Mauritius: KFC lends an ear to the deaf; provides employment avenues
Since 2011, in partnership with the Society for the Welfare of the Deaf (SWD), KFC has hired several hearing impaired candidates. (Image: Company)
Employment is an important tool to integrate the deaf into society, was the message which rang out loud and clear during the celebration of the International Week of deafness in Mauritius from 22-28 September.
This message is well borne out by the experience of global fast-food chain KFC, at its outlets in Ebene and Flacq.
While their hearing handicap does not exclude them from the labour market to begin with, deafness is still a tough challenge to overcome for the hearing impaired and the deaf, who wish to embrace employment and a full-fledged career.
In such a situation, companies like KFC come across as role models in the arena of providing employment avenues to the deaf.
Since 2011, in partnership with the Society for the Welfare of the Deaf (SWD), KFC has hired several hearing impaired candidates.
The SWD, with headquarters located in Beau Bassin, has 75 members. The association offers many services to 61 deaf youth ranging from 4-18 years, particularly in terms of special education (pre-primary, primary, secondary and vocational), diagnostic, rehabilitation and empowerment.
As for KFC, present in Mauritius for the last thirty years, and currently boasting around 500 employees in 21 branches, the famous fried chicken company today employs 10 deaf who possess the skills that allow them to be rotated across all workstations: preparation, cleaning, cash and product assembly.
Muamar and Kushal, feature among these ten, and are employees at the KFC Ebene outlet for the last two years.
“We were both students at the SWD and had attended a screening of candidates by KFC. We were invited to several rounds of interviews during which an interpreter translated what we said. Then, based on our performance, we were hired.”
Like any new job, the adjustment has not been easy for Muamar and Kushal.
“We had to work quickly and efficiently on all stations. But after a while we got used to the pace of work and now all is well. As for our colleagues, it was a bit difficult for them to communicate with us to begin with, but they soon got used to it. Now we hope to continue to do our job.”
It was during a visit in 2010 to a KFC restaurant in India employing the deaf, that the idea of using the deaf in KFC restaurants in Mauritius first came to seed in the minds of some business leaders in Mauritius.
“We found a KFC restaurant inspired by Malaysia, employing the deaf. This restaurant had assumed the apt name of ‘The Silent Store’. We were pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome and the soothing atmosphere that prevailed,” says Junaid Muslun, Managing Director of KFC.
“Back in Mauritius, we were very excited about making it happen and partnered with the SWD to spark off this initiative. Shortlisted students were trained at KFC. Some of our employees and managers were trained in sign language and we also went on to adapt our equipment to our new staff,” he added.
However, employees with normal hearing had some trepidation at first, but the initiative has ultimately proved to be a success.
“Deaf employees, like the rest of the team, showed great team spirit, and today, sign language has become the second language of Ebene and Flacq teams!” says a delighted Junaid Muslun.
The integration of deaf in both branches of KFC employees required some tweaks to the equipment though. Raymond Houbert, Operations Manager at KFC, admits he has had to redesign the operating model in Ebene and Flacq.
“We installed two flashing lights: one to the cashier to place the order for those products that were to be prepared; the other on the side of cooking appliances, to attract the attention of deaf employees who do not hear the alarm. We also installed a menu board on the counter to facilitate communication between the client and the deaf cashier, allowing customers to convey their messages more easily,” he observed.
“Today, at KFC, deaf employees add value to our teams and are an integral part of our operations and our future. Ultimately, our goal is to hire two to three deaf employees at each restaurant in all KFC units across the country,” concluded Junaid Muslun.