Disabled people are still underrepresented as employees at most companies, despite the significant benefits they bring to the table.
But this isn’t necessarily because employers consciously avoid hiring people with disabilities.
Just like with other employees from minority groups, disabled employees may be left out of the hiring and advancement process due to the way the processes are structured, or due to a lack of resources and training.
Thankfully, it’s relatively easy to take steps to remedy these problems. If you’re ready to improve your workplace’s disability and inclusion efforts, here’s where to start.
Embrace the Benefits
It’s a mistake to assume that hiring people with disabilities (estimated to be as many as one out of every four people in America, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control) will require extra work or expense in the form of accommodations. In fact, many employees with disabilities require no extra hiring expense at all, according to survey results from the Job Accommodation Network. Plus, it’s worth considering that hiring people with no disabilities often comes with its own expenses, too.
And if you do have to make special accommodations for an employee, the costs are usually under $500 — and there are often tax incentives available to help with that expense.
It’s also worth seeing these potential expenses as what they really are: Worthwhile investments in your business. Studies have shown that businesses with more representation from disabled people tend to make more money — and that disabled people stay longer and are more loyal, in general. (And we all know how expensive employee turnover can be, so any investment that helps retention tends to pay for itself quickly.)
For these reasons, organizational leaders should view inclusion efforts as more than “doing the right thing,” although that’s commendable, too. These efforts can also be viewed as a legitimate way to improve the bottom line.
Reassess Your Hiring and Advancement Process
Just as with other underrepresented groups, you should try to address underrepresentation of disabled people by starting at the beginning: the pool of job applicants.
You can do that by forming relationships with community groups that support people with disabilities. You can work with them to make them aware of new job opportunities, and welcome their suggestions for what will make a job more appealing and more welcoming to disabled people.
If disabled people are represented well in the pool of applicants, but those applicants still aren’t getting hired, it’s time to pay attention to the rest of the hiring process.
For example, as we wrote in our post on Removing Unconscious Bias From the Hiring Process, removing some personal details from the application or making the interview process more objective by using scorecards or comparing the results of trial task performances instead of traditional one-on-one interviews is a good way to make sure candidates are being evaluated on their performance alone and not their personal characteristics.
Provide the Right Education, Training, and Resources
Of course, as an employer, you’ll have to do more than just hire disabled people to keep them on staff.
Just like any other employee, you’ll also need to make sure they get the support they need to do their jobs properly, and that they have a clear path for success and advancement.
For example, some employers offer access to resource groups that are dedicated to the needs of certain employees. These resource groups can help employees feel connected to others and give them access to the knowledge and resources they need to succeed.
Other employers offer training and education specific to the issues that disabled people face — and they train managers on how to be sensitive to those needs. When all employees understand and empathize with what it’s like to be disabled in the workplace, everyone is more likely to step up and create an inclusive and helpful environment for everyone. This can take the burden off disabled people to find resources on their own.
Finally, disabled employees may especially appreciate access to certain skills training courses. For example, training on “soft skills” such as reading body language and responding to criticism are helpful for everyone, but may be particularly valuable to employees with autism.
Make Sure Leaders are on Board
Just like any other workplace initiative, efforts to improve an organization’s inclusion of disabled employees will only succeed if organizational leaders are truly on board with them.
It’s easy for leaders to say that they value inclusiveness and equity. It’s much more difficult for them to commit funds and time toward progress on making the workplace an inclusive, equitable place.
Leaders must demonstrate that these issues are important to them by:
- Checking in on initiatives’ progress and holding people accountable to their goals (either formally or informally)
- Participating in education and training personally (and not just expecting other people to do it)
- Allocating resources, time, and funds to support these efforts as necessary (and not just seeing them as a check-the-box-for-as-little-effort-as-possible compliance issue)
Make Inclusion Efforts Comprehensive
Finally, although disabled people do face unique workplace issues that require specific education and resources, many of the issues that keep disabled people from being hired, accommodated, and promoted are the same issues that keep other employees undeservedly in the same positions, too.
So, the good news is that making sure disabled people are included and welcomed at work doesn’t necessarily require starting up a new resource group and a completely new training program.
When we all become a little more aware of how we can always hire, retain, and promote the people who are best for the job, regardless of that person’s appearance, background, or culture, we all benefit.
An important way to achieve that result is to implement and invest in a civility and inclusion initiative which includes a civility educational learning and training program that addresses the need and provides skills for a welcoming workplace in a comprehensive way. By teaching employees how to use empathy and how to apologize — and giving special attention to the extra responsibilities of managers and leaders — you can create a culture that embraces people of all physical ability levels, cognitive styles, and personality types.
Click here to learn more about ELI’s Civil Treatment Workplace learning solution. Keep in mind that our expert trainers can deliver this training completely remotely and at your employees’ convenience using our cutting-edge interactive training platform. Our goal is to help establish a culture of civility at your workplace that continues to benefit your organization for the long-term.