As the country works to come back and companies pivot to adapt to the evolving challenges of COVID-19, small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) will play a key role in restarting our economy. Along with the revitalization of businesses, we are seeing a heightened sense of urgency to foster a more diverse and inclusive culture in the workplace.
The 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a great opportunity for businesses to review their recruiting and hiring practices to ensure that they are welcoming qualified persons with disabilities as an important step towards a more inclusive workplace culture.
There are numerous successful approaches that can be utilized by employers to not only confirm a company’s commitment to include qualified persons with disabilities, but to make those employees feel valued and respected.
Lead by Example
A company that can effectively communicate and demonstrate their commitment to recruiting and hiring people with disabilities will find it easier to create an environment where such employees are welcomed. The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion or EARN, provides an example of this type of statement:
- Business is becoming increasingly global. As [Company Name] continues to expand, our differences-from our culture and work habits, communication style and personal preferences-are becoming even more essential to our business strategy. We are working hard to create an environment in which all employees are valued and respected, including those with disabilities.”
By voicing a company’s commitment to including qualified persons with disabilities, a business can take the first step to a more diverse culture.
Understanding how to be inclusive
It is relatively easy to become a company that gears itself towards attracting and hiring qualified persons with disabilities. EARN
provides characteristics of companies that are welcoming to all types of workers.
- An expression of commitment from the company’s highest levels. All management and C-suite executives should be focused on the goal of disability-inclusion to the organization and view it as a positive step toward the growth of the business. Creating policies and procedures will only be as effective as the leadership makes them and implements them
- Developing relationships with recruitment sources that can lend themselves to finding qualified candidates, including those with disabilities can help business leaders gain insight and create a pipeline to agencies that offer specialized assistance in hiring people with disabilities.
- Once the talent is acquired, companies should make sure that a system of retention and advancement is in place that allows a qualified person with a disability an equal chance to grow and advance within the organization.
- Even when not legally required to do so under the ADA, companies should be flexible and be willing to accommodate reasonable requests from persons with disabilities to modify tasks or provide technology or even a flexible schedule to help empower them to perform their job duties productively and as comfortably as possible.
- Training in diversity for the staff is an excellent way to help make sure that colleagues with disabilities get treated with respect and promote the hiring of qualified persons with disabilities by confirming that the company treats all staff members equally. It also provides an opportunity to teach other staff members appropriate language, behavior, attitudes, etc. that can help to make the transition to this type of diversity so much easier.
- Review the workspace. Is it barrier free? Barriers can be physical as well behavioral. Not only should the office, tools, services, and other company-provided resources be accessible to all, but those within the office should be guided on how to help lift barriers that may keep a colleague with a disability from succeeding.
- Once your policies and procedures on inclusion are in place, it is important to add a measure of accountability.
Simple steps to a diverse and inclusive workplace culture
By following some simple steps, any organization can be successful in attracting and retaining qualified candidates who happen to have a disability. These include:
- Seek out qualified candidates
- Establish education for all employees on the value persons with disabilities can bring to your company
- Make sure your diversity training program includes discussion on persons with disabilities.
- Make sure that avenues of professional development and advancement are offered to all workers and do not exclude anyone from having a chance to grow and succeed.
- Give candid feedback as you would to any other employee.
- If your company participates in off-site trainings or activities, be cognizant of accessibility for employees who have a disability.
- Take advantage of tax credits and other resources that can help provide training or accommodations for new employees or those who are returning to work after an illness or injury.
In addition to creating an inclusive workforce, a plan to market, promote and/or modify your product or service to meet the needs of people with disabilities can be invaluable. Having properly trained staff or consultants on board to speak to the needs of people with disabilities can make this task easier.
A culture of diversity is a culture of change
"Making sure that people with disabilities are seen as full and equal employees often requires a change in the cultural values of organizations." The ADAhas played a large role in adjusting the values that businesses hold with regard to hiring, promoting and even marketing to qualified people with disabilities. Having the right HR partner can guide your organization to embrace diversity in all forms. In adjusting the business culture to embrace diversity and in attracting and hiring persons with disabilities, companies may find that all aspects of their organization become more inclusive and better able to take advantage of changes in the marketplace.
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