Only 13% of U.S. workforces have disability-specific inclusion initiatives, according to research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The same research indicates that more than half of people managers haven’t participated in any type of disability inclusion training. Wendi Safstrom, executive director of the SHRM Foundation says the data “signals a deep knowledge gap in disability inclusion in the workplace.”
To create a more inclusive workplace culture and environment, SHRM and the SHRM Foundation partnered with Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) through the Delivering Jobs campaign to bring awareness to the contributions people with disabilities bring to the workplace. Safstrom shared what’s special about this partnership is that it works to engage HR professionals and empowers them with the tools and resources they need, not only to hire inclusively, but to underscore the unique talent, experience, and perspective individuals with disabilities bring to the workplace.
I had the opportunity to chat with Safstrom recently about the Delivering Jobs program and how HR professionals and organizations can benefit from the partnership. (Side Note: If you’re not familiar with the SHRM Foundation, I wrote an article about it a few years ago. It’s one of SHRM’s “best kept secrets”. Check it out when you have a moment.)
Wendi, thanks for taking the time to chat about this great campaign. There’s a lot of information on the Delivering Jobs website, so readers can get details there. Can you share with everyone how the SHRM Foundation got involved in this initiative?
[Safstrom] Our mission at the SHRM Foundation is to help HR create a better world by tapping into the potential of people who get left out or overlooked for no good reason. Research shows individuals who are differently abled bring tremendous perspective, talent, and value as they help create a more inclusive workplace. In other words, inclusive hiring isn’t just a nice thing to do. It’s a good thing for society, our communities, families—and the business, too.
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the workplace on its axis, and we’ve seen firsthand how the unprecedented changes and challenges workers have faced has had a significant impact on the job market and talent.
The Delivering Jobs partnership empowers HR professionals to hire inclusively while underscoring the unique talent, experience, and perspective individuals with disabilities bring to the workplace. The initiative aims to create pathways to 1 million employment opportunities by 2025.
The Delivering Jobs website offers an assessment and resources for employers and job seekers. How can job seekers get the most out of this feature?
[Safstrom] The Delivering Jobs website provides job seekers with disabilities the tools and resources they need to sharpen their leadership skills and find potential job opportunities. This includes resources such as educational programs, job boards, and programs to help prepare individuals for different career paths and leadership positions. The self-assessment resource can help users figure out where they currently are in their employment journey and equip them with the appropriate resources to get to the next step.
If I’m an HR professional trying to convince my organization that hiring individuals with disabilities is good for the company (and not a financial burden), what are a couple of things I should do?
[Safstrom] There is a strong business case for hiring people with disabilities—it can result in cost savings, reduced turnover, and improved productivity. Nearly all HR professionals and people managers say that employees with disabilities regularly perform the same or better than their peers without disabilities.
HR professionals play an instrumental role in making employees with disabilities feel secure and supported while continuing to promote inclusion in the workplace. The first step is creating awareness and celebrating and supporting employees’ differences across all aspects of the business. It’s also crucial for organizations to check their inclusivity across the board—from the hiring process, to building and website accessibility.
If my organization already hires individuals with disabilities, what’s one thing we can do to make sure that our culture is supportive and inclusive?
[Safstrom] As we navigate an evolving workplace amid a pandemic, it’s more important than ever to ensure employers support individuals with disabilities. It’s critical that organizations check their inclusivity across the board—whether it’s training managers and holding them accountable, making sure workers have a safe space to express concerns, or even forming an inclusion council—creating a workplace culture that truly values differences can help every worker feel supported in their jobs and contribute to their team.
To do this, HR professionals and people managers must understand how expand awareness of employment challenges individuals with disabilities face, and most importantly, make sure they are included. We celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act this summer—while progress has been made, there is still much work to be done to elevate awareness around the value individuals with disabilities bring to the workplaces of today and of the future.
Last question. I noticed on the Delivering Jobs website a mention of the Employing Abilities @Work certificate. Who is the target audience for this certificate? What does it consist of?
[Safstrom] Our research found people with disabilities have an unemployment rate that is double the national average. The Employing Abilities @Work initiative aims to help HR professionals and business leaders strengthen their skills to hire and retain individuals with disabilities in their workplace—and help them grow and advance in their careers.
The Employing Abilities @Work Certificate program is designed for human resources professionals and hiring managers to foster inclusion at work. It aims to dispel myths and highlights how recruiting employees with disabilities can bolster the workplace. The program includes 12 micro-learning modules that focus on how to welcome and support employees with disabilities in the workplace.
A huge thanks to Wendi for sharing her knowledge with us. If you want to learn more about the work of the SHRM Foundation, visit their website.
Years ago, I was honored to be appointed to the Florida Governor’s Alliance for the Employment of Citizens with Disabilities. Not only was I able to contribute my experience and expertise about recruiting and retention, but I was able to learn more about hiring, engaging, and retaining individuals with disabilities in the workplace. Partnerships like Delivering Jobs are so necessary and needed. I hope you’ll take the pledge. It will only make your workplace stronger and more inclusive.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby at the SHRM Annual Conference10