One of the most notable disability inclusion trends in today’s corporate landscape is the emergence of employee resource groups (ERGs), i.e., cross-functional working groups where non-disabled employees work to bridge the gap by understanding their disabled colleagues by driving D&I initiatives and facilitating better, more inclusive communication in the workplace.
One such group emerged in Procter & Gamble (P&G) in 2002. Founded by Scott Van Nice, a P&G employee with a hearing impairment, and Kelly Schlafman, a visually impaired IT expert, “People with Disabilities” (PwD) was established with the goal of fostering a culture in P&G where disabled employees can feel connected to their colleagues and to their workplace.
PwD went about achieving this goal by enabling P&G's leadership team to recruit, hire, and retain disabled talent while ensuring they reach their full potential. Under PwD's pioneering reverse mentoring program, disabled employees mentored their managers and leaders on how to best harness the diverse talent of their team.
These “reverse mentors” built a movement from the ground up within P&G. As far as P&G was concerned, it was not just the right thing to do, but it also made good business sense to integrate diversity of perspectives into its culture and processes.
In the UK, P&G has also launched an apprenticeship programme in partnership with the National Autistic Society (NAS). The programme focuses on attracting neurodivergent talent.
“To attract different thinkers, your approach needs to be different. The traditional method of verbal-based interviews is very limiting if social communication is a challenge," Emma O’Leary, leader of P&G’s neurodiversity programme, toldThe Guardian.
As of 2020, the programme has attracted over 50 candidates across both the UK and P&G’s Boston offices, with 11 of them progressing to complete internships.
Opportunities such as these internships enable autistic candidates to gain valuable work experience that could potentially become a valuable bridge to full-time employment, while hiring and employee support practices allow for the inclusion and celebration of diversity of thought.
“As we brought in more neurodivergent individuals, it has become necessary to ensure that we create an entire support network around them,” O’Leary added.
“Moreover, we provide everyone with an adjustment document called the “I will" document – a set of commitments. This allows individuals to work together in a planned manner as we understand the unique needs of neurodivergent employees to give the individuals the support they need and that's really enabling. P&G's internal awareness and training programmes covering neurodivergence also help individuals to identify themselves as neurodivergent. For disability inclusion, P&G culture is empowering,” she explained.
P&G makes it clear that its commitment to disability inclusion is more than just lip service, as demonstrated by the following statement on their website:
The people who use our products every day are as diverse as our world. The more we reflect on them, the better we understand their needs. That's simply meeting expectations.