A catalyst for change

Jamie Shields from AMS talks about how being diagnosed with ADHD and autism has been a game-changer for him and how his workplace has empowered him to help others.

 

Jamie Shields has worked at talent solutions firm AMS for five years. He says he ‘stumbled’ into AMS after years of rejection because he is disabled or short-term roles where he was the ‘token hire’. To say he was not optimistic would be to put it mildly. But his experience at AMS has been the complete opposite. Right from the start he was asked what the company could do to support him. “It was truly empowering,” he says. “I had never been able to talk about my disability at work before and never felt like I belonged.”

Jamie has been registered blind from birth, but it was only fairly recently that he received an ADHD and autism diagnosis while working with AMS, which was highly commended in the Best for Diversity & Inclusion category at the recent WM People Top Employer Awards. He says that recognition was a game-changer for him and that the support he received from his manager was “incredible”.

Jamie says he has had more jobs than hot dinners and that being disabled presented barriers in his education. At AMS he led the Disability Resource Group [ERG] and discovered a community. “For someone who grew up in rural Northern Ireland I didn’t know any other disabled people or how to navigate the world of work. AMS’ employee resource groups not only support people like me, but they deliver on AMS’ values and help to educate other colleagues,” he states.

Around three years ago he was appointed global leader of the Disability ERG, taking part in panel discussions and working with the likes of the RNIB and The Valuable 500. He felt his confidence growing as the ERG spoke about what AMS could do to reduce barriers for disabled people. That included joining the UK’s disability confidence scheme, AMS are now a Disability Confident Level 2 Employer working towards Level 3. He has also worked with regional groups and is aware of the different regulations that exist in different regions. 

In addition, Jamie co-led the Neurodiversity ERG. He says when he first joined the networks it was out of curiosity, but as he saw colleagues sharing how their disabilities affected them at work, he could see the positive impact on them. “I would deny my disability in the past and be ashamed or afraid of the stigma, but this was completely different,” he says.  

A critical friend

The ERGs create and foster belonging amongst colleagues with support from an Executive Committee Sponsor. They have also fed into policy. “We are like a critical friend around the table. It gives people who were previously unrepresented a voice and has been transformational,” says Jamie, adding that they can feed their own lived experience into the mix and test out policies to see how they would play out on the ground. The Disability ERG has been instrumental in the formation of AMS’ accessibility roadmap on workplace adjustments, working with a number of stakeholders across the business.  

One big change has involved switching the official font used by AMS to make it accessible for people with disabilities. Another has been the change in the conversations around accessibility. “Historically, disability was a bit of an afterthought. Now it is at the heart of design and we are working with marketing, HR and employee relations partners to address the biggest barriers,” says Jamie.

The two ERGs work in partnership, although they also run their own events. Indeed all AMS’ ERGs emphasise intersectionality. Membership has burgeoned in recent years. Last year it grew by 63% across both groups.

Promotion

Due to his success in the ERGs, last year AMS promoted Jamie to the role of Disability & Accessibility Lead. He helps support clients with hiring diverse talent and removing barriers for those who are disabled, driving more widespread change. It was the first time that Jamie had been promoted. In his role he has been responsible for a range of videos and resources that help to educate and inspire colleagues. “It’s not a one-off thing,” he says. “These are sustainable resources.” AMS’ clients also ask to use them. 

Michael Caley-Cook, Senior Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Manager in the AMS DEI Centre of Excellence, describes Jamie as “instrumental” to the way AMS works on diversity and inclusion and a “tireless” advocate for change. Unsurprisingly, Jamie’s work has won him external recognition. He was selected as one of the Shaw Trust’s Disability Power 100 and the Disability & Neurodiversity ERGs won Outstanding Disability Network of the Year at the British Diversity Awards. But he is clear that there is much more to be done and it is clear that AMS is very proud to support him.  He says: “It is really humbling to see that the thing I most struggled with all my life has become the catalyst for my career.”

*WM People will be publishing a full report on the WM People Top Employer Award winners next month.



Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your Franchise Selection

Click the button below to register your interest with all the franchises in your selection

Request FREE Information Now

Your Franchise Selection

This franchise opportunity has been added to your franchise selection

image

title

Click the button below to register your interest with all the franchises in your selection

Request FREE Information Now


You may be interested in these similar franchises