How Clorox’s Costa Rica Plant Embraces Inclusion With Sign Language Education

May 16, 2024 1:15 PM ET

In our manufacturing plant in San José, Costa Rica, a quiet shift in best practices is taking place — one that speaks to the power of inclusion in the workplace. At the center of this transformation are Jorge Hernãndez, a packaging plant auxiliary with a hearing disability, and his coworkers and management team committed to ensuring his full participation.

For Jorge, navigating the fast-paced environment of the manufacturing floor presented unique challenges. Despite 12 years of skilled experience working at Clorox, the communication barrier occasionally left him feeling isolated.

Recognizing the need for change, members of the plant’s management team saw an opportunity to bring more inclusive practices to their everyday operations. They understood that true success lies not only in the products they manufacture but in the strength of their workforce. And so, they made the decision to invest in ways that would make their people feel more empowered.

The first step was clear: provide sign language training for Jorge’s coworkers. What started four years ago as brief, informal training for teammates on Costa Rican Sign Language has evolved into a more formal training program with Enseñas Costa Rica, an organization that specializes in corporate education for communicating with the deaf community. Inspired by Clorox’s renewed commitment to inclusion, diversity, equity and allyship, or IDEA, this initiative had a powerful impact throughout the plant. Teammates embraced the opportunity to learn sign language, not just as a means of communication but as a tool for fostering understanding and connection with each other. The plant also enlisted the services of a sign language interpreter for large team meetings, on-the-job training sessions, performance evaluations and company social activities.

“We saw IDEA as a call to action to embrace the unique perspectives and needs of all our teammates, regardless of disability, gender, or age. Making sign language more accessible to our workforce is one way we’re fostering an environment where all voices are heard, and everyone can thrive.”

Mauricio Guerrero Canet, Plant Manager

For Jorge, the transformation was profound. Communication barriers that once seemed insurmountable were replaced by a sense of belonging.

“I feel very proud to work for Clorox. My teammates’ willingness to learn sign language has made me feel supported, accepted and better able to do my job.”

Jorge Hernãndez, Packaging Plant Auxiliary

The journey of our San José plant toward greater day-to-day inclusion reflects the impact that empathy can have in our workplaces and communities. By championing the unique abilities of every individual, we not only enrich the lives of those around us but pave the way for a brighter future for all.