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Brazilian legislation requires all companies with 100+ employees to have 2-5% employees with disabilities. In 2014, the number of disabled employees at Hydro in Paragominas was quite low.

Douglas Ruozzi, HR General Manager-Paragominas, was responsible for finding a solution. By 2015, Paragominas had fulfilled the legal requirements, recruited talent and overcome mental barriers: a great example of how diversity enables Hydro’s business to grow. 

The legal requirements pushed management in Paragominas to act quickly.

“The first step was to explain the situation for managers, convincing them to employ people with disabilities, which due to budgetary and headcount reasons proved to be challenging,” Ruozzi says. 

After approval from managers, the next challenge was finding the candidates. Several creative solutions were initiated, using various communication channels like radio broadcasts, posters around the city, Facebook posts and collaboration with unions. The result: more than 180 applicants.    

Performance, not disabilities

The recruitment process continued with screenings and interviews. Throughout the process, Rouzzi emphasized the importance of searching for potential talents.

“We should not forget that the company has a need to attract professionals,” he says. “Our focus is always to hire the best candidate. The whole time it was made clear that the new hires would be treated equally to any other employee and that under no circumstances would favor the disability factor.”

Ultimately, they hired 72 people in areas such as maintenance, operations, services, human resources and communication.

These employees have already contributed to business improvements through participating in Seminário de Oportunidades de Melhorias nas Áreas (Improvement Opportunity Seminar), where best practices are shared.One example: Employees have found ways to more effectively send mail (parcels, etc.) and thus reduce costs.

How diversity affects results

Besides high-quality employees, the new hires helped change their colleagues’ mindsets and create an environment of respect and engagement.

“For the disabled employees, the employment has helped to overcome some of their internal barriers. In the meanwhile, they also help breaking down external barriers and preconceptions about disabilities,” says Rouzzi.

To be competitive and continue creating a performance culture, diversity is a top priority for Hydro. “The initiative in Paragominas is a great example and evidence that diversity really makes an impact on our business. Not only did we find new and innovative channels for recruiting, the initiative also helped create engagement,” says Elin Horn Wintermeyer, Head of Corporate Organization & Leadership.

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