Empathy is an essential ability in our workplace. It helps our teams work better together, design better experiences for our customers, and give our work meaning.
In May 2015, we were seeking new ways to embrace empathy at Widen so we hired a popcorn manager. With the help of Community Support Network (CSN), a nonprofit that helps people with developmental disabilities participate in the Madison, WI community, we created a non-traditional role to deliver popcorn to our staff.
Twice a week, our popcorn manager tallies up who wants popcorn in the afternoon, then pops it using a commercial popcorn maker, and delivers it fresh to employees. As a result, not only do we benefit from free popcorn delivered to our desks but we also experience a high level of engagement with a part of the workforce we would not otherwise.
Three years later, we continue to increase our involvement with CSN. Since creating the popcorn manager position, we’ve expanded employment of people with developmental disabilities to represent 5% of our workforce.
Employees like Kristina Harris, office assistant at Widen, are a part of the Widen team and we’re excited to have her share her experience of working at Widen.
“I do a little bit of everything,” says Kristina. “I feel very happy and very successful in my life. I’m not a homebody. I like to be out and about. I feel very comfortable as a person with a disability to work at Widen because everybody here welcomes people with a disability really well.”
It can be easy to dismiss non-traditional roles like a popcorn manager because it’s not always a clear tie to the bottom line. But we've experienced many benefits, so we encourage you to take another look and think about the impact of hiring people with developmental disabilities would have on your employees, your community, and your business. As Matthew Gonnering, Widen CEO, concludes in the video, “there’s only one way for this to happen and it’s you making it happen. Be the change.”