Diversity and inclusion has been a big buzzword in the HR landscape in recent times, especially over the past 5 years. However, a common pitfall of this phrase is that oftentimes, a lot of attention is paid to the “diversity” aspect, while the “inclusion” aspect falls by the wayside. With retention being a critical consideration for many companies in the face of the Great Resignation we have seen unfold over the past 2 years, it is imperative that employers not only strive to cultivate a diverse workforce, but are also constantly pushing towards a culture of belonging where everyone feels heard and valued.
Here are a few tips to help you and your company start strong with your disability inclusion journey in 2023!
Rethink your recruitment process
Consider your current hiring practices, from how you design your job descriptions to how you approach the onboarding process. Do your job descriptions contain large blocks of text and unnecessary jargon or acronyms? Are your psychometric tests screening out neurodivergent individuals who may not answer the questions in the expected way? During your interview process, are candidates penalised for stimming, avoiding eye contact or taking long pauses to process questions before they answer? Do you set expectations in advance with your hires as to what their first days and weeks with your company will look like? Are your inductions inclusive of people who may find social scenarios such as icebreakers and team-building activities? Asking yourself these questions is a good starting point to ensure you’re not screening out some amazing talent before they get a foot in the door!
Consider how to improve self-disclosure
Ask your HR department to examine the current disclosure percentage. It can be easy to believe that because nobody has disclosed a disability to HR, you don’t have any employees with disabilities at your company, but with 1 in 5 of the world’s population believed to be neurodivergent and around 8 in 10 people with disabilities having a non-apparent disability, this is unlikely to be the case. There are a variety of reasons why someone may not choose to disclose their disability to HR or to their managers, and it is important that the decision to disclose isn’t something your colleagues feel pressured into. However, what you can do is foster an open culture in which someone would feel comfortable disclosing without fear of judgement or prejudice. If you find your disclosure rates are low, the next question you must ask yourself is: “what can I do to encourage self-disclosure?”. If any line managers or members of your leadership team openly identify as disabled and feel comfortable speaking about it, encourage them to share their experiences and lead by example. Have lunch and learns or training sessions on disability to show your workforce that you are engaged and willing to learn in this area. Start an Employee Resource Group (yes, even if you don’t think there are any people with disabilities where you work) and show that your company is invested in and committed to evolving towards a culture where people with disabilities get the support they need and feel like they belong.
Carry out a workplace assessment
Most people associate the term “workplace assessment” with employers evaluating a work environment with regard to a specific individual. However, there is nothing stopping you from doing your own audit of your office environment and ways of working to understand where there may be gaps in inclusivity. Consider the accessibility and sensory-friendliness of your office environment: are there bright fluorescent lights? If it is an open plan office with a lot of background noise, could there be a designated quiet room or meeting room that could be used for people with noise sensitivities? Is there a clear, easily navigable pathway to the lift in the building, unobstructed by obstacles such as lobby chairs and ideally, a short distance from the building’s entrance? Are the employees who have already disclosed their disabilities receiving adequate adaptations to thrive in their roles and have you explored what assistive technologies (speech to text software and spell check for dyslexia; mind-mapping software for ADHD; a screen reader for the visually impaired, etc) could be made available for them in the course of their employment? By ensuring your current employees with disabilities feel happy and provided for in their roles, this may help others come forward to disclose and attract talent looking for a company who is walking the walk when it comes to their approach to disability inclusion. Follow each of these steps and you’ll be well on your way to being a brand synonymous with “disability inclusion done right” in 2023!