Integration instead of disability annuity - Call Yachol leads the way
The integration or reintegration of people with disabilities into the labour market has moved increasingly into focus in recent years. This includes activities in protected employment sites, also especially in the open labour market. The Israeli company "Call Yachol" goes one step further: The call centre employs almost exclusively people with a disability.
In Western society, work means a lot more than mere living. Work means an opportunity for self-fulfilment for broad sectors of society. Depending on professional status, it can today also be viewed as a status symbol. According to a study published in 2009 in the German magazine "Der Spiegel", 48% of the surveyed workers aged between 20 and 35 years link work with money. Almost 30% see work also as performance, 13% as fun, 10% as career and around 5% as reputation.
From all these targets, today people with a disability are virtually excluded. The exclusion from the labour market has even more far-reaching consequences because people with disabilities link very different objectives with work too. Having an occupation means to them that they can participate in social life.
The professional activities are a means to gain recognition as a full member of society. Affected people want to demonstrate their willingness and ability and eventually reach at least a partial economic independence through their salary.
Early detection and intensive monitoring
As in earlier years, the focus lay on the creation of institutions and workplaces that offered accessible jobs and mostly simple work, today the focus lies on jobs within the open labour market due to integration efforts.
In Switzerland, with the 5th Revision of the disability insurance IV, the main purpose of the IV became realigned. On one hand, the remaining work capacity is examined more detailed before the so-called “Invalidity Insurance Premium” is paid. On the other hand, the aim is that more disabled people can stay employed thanks to early detection, more intensive monitoring and more active participation.
New opportunities, thanks to modern computer technology
Computer technologies have revolutionised millions of positions in recent years but also millions have been rationalised. For non-disabled workers, the positions have changed considerably, for people with disabilities, however, the technical change can create advantages as new fields, new jobs and new economic opportunities have emerged.
Thus, the computer technologies have led to new forms of work and communication which allow to work independently from time and place, and can be generally performed well with a disability. This includes, for example working in a call centre. This industry has grown strongly in recent years and is now confronted with a shortage of qualified personnel.
Groundbreaking business idea
In the call centre sector, one of the involved companies is the Israeli MyHandicap partner Call Yachol whose goal it is that in the future, 10 percent of all call centre employees worldwide will be people with physical disabilities. The expansion starts in Switzerland, where a first call centre is planned using the example of Call Yachol.
Interview with the founder Gil Winch
MyHandicap has interviewed Gil Winch, founder of Call Yachol and PhD in Psychology at the University of Tel Aviv, about the company and its groundbreaking business idea.
MyHandicap: What is the meaning of the company’s name “Call Yachol”?
Gil Winch: “Call Yachol” has two meanings in Israeli: On one hand it expresses the ability to make phone calls – so “to call” – and on the other hand it conveys the belief in the capability to mange everything.
MyH: Can you give some points of motivation to found a company like Call Yachol where most of the employees have a disability?
GW: As a man who served in the Israeli army and was wounded in the war, I am familiar with the subjects of disability and death. Friends of mine have been wounded or killed in war. This is the reason why I have joined the organisation “Access Israel” few years ago. I wanted to help and in the same time, I have learned that 80% of the physically disabled people in Israel are seeking work. As organisational consultant I know that call centres look for loyal and qualified employees for long-term employment.
In my position as consultant, psychologist and special pedagogue, who has close contacts to governmental institutions, I found myself in a position from which I can actually change something and can connect things.
If you reach an age where you are able to do something for society, you must not ignore it.
MyH: What services does Call Yachol offer?
GW: Call Yachol offers outsourcing services in which it is difficult to retain long-term employees as it is common in call centres. In addition, we offer an employee search which is adapted to the employees, to the initial training program of the customers for their employees with physical disabilities, to the typical environment of the employer, and to all equipment in the workplace - depending on the kind of physical disability.
MyH: What are the main benefits, both for the employees of Call Yachol and for your customers?
GW: Call Yachol offers employees two key benefits: On the one hand a special cooperation should arise between the management and staff that conveys warmth and fun at work. We try to build the most pleasant job in the Middle East.
We are always keen to include fun in work. Once an employee work for Call Yachol, we do everything to ensure that he/she will be successful in his/her work, even though it might take more time.
Our customers receive the advantage of better and more loyal employees for the same budget and coincidentally contribute to society.
MyH: How many people are currently employed at Call Yachol?
GW: Currently, we have about 150 employees.
MyH: How many hours per week do the employees work?
GW: Between 20 hours per week and up to a fulltime job.
MyH: What can you tell us about the job requirements?
GW: The jobs at the Call Yachol are divided in Sales and Service. The working conditions in Service are complicated as we offer our services to mobile operators for different areas: for example for programs, equipment, etc.
All this can change quickly. The training course lasts for 2 months and is relatively complicated. If we are looking for someone, we examine both his/her cognitive abilities and his/her ability to work under stress. Therefore, we only accept one of six candidates.
MyH: What are the duties and responsibilities of the employees?
GW: Our managing team works very hard because we demand the relationship between the management and the employees to be similar to a parent-child relationship. The management is not only responsible for the results and aims of the employees but also for their wellbeing in the company.
We believe that a happy employee means a good employee, and that it is the responsibility of the management to ensure this first. Additional to the general management tasks, we expect a parent function from the management, which is a part of the training they receive from us.
MyH: How are the employees trained so that they can do their job as best as possible?
GW: The initial training course is quite long. It takes 2 months, 7 hours daily. After this course, the management is present anytime at the workplace and available to the employees during working hours. We have more managers than other call centres, so that a greater attention can be paid to the employees and that the management can be more present.
Additional to this, we have an organisational consulting company that supports the employees, and most of all the management to help the employees and to administer their needs. We give our employees the time they need. We are yet satisfied when we see a slight improvement from day to day or from week to week.
MyH: What are the reactions in Israel to this business model?
GW: The reactions are very positive. We have so many potential customers that we do not need a marketing function. The organisations we work with are very satisfied with us; this also applies to governmental offices and relevant ministries.
They all confirm and encourage us in our doing but as soon as it comes to officials of Government offices, we do not receive any sympathy, they are even quite annoyed. Because 85% of our employees were without a job and the Government bureaucracy has failed to find employment for them. We are successful where they have failed.
MyH: Do you receive any support from other companies, organisations or from the Government?
GW: We receive much encouragement, suggestions and support offers. A company, for example, that has closed a call centre, left us all the equipment they no longer needed. A customer allows our employees to use his transport. Another customer sents our employees at his own expense to excursions and theatre performances, etc.
When it comes to the Government, however, the Ministers and CEOs judge us favourably but as mentioned before, the officials don’t. Since Call Yachol is a commercial company, and in Israel there is no similar organisation, there is no Government office which is responsible for our financial support. Such a procedure does not exist.
Only NGOs can receive financial support from the Government, commercial companies like us don’t. Therefore, we have received no funding from the Government, even though we are the largest employer of people with disabilities in Israel.
MyH: What is your vision for Call Yachol?
GW: The aim of Call Yachol is that 10% of all call centre employees worldwide are people with a physical disability. We want to establish branches in Europe and North America. We start in Switzerland.
Our vision is the employment of thousands of people with physical disabilities in Israel, a technological development which allows people with a severe physical disability to work from home, and the promotion of further sectors in which an employment of people with disabilities is beneficial.
In the MyHandicap Foundation, we see a partner for our aims and we hope to achieve our dissemination in Europe with their help.
MyH: Gil Winch, thank you very much for answering our questions.
Text: PG - 12/2009
Fotos: MyHandicap / Call Yachol