Little Big Deed: Sign-language speaker Ruddy offers service with a smile at K-Market Otaniemi

Ruddy Kemppainen, a sign-language speaker who has enriched the whole workplace with his language, culture and positivity, serves customers at K-Market Otaniemi in Espoo. K-retailer Aleksi Tapani believes that since all his customers are different, the same should apply to his staff.

Aleksi Tapani began his career as a K-retailer in Myllypuro, Helsinki, in 2015. He remembers how Ruddy Kemppainen immediately stood out from the crowd when applying for a job in his store: “I noticed straightaway that Ruddy wanted to work hard, learn, and commit to his job. I wanted to give him a chance to show what he could do.”

“As Ruddy is a deaf person, we initially used interpreters. However, we soon found other ways of communicating and everything went smoothly. Today, we can easily use phones and message each other during the work day, says Aleksi.”

Ruddy agrees: “Aleksi is a very nice boss with a good sense of humour. We can use pen and paper to communicate.”

Aleksi notes that he does not constantly guide any of his employees. “Ruddy manages himself, as all store employees need to. We must prioritise the customers and our work is never completed.”

According to Aleksi, Ruddy has a human approach to customer service and he brings positive energy to the workplace. Ruddy’s culture has brought a new element to the workplace, as Ruddy has, for example, taught sign language to customers on the store’s social media channels and taught his coworkers about important issues for the deaf.

“Ruddy has a big heart and he is kind to everyone. He always has a smile and twinkle in his eye, which is particularly important during times like these,” says Aleksi.

The unemployment rate for deaf people in Finland is almost three times as high as that of the whole population. Aleksi Tapani encourages other entrepreneurs to give deaf applications a fair chance. He stresses that all his store employees are equal in terms of wages, duties and rights.

“Of course initially everyone needs some patience, but I would definitely encourage all employers to give people a chance. You should not dismiss a motivated employee just because they have a disability or are different – you may miss out on someone who is good, committed and a hard worker.”

The job has been important for Ruddy: “I’ve applied for and interviewed for jobs in grocery stores, and been rejected. Of course, that has felt bad.”

Aleksi considers it important that store staff reflects the customer base and society. Every customer is different, so it would be weird if the same did not apply to the workplace.

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