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Getting organizations future-ready for Disabled employees

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Getting organizations future-ready for Disabled employees

Future-ready hiring is a hot topic. How can we make sure that the future work environment is inclusive for all? How can we make sure diversity and inclusion are more than “tick-in-the-box” exercises?


The future of work is a hot topic. Experts across the world are in a constant battle to try and predict the global trends that will shape how businesses and their employees will work in the coming years.

As we enter a new era where conventions of the past may not neatly align with what we are currently accustomed to, organizations need to think deeply about the evolution of the workforce, particularly through the lens of diversity and inclusion.

When you employ disabled people, not only do you reap the benefits of skilled staff, you also build a diverse workforce and foster a culture of tolerance and respect. These qualities help you attract top job candidates, partners, and customers. Additionally, in some areas, you may be able to take advantage of government programs that encourage businesses to hire disabled people.

“Leading companies are accelerating disability inclusion as the next frontier of corporate social responsibility and mission-driven investing.”

Ted Kennedy, Jr., Disabilities Rights Attorney, Board Chair, American Association of People with Disabilities

 

After doing some online research and speaking to business leaders, it was clear that many organizations ‘take pride’ in creating employment opportunities for disabled people. However, most of these jobs were in lower-paying positions, such as attendants in the hospitality sector, delivery jobs, etc. Hiring disabled people appeared to be more a result of ‘ticking-the-box’ than any strategic human resource decision to be inclusive.

How many times do we read about a person with special needs holding an executive position in a company? In the race of skilling and upskilling its workforce, organizations also need to reflect on a few questions:

Are we future-ready for our disabled employees?

How do we align our digital strategy with our disabled employees?

Are we doing enough to create a career path for them to survive the future of work?

How do we build a truly accessible working environment?

Take this example of Accenture. This multi-professional services company that provides services in strategy, consulting, digital, technology, and operations has initiated multiple steps towards the growth of disabled employees. Some of the notable practices include the Career Path Framework, which identifies various employee touchpoints/interventions required through the career life cycle of disabled employees.

Another Accenture program, ‘Abilities Unleashed,’ is a Leadership Development Program, exclusively for disabled people offering an 8-month blended learning experience, which includes classroom sessions, leadership mentoring, one-to-one strengths coaching, and self-study. The program has been extended globally and is due to launch for employees across geographies this year.


Read more: Living paycheck to paycheck: disabled people adversely affected by the gig economy


Each summer, Microsoft hosts global hackathons as a part of their annual, one-week event. Since the first hackathon in 2014, the company formed ‘Ability Hacks’ focused on empowering employees with disabilities and solving unique challenges.

One of the factors organizations should consider while delivering these types of learning programs is involving disabled employees in the design of your Learning and Development program. Any such program cannot be totally bias-free and impactful until and unless people who can empathize with and understand the challenges facing disabled people in the workplace are involved. And the best-placed people to fulfill this role are disabled people.

A multinational technology company, Flex, adopted the same practice. Uma Maheswari Santhanaraj started out as a technical trainee at the Flex facility in Chennai. Selected for her potential, Uma has risen to the Supervisor level. Through collaboration with the Vocation Rehabilitation Centre in Chennai, Uma received training to support PwD employees at Flex. Today, she acts as an interpreter for the speech and hearing-impaired workers at the facility and trains them in soft skills. She has also worked with other trainers to help them support other employees.

Last but not least, learn from your initiatives. Know where you lag, and the challenges you faced in hiring and developing a truly inclusive workforce.  Take this idea from Prione, a joint venture between Catamaran and Amazon, who launched an initiative to build awareness and track the needs of their disabled employees. In doing so, Prione intends to create a “playbook” based on the experience of its disabled employee hires, which will include best practices and recommendations to make the workplace more accessible. Sandeep Varaganti, CEO, Prione, explains: “At Prione, we not only work to make the workplace accessibility friendly for people with disabilities, but also work with our partners and vendors to ensure the job roles are supported with the right software and physical infrastructure.”

Finally, get everyone in the organization to support the inclusion and development of disabled employees. It is imperative to sensitize everyone in the workforce towards the needs of other employees and that an inclusive environment is created where everyone respects each other, avoiding any kind of unconscious or conscious bias to creep in.

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Article by
Anushree Sharma

Anushree Sharma is an Assistant Manager- Content at People Matters. She holds an MBA in Human Resource Development from Delhi School of Economics.

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It is clear that many organizations 'take pride' in creating employment opportunities for Disabled people. However, most of these jobs were in lower-paying positions. How many times do we read about a person with special needs holding an executive position in a company?

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