You have a need, and maybe including more people with disabilities in your workforce is the solution, but where do you start?
To quote Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music“ You start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start” – (sound of needle scratching across a record) No?
Perhaps this metaphor suits you better? Have you ever had someone give directions to you without knowing where you are, or where you want to go?
That is kind of what it is like to try to create disability inclusion without knowing the current state, the goals and the terrain.
Did you know that, for some companies, trying to hire more people with disabilities is a bad idea?
There are so many variables that contribute to, or prevent, disability inclusion success, lets hone in on a few:
Strategic Alignment– does the efforts and benefits of disability inclusion support or conflict with the priorities and vision of the company? Is the company going through a major merger? Or significant downsizing? Can you see how if these kinds of activities are happening that priority, resources and focus can easily be lost if something isn’t essential? Or if a major shift is occurring so that substantial functions are being outsourced, maybe it isn’t a great time to create a hiring initiative.
But aside from that, can you see how disability inclusion supports and aligns with goals and objectives? If the company needs to be more profitable through reducing turnover, increasing safety, workforce stability or management improvements, then expanding disability inclusion is very aligned with your company. Or perhaps maintaining and growing U.S. governmental contracts is a key component of the company’s strategy.
Model Selection- Have you thought about which Disability Inclusion model(s) will deliver the desired results? There are so many different ways to accomplish Disability Inclusion, which one will be most cost effective? Which ones will provide you with the desired results? These considerations and more will steer the models used to increase hiring, improve culture, develop/modify infrastructure, and/or help you easily slip disability inclusion right into operations.
Will your model involve significant partnerships? If so, what are the parameters you need to build around those partnerships. Within your organizational structures, where will disability inclusion leverage and compliment the strengths and minimize the weaknesses?
Pilot Selection– I could sing Julie Andrews again, but we will skip that. Where does it make sense to try this out? There are key factors to early success: leadership/culture, community influences and opportunity. I hope you can recognize that selecting a location/department that has great leadership and low turnover would not align with a disability inclusion model focused on hiring (you can’t hire people with disabilities if you aren’t hiring people). However, you also want to steer away from areas of your organization that are a hot mess with no soothing solutions in sight.
No, pilot selection is a tricky formula consisting of support and impact. There is nothing wrong with high expectations, audacious goals and stretch assignments. But keep in mind your current and desired future states and how disability inclusion can help strengthen the fabric within the pilot site(s).
Leadership– None of this will go far without authority, influence and vision. Sure, you can hire one or two people with disabilities into open positions, and they may be successful, but if your goals are bigger than that, you need leadership on board. Ideally your leadership is engaged and supportive of the business case – tying the investments needed to expand disability inclusion to the profitability it brings. You need (or you need to be) leaders who not only deliver impact to the areas of the company directly in your control but also your desire to use your sphere of influence to spread the message further.
But it all starts with knowing where you are. When you are on your road trip and directions are handed to you that say “turn right”, make sure whoever wrote them knows where you are and where you are trying to go (it helps you avoid cliffs, lakes, sink holes and other hazards that can prevent you from getting there.
Next six blogs will provide some insight into the rest of the secret sauce that ensures that Disability Inclusion APPEARS!! See you soon!!