Featuring UK Small Businesses #1: IT Asset Disposal & defining success

We’re starting a regular feature here on the smallbiz blog, highlighting small businesses across the UK that catch our eye. These will be completely random and partisan in that they’ve simply caught my eye (generally from new Twitter followers) – no other reason. I’ll do the legal bit and say that no promotion or endorsement of products and services is given or implied – the aim is simply to highlight some of the great work that people are doing. Posts don't necessarily need to be socially-minded as the below one is, we're interested in products and services of all kinds. If you’d like to volunteer your company please either comment here on the blog, tweet me your company url @MicrosoftSB or email Madeleine on v-madehu@microsoft.com. We're not looking for product plugs, we don't need a pitch and we'll write the blogs, so all  you have to do is send your website url.  This is a long post, but others will be much shorter.


IT Asset Disposal Ltd

Company profile (from their website)

A not-for-profit organisation with very strong environmental and social aims. Our primary focus within the company is to provide a supportive work environment for our staff and through our work with our partner agencies we provide work placement and employment opportunities for local people with disabilities. Wherever possible we aim to place disabled and long term unemployed individuals into our close knit team.


Defining success

 Herein lies our quandary - how should we define success?? In the 8 months that the scheme has been running we have had 27 people come to us. Throughout this time with us, the questions we ask ourselves are "Are we helping them?" and "Have we been successful?".  In order to try and answer these questions, we asked a young man called Rhys, who has been with us on the scheme since March, to write a list of all the things he has learnt during that time. This is the list he made:


What I have done

1. Sorting out cables and wires

2. Cleaning CRT’s

3. Cleaning TFT’s

4. Sorting out many Printer ink cartridges

5. Collecting data on items e.g. No. Of Printers

6. Compiling tally data into an Excel spreadsheet

7. Logging in number of Printer ink cartridges on to a spreadsheet

8. Cleaning the sink, albeit not very well

9. Cleaning the tea cups, albeit not too well

10. Grading CRT’s

11. Testing and Grading TFT’s

12. Packing TFT’s

13. Logging in of the TFT test data

14. Maintaining the spreadsheet data and keeping it up to date

15. Dismantling Computers

16. Testing out items for Ebay sales

17. Learning to read Voltage

18. Reading and sorting voltages on AC Adaptors

19. Removing used ink cartridges from printers

20. Sweeping the floor

21. Dismantling Laptops

22. Dismantling Servers

23. Dismantling Miscellanea

24. Learning to use tools

25. Keeping my tool box sorted out

26. Cutting Cables

27. Sorting and separating Telephones

28. Finding items to list

29. Correct lifting technique

30. Differentiating different types of circuit boards

31. Making and Printing labels

32. Labelling Pallets

33. Learning to pack boxes

34. Learning to tie a knot, albeit not too well

35. Deciding whether an item is of no use for recycling

36. Recycling

37. Timing my breaks

38. Acclimatising to the use of a bus

39. Creating a new routine

40. Becoming confident enough to come here alone

41. Learning the proportion of my food I should eat during different times of the day

42. Clocking in and out

43. Learning safety precautions

44. Learning how to use the back shutter

45. Learning how to open boxes safely and correctly

46. Removing batteries from Motherboards

47. Learning to use a packing knife

48. Learning to differentiate between different types of cables

49. Being able to eat in front of other people

50. Being able to tell the size of Hard Drive

51. Learning the internal components of a computer

52. Learning to use the tracker pad on a laptop

53. Learning the internal difference between a laptop and a computer

54. Separating different grades of recyclable items

55. Learning how to connect peripherals to a computer

56. Using the plastic wrap


Rhys then took this list and built it into a competency matrix that we will use to assess the progress of all trainees in the future. Many of the skills Rhys listed were exactly what I would have listed if I had done this list.

Then I re-read it, in particular numbers 39. Creating a new routine, 40. Becoming confident enough to come here alone, 41. Learning the proportion of my food I should eat during different times of the day and 49.

Being able to eat in front of other people. I was flabbergasted! These have nothing to do with what we apparently train them in but to Rhys were massive turning points. Rhys realised and, for us, underlined the importance of 'soft' social skills in the workplace. 'Soft' my ***!! Many of the trainees that come to us are thwarted by these so-called 'soft' skills! There are many and various reasons for this; having no experience of a workplace, anxiety issues, background and conditions such as autism. When the trainees come to us, we are not given any indication or information on their ability to socialise and as such, is something we learn as we get to know each person. This can take a long time as trust is built and confidence developed, between the trainees and staff. With most, some level of connection is made. This is often the point in the placement where astounding leaps forward are made.


So, bearing this in mind, how do you define success? Rhys wrote his list a few weeks before he finished here with us, but If he had written it on his last day, he would have also included 57. Making a cup of tea for myself in front of other people for the first time.


Now, go and make yourself a cup of tea or coffee and have a think!

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