Singapore, Singapore (PRWEB) November 03, 2013 -- Disabled employees are an untapped pool of talents that can fill the manpower shortages of an increasingly competitive marketplace. Other than their conditions, disabled employees are no different from more able-bodied employees, and can prove to be real assets. But for companies that have no experience working with these individuals, the hiring and subsequent assimilation process can be daunting.
CEO of Verztec Consulting Pte Ltd, an Award-winning Global Content Consulting and Localization Solutions company with offices around the world - Mr Nicholas Goh offers a tip sheet for companies wanting to attract disabled talents and to create an inclusive environment that ensures everyone —– with and without disabilities, can come together and work as one.
Whether an organisation is new to recruiting disabled employees or it already has some experience in such an endeavour, ethics and emotional quotient are two governing factors that will ensure a workplace runs smoothly. Beyond introducing barrier-free accessibility — such as building a ramp for a wheelchair-bound employee — there is one other thing that needs changing: the collective mindset of how employees think about their colleagues who live with disabilities.
1. Moving Mountains
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” So goes the popular expression. With mindsets already deeply entrenched, convincing top management to get onboard with hiring disabled employees can be an uphill task. They need the assurance that such an initiative would engender tangible benefits.
When making a case, hard data is a requisite, but an overload of it makes presentations impersonal. This was what the senior leadership team at the DLP Division Texas Instruments found.
So, they mulled over how they could make their business case sincere. They introduced diversity as one of the pillars of growth. “Diversity of Thought, Speaking the ‘Language’ of our Customers and Doing the Right Thing” became a vision. For each of the tenets, they looked into examples of how the company had and could benefit by embracing diversity. Their chief executive then used their business case and communicated it to the organisation.
Substantiate presentations with findings from research studies, and enliven them with real-life examples that tie back to the company’s values and business goals. This makes for a more compelling argument.
2. Grooming the Positive Culture
An employee may be indifferent to his disabled colleagues, choosing to not interact or work with them directly. Such behaviour could be misinterpreted as hostility when it belies the employee’s fear of saying the wrong things and offending his colleagues. Therefore, there is a need to properly train employees on etiquette so that they can learn to be more sensitive in their conduct.
On the other hand, disabled workers can also ask to have the floor and use the opportunity to share with their new colleagues personal details they feel comfortable sharing. This way, they can also break the ice.
When it comes to integrating disabled employees into the team, management needs to take the lead and show by example. Han’s, a chain of restaurants in Singapore, employs more than 40 employees with disabilities.
Managing Director Mr Han Choon Fook starts every morning by greeting disabled workers and helping waiting staff with their duties. His rationale: disabled employees feel happy working in an environment where the boss is willing to render help. By walking the talk, Mr Han sends a strong message that disabled workers should be treated the same as more able-bodied employees.
Human Resource personnel should also work in tandem with other departments to raise the company’s profile as one that is friendly to disabled employees. Achievements and contributions by employees with disabilities should be highlighted in marketing collateral.
KMPG, one of the Big Four auditors in the world, frequently profiles professionals with disabilities on its intranet site, KPMG Today. The company also actively participates in conferences where it shares approaches and lessons learnt about supporting people with disabilities.
Such visibility and recognition will, in turn, encourage other disabled persons to approach the company, as they know that they will be welcomed there.
3. Reviewing Recruitment Strategies
If hiring disabled employees is a novel initiative, then it stands to reason that a new recruitment approach is needed to achieve the desired outcomes. Traditional recruiting methods such as job ads and job fair booths may prove ineffective. Visually-impaired persons may have difficulties finding help to read job ads. Wheelchair-bound persons may avoid job fairs altogether due to accessibility problems.
Partner educational institutions, community organisations and disability support groups to suss out the right connections. These entities work closely with the disabled and, as such, they are the best people to recommend and support someone with special needs on the job.
This strategy was profiled in Deloitte’s 2010 white paper titled “The road to inclusion – Integrating people with disabilities into the workplace”. Back in 1995, Mark Wafer faced the pressing need to fill vacancies at his first Tim Hortons outlet.
He approached a high school teacher for recommendations and she referred a young man with Down syndrome to him. Because he had no prior experience working with people with disabilities, Wafer engaged Community Living Toronto to provide on-the-job training for the employee. 2010 marked the said employee’s 15th year of working for Tim Hortons. Such a long tenure is a rarity in the food industry and Wafer attributed this success to his partnership with Community Living Toronto.
4. Setting Expectations
Disabled employees must be held to the same productivity and workplace standards expected of their counterparts. Lowering expectations would in fact come across as discriminatory, in addition to sowing seeds of discord between disabled and more enabled employees. Remember, disabled professionals are not any less competent; they just have special needs.
Employees with disabilities can take the initiative and ask to have an open discussion about any concerns they have. Their supervisors should then draw up accommodative policies to cater to these needs – without compromising on the standards of delivery of work.
5. A Continuous Pursuit
These are a few ways companies can make their offices a safe workplace for disabled employees. Maintaining it will require constant evaluation and adjustment of policies and practices to suit changing needs. Communication is necessary, but efforts to facilitate it will be for naught if parties cannot be honest about what works and what does not.
Hence, both employers and employees must be willing to assess the effectiveness of the initiatives implemented. When addressing issues, sensitivity is a 2-way street. Employers have to be tactful and probe the issues without being invasive. Conversely, employees with disabilities should not see discrepancies as opportunities to discount the efforts put in by management; rather, they are opportunities for improvement.
Nicholas Goh, Verztec Consulting Pte Ltd, http://www.verztec.com, +65 93847045, [email protected]