can take a while for someone with autism to feel comfortable at a new workplace. “In that case, it’s not smart to approach them straight away and start asking all kinds of personal questions. With that knowledge, team members can assess the situation better and ensure their new colleague has a ‘smooth landing’.”

Unusual turn of events
Iris comes from a totally different line of work. For 15 years she managed teams in large organisations, until she suffered a bad burnout. “I was ill for two years. But I received a great deal of help from my coach during my rehabilitation. This inspired me so much that I decided to make a career switch. I’d actually been longing to do something else for a long time; something more meaningful.” She did a training course and is now the Job Coach at VodafoneZiggo. And she takes enormous pleasure from her work. “I don’t earn as much as I used to, of course, but I have the best job in the world.”

Making a mental leap
In addition to focusing on physical performance, Iris also provides coaching on a mental level – an area in which she has undergone significant development. “After having done this work for a while, I felt that there had to be more to be gained from the mental coaching. I started studying Neuro-Linguistic Programming, or NLP. I learned how to reach a deeper level by working with the subconscious. That way, you can break old patterns and teach someone how, for example, to cope better with social anxiety. If successful, people not only perform their tasks better, but their lives improve in a sustainable way and on all kinds of fronts."

Coming out of the closet with your disability
People who have been working for VodafoneZiggo for some time can also contact Iris for coaching and support. “Good use is made of that, but don't underestimate how difficult it can be to admit that you have a disability. Often, shame plays a role and something like that only comes to light much later. Someone who has already been working here for 20 years recently signed up for coaching. He had only just found out that he has a mild form of autism. Now, he was ready to bring it up at work too and make use of the help that we can offer. Really fantastic and brave, of course.”

Tolerant from colleague to customer
The fact that more and more people are daring to be open is a great development in Iris’ opinion. “To encourage this, VodafoneZiggo is working hard to be an inclusive employer.” Iris is also involved in this process, she says. “I’m in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Team. We highlight the value of diversity and inclusion internally and ensure that managers and recruiters actually employ people with a disability. This is done, for example, by not asking for 40 hours per week in vacancies, which is too high a threshold for many people.”

In addition to a more tolerant workplace and labour market, the team also wants customers to be helped based on a more inclusive mindset, says Iris. “Because someone with a disability cannot simply dive into the bottom of the cupboard if their Wi-Fi isn’t working. In order to learn how to handle that properly, it helps if people with a labour challenge contribute ideas too.”

The real summit
Iris made her career switch in search of more fulfilment. And she has found plenty of that here. “It is great to see that we can really help people – such as a woman who came in with very low self-esteem and now makes herself heard loud and clear; a young guy who was wrestling with his autism, but now performs very well and even coaches colleagues with a disability; and a man with a non-congenital brain injury who is able to work almost full-time by structuring his hours and tasks differently. There’s really nothing better than achieving that kind of personal success, with the cherry on the top being the extension of someone’s contract or an offer of permanent employment.

Read more about jobs at VodafoneZiggo