When we think of diversity, gender, race and sexual orientation often spring to mind. However, from an HR perspective, disabled professionals are often overlooked as a source of talent. This may be because of a gap in knowledge surrounding the definition of ‘disability’, or even the reluctance of disabled professionals to disclose their condition when job hunting. In fact, research commissioned by the Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative (RIDI) has found that up to 74 per cent of disabled candidates will not admit to having a disability when looking for work.
This is perhaps not surprising when, according to RIDI’s figures, around one in three disabled jobseekers has been discriminated against during the recruitment process. This suggests that while diversity is at the forefront of the agendas of HR professionals, we could be doing more to increase the inclusion of disabled jobseekers. But how do we achieve this?
The research found that 82% of disabled candidates have reported a negative experience with a recruitment consultancy, which they attribute to a lack of knowledge surrounding disability issues. There is also a wide disparity between the perceptions of candidates and employers in terms of the provision of ‘reasonable adjustments’ made to accommodate disabled jobseekers – a legal requirement under the Equality Act 2010. Despite the fact that 82% of employers claim reasonable adjustments are made to cater for disabled jobseekers, 58% of candidates say that none were made.
The benefits of truly representative teams are hard to ignore, namely the advantages of having greater access to different perspectives and sources of information. However, where it is increasingly common to see teams of mixed gender, ethnicity, age and sexual orientation, disabled people continue to be one group that is not proportionally represented in the workplace. They remain significantly less likely to be in employment than others. In fact, according to a recent Labour Force Survey, 46% of working age disabled people are in employment compared to 76% of working age non-disabled people – representing a gap of around two million.
There is no doubt that employer brand is intrinsically linked to consumer brand, and it’s no secret that in order to better understand – and communicate with – all stakeholders, organisations must reflect the customer base that they serve. The paper The Business Case for Equality and Diversity, commissioned by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) and the Government Equalities Office (GEO), advises that there is no single approach that all businesses can adopt to ensure equality and diversity are beneficial. To be effective, equality and diversity need to be embedded in the company strategy, not treated as an ad-hoc addition. Indeed, there is no absolute ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ process to improve how your organisation reflects wider society. Many businesses are doing a fantastic job of increasing diversity through a variety of different approaches.
Diversity breeds innovation, and bringing on board others who have different views and experiences can pay dividends to an organisation. This is increasingly being recognised by forward-thinking companies such as the German software firm SAP, which aims to have one per cent of its workforce comprised of people with autism within five years – adding up to about 650 people. SAP has recognised that this group of professionals, often marginalised by employers, can outperform others in terms of quality and detail in work.
Although this is an extreme example, every organisation should be tapping into the potential of engaging with disabled talent – and small changes in approach can make a big difference. Conscious and unconscious bias can exist at each stage of the recruitment process and tweaking processes can have a significant impact. A job specification, for example, may ask for a full UK Driving Licence, even if it is not necessary for the role – but that may automatically eliminate candidates with epilepsy, or those who are registered blind. As a result, a candidate who may be the best person for the role may never make it to the first stage of the recruitment process.
Now in their second year, the Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative (RIDI) awards were established to celebrate progress and recognise the success of organisations and recruitment consultancies that are making changes to increase inclusion. Last year the Awards attracted over 50 applications across categories including Innovation in Assessment, Inclusive Partnerships, Employers Choice and Overall Candidate Experience. Last year, Oasis HR was the worthy winner of the ‘Most Progress – Supplier’ award. Previous winners also include E:ON, the BBC, Sainsbury’s and Eversheds in partnership with Guidant Group, as well as many smaller employers and recruiters. It’s hoped that by learning from companies that are doing it ‘right’, we can all improve the attraction of disabled talent in the future. I urge organisations that are taking positive steps to manage the inclusion of disabled talent to get in touch and share their experiences. After all, it is only through sharing knowledge that we are able to develop and improve processes.
Submissions close on the 31st July 2015 and the Awards are free to enter and attend. I’m sure that this year’s winners will inspire other organisations to focus on their own strategies to boost the diversity of talent.