Working as an inclusive team

Sveltana Slavkina is a hearing and speaking-impaired employee. She has been working in the restaurant and cafeteria at the Paveletskaya Tower Business Center in Moscow for more than 6 years. Here is what her colleagues have to say about Svetlana.


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Mayse Toukhtametova, in charge of catering at the Paveletskaya Tower Business Center, tells us more about Svetlana’s integration and the way the team interacts every day.

A dedicated employee

Mayse hired Sveltana as manager in the dining room: she verifies eating utensils at each table and cleans up the room before and after meals. She easily became part of the team and is a dedicated employee. Hiring her was a good choice: “I never regretted my decision to choose Svetlana over other candidatures”, says Mayse. At Sodexo We promote the integration of employees with disabilities, and she was our first hearing-impaired employee. After that I recruited two other employees with the same disability”, she adds.

On-the-job training

The team didn’t have much time to prepare for Svetlana’s arrival: “Every day we serve 2000 clients, so you can imagine how busy we are”, declares Mayse. “We simply took a 5 minutes break to introduce her to the team and to the colleague who was to show her around, and we went on with our daily tasks”.

But the team quickly found its footing and invented its own method to make it work. “At first we used a small blackboard to write down things quickly, like “put forks on the tables” or “check the napkins”. But since then we have started to use hand gestures – not sign language, just simple everyday hand gestures and we now communicate with each others really well!” Mayse says.

A “lighter” atmosphere

More importantly, somehow Svetlana creates a special light, cheerful atmosphere around her. “She is an extremely nice person. Our work here can be difficult, but she has changed the whole atmosphere: sure all was fine before her arrival, but the atmosphere has somehow become kinder and more warm-hearted! And this is definitely not a coincidence: Svetlana’s name in Russian means ‘light’!

It also seems that Svetlana’s disability itself plays a role a part in building this new team spirit: “When working with a person with a disability, people have to adapt and make efforts for mutual understanding. So we show our best side and you can notice it in the atmosphere that settled in after Svetlana’s arrival: it is warmer than if all employees were valid”, Mayse claims.

Patrick Hiriart (240x120)
Patrick Hiriart is Advisor in the Oil & Gas business. He works at Sodexo’s headquarters in Issy-les-Moulineaux. He had an accident in 2006, which led him to rethink his career path.

Project search logo (240x120)
Sodexo and global healthcare company GSK joined forces on Project Search, an international work-based program for students with learning disabilities.