Julian John is not a network leader, he’s a Managing Director. Swansea-based Delsion are a people and development company who help business with, as Julian puts it, ‘people solutions, learning development solutions and inclusion solutions’.
Julian brings to Delsion a wealth of HR experience in large retail organisations like Iceland and B&Q. He reckons that he has personally recruited about 2,500 people in his various roles at store, local and national level, ‘and I’ve always been driven by seeing people’s potential’. But in 2005 that interest became far more personal.
‘I had food poisoning which caused a bacterial infection in my brain. For two years I was housebound and spent in five years in rehab. I lost everything and was even homeless for a while. My journey back enabled me to see the barriers caused by disability face to face. I struggle with visual interference and stimulus - even a flicker on a screen is difficult so I even struggle with that key business tool, email. As my brain slows down, I struggle with speech so my voice recognition doesn’t recognise me on a bad day. Fortunately we are seeing lots of new technology innovations.’
Julian’s previous experience in inclusive HR came in very handy. ‘Thanks to what I had done before, I always knew that I was employable, that someone like me was employable, but now I could see it from the other side. It was difficult to find work. People don’t understand brain injury. Employers ask for skills like problem-solving but they don’t seem to want them when they meet someone who has actually solved real problems.’ Julian solved this particular problem by forming Delsion in 2015. He’s now become a key ally of PurpleSpace.
Julian says: ‘one of the frustrations around disability is that people talk on other people’s behalf. The truth - and that’s what employers need - lies within the disabled community. That’s why networks like PurpleSpace are so important. Disability-confidence is a journey that has gone from support for an individual internally to sharing good practice externally. It is that sharing that then starts to affect policy. If we can get good practice is out there globally then it doesn’t matter what the specific local laws are.’
Julian puts that old maxim ‘think globally, act locally’ into action. ‘This work is not just about employability and CV-writing. It’s about genuine inclusion and that requires engagement. It can take longer for things to happen here perhaps than in London but there’s a lot of potential for Wales to become a leader in inclusion. It’s a small country and we have direct contact with the National Assembly and the CEOs of the big employers.’ Julian gives the example of Swansea which in 2015 Delsion named as the first disability-confident city in the UK. ‘Across Swansea about 40% of workforce are represented by just six employers so by engaging directly with them we made an enormous difference to disability-confidence and in the end engaged over 70 employers.’
Julian enthusiastically backed PurpleSpace’s Purple Light Up (#PLU) initiative to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) on 3 December 2017. ‘We wanted to highlight the economic impact of disabled people, the contribution we make. We wanted to turn the mistaken idea that it costs more to employ disabled people on its head.’ Cardiff City Hall’s Victorian frontage was lit up purple as was the National Assembly, the University of South Wales and the Wales Millennium Centre, an opera and arts centre made out of copper. ‘The follow-on impact - people saying “I saw that” - has lasted longer than I expected,’ says Julian. ‘The scope of engagement amazed me. I even went to Florida to discuss the possibility of lighting Disney Castle purple.’
Julian continues: ‘Change becomes engagement when you tell the world about it so whatever you’re doing, try to do it loudly - on the company intranet, on social media, through events and so on’. That sounds like a very good tip for network leaders.
‘As organisations look wider for their talent pool, we need to showcase the talent pool right here to bring businesses into Wales. Employers are unaware of the talent around them. My skillset is around people, resourcing and getting potential into an organisation. I had that skillset before I became disabled. Now I’ve seen from both sides that there’s a group that is ignored. That is going to end. its not a question of “if” but “when”.’ Perhaps not Disney’s castle yet but with allies like Julian, that famous red dragon of Wales could soon be turning purple.
Julian John is a newly-appointed PurpleSpace ambassador for #PurpleLightUp
- In Wales 399,000 people of working age have a disability or health condition - 171,570 work, another 69,000 would like to.
- 43% of people of working age with a disability or health condition work.
- 79% of people of working age without a disability or health condition work.
- Therefore, the Welsh disability gap is 36% (79%-43%).
- The gap for the UK as a whole is 32%.
Spotlight on... is our series of deep dive conversations with an exceptional group of disability change agents. These disability network leaders, champions and allies talk to journalist Jim Pollard about their unique contributions and approaches to the narrative of building personal and business disability confidence from the inside out.
The full blog and all content is available to Members.