What Defines an Inclusive Employer?
The most successful companies often have one philosophy in common- they put their employees first. They know respecting their employees and treating them well will foster a positive environment and reflect back to the customer. According to Disability:IN, a nonprofit geared towards disability inclusion in the workplace, companies become good employers by offering competitive wages and benefits, opportunities for advancement, flexibility to achieve a work-life balance, and by celebrating a culture of diversity and inclusion. One of the ways they can achieve an inclusive culture is by ensuring that those with disabilities- who make up as much as 20% of the population – have all the necessary tools to be successful in the workplace, starting before the potential candidate fills out the application form and continuing until his or her final day of employment.
Who Decides What Inclusion Looks Like?
Disability:IN has developed a list of best practices that employers should consider to help make the workplace accessible to everyone. In addition, they publish an annual list of companies who very successfully implement these best practices and adhere to their Disability Equality Index (DEI). This index was created by the American Association of Persons with Disabilities (AAPD) and Disability:IN, along with a host of advisory committee members from across a variety of industries. These include disability advocacy groups like the National Federation of the Blind and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, as well as for-profit giants like CVS Health, MGM Resorts, and Bank of America.
The companies included in the DEI self-reported their disability policies and are evaluated on factors such as culture, leadership, employment practices, and supplier diversity, among other things.
Examples of Top Companies for Inclusion and Diversity
Facebook scored a perfect 100 on the DEI evaluation and was named one of “2018 Best Places to Work for Disability Inclusion” by Disability:IN. Facebook prides itself on proactively seeking out diverse talent and promoting it within the organization as well. They’ve demonstrated their dedication by expanding their inclusive recruiting efforts globally and partnering with international, community, educational, and government organizations to help pair qualified disabled candidates with possible job opportunities. Once hired, the internal Facebook organization, Differently Abled@, serves to connect, celebrate and empower Facebook employees, friends, and family who are in any way disabled.
Another company with a perfect score on the DEI evaluation is Delta Airlines. Delta relies on a number of business resource groups (BRG) for input, including ABLE, their disability BRG, to enhance inclusion among employees with the airlines by hosting events and meetings which “gives Delta people the opportunity to network, experience disability in its different forms and promote understanding through accessibility, barrier elimination, leadership and education” Additionally, they receive input from outside of the company with the Advisory Board on Disability (ABD), which is a group of prominent influencers in the disability community who are also Delta frequent flyers. This group has shared its input during annual disability meetings, which influences how Delta creates policies on everything from flyer experience to service animal procedures to inclusive marketing practices.
Microsoft is another tech giant that is getting inclusion right and scored a perfect 100 on the DEI evaluation. Microsoft makes a point of setting inclusive hiring initiatives by using specialized programs for various types of disabilities like autism and intellectual/ developmental disabilities, and hiring days for people of all disability levels, and providing a toolkit of information they have developed about disabilities and best practices for hiring those who have them. The entire onboarding process is made accessible, mentors are provided to help new employees settle into their new positions and learn what opportunities and accommodations are available to them, and both the building and individual workspaces are made with accommodations in mind. Benefits include a great deal of flexibility to ensure employees have optimal work environments, whether by ergonomic workspaces, working remotely, or taking a leave of absence. In addition, they host an annual conference for disabled workers and use employee resource groups (ERGs) to share their knowledge and experiences. The disability-focused ERG is called disAbility Worldwide and features more than 20 sub-groups for specific topics.
Although the banking industry has had its share of accessibility pitfalls, Fidelity Investments chooses to make those with disabilities a priority. Scoring 100 on the DEI evaluation, they also facilitate inclusion initiatives by using employee resource groups (ERGs) to promote a range of diverse employee engagement. Beyond supporting their employees, Fidelity is one of the few financial companies that ensure all of its products and services- including their digital resources – are accessible to every client. They also support the value of diverse suppliers, displaying their dedication to inclusion in every aspect of their business.
Proctor and Gamble
As an enormous creator of consumer products, Proctor and Gamble makes inclusion a priority both internally and within the community. The DEI evaluation scored them a perfect 100, and DiversityInc. named them one of the top 50 companies for diversity. They celebrate a number of different groups and cultures as a company, recognizing that there is great value in ensuring the diversity of their company reflects the diversity of their consumers. P&G reflects their dedication to inclusion through commercials that portray diversity, products created for people with diverse needs, and supporting community initiatives to include a variety of people. For their employees, P&G offers a global diversity and inclusion awards celebration annually, flexible workplace, accommodations, diverse recruiting initiatives, and participation in the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion and the Catalyst CEO Champions for Change. Within their organization, employee Affinity Groups promote a sense of respect within the company and provide a sounding board for diversity and inclusion needs that often translate into customer needs as well.
Corning is another consumer goods manufacturer who has scored a perfect 100 on the DEI evaluation and was named one of the best places to work by the American Association of People with Disabilities. For a company that’s been around for 165 years with more than 40,000 employees across 25 countries, they celebrate diversity and inclusion on a global scale. Corning focuses on attracting, developing, promoting, and retaining top diverse talent from around the world. This includes promoting leadership opportunities, offering development initiatives, and supporting employees through Employee Resource Groups.
Becoming an Inclusion and Diversity Champion
So how can you model your company after these champions of diversity? There are a number of best practices that DEI encourages to make your company successfully inclusive of diversity:
A culture of inclusion starts at the top. Providing training and development sessions specifically for leadership encourages a culture of inclusion and diversity, and training new leaders from the beginning helps to continue that momentum.
Meetings and events should be planned with every employee in mind. A series of best practices should be implemented so that all types of events – from formal meetings to training sessions to volunteer days to teambuilding activities – are accessible for every employee.
Workshops can be provided to address particular concerns such as mental health awareness. They can facilitate discussions on the topic to provide methods for implementing conversations, develop more effective accommodations, and help employees learn how to interact successfully with one another regardless of ability.
Guidebooks can provide a roadmap for entire organizations or specific departments regarding disabilities and inclusivity, and can range from quick one-page flyers to full policy manuals. They can address such topics as etiquette, info about disabilities, dispelling misconceptions, or networking opportunities to connect employees with disabilities.
Aim for inclusive design through participatory approaches
The best way to learn more about disabilities and how to accommodate them is by involving those who experience them. Creating a disability roundtable in which members of a number of various departments can share ideas as to what employees of all different abilities need at different stages in their employment.
Many accommodations can be improved by understanding disabilities and what they require. Including the employees with disabilities in these decisions provides the most accurate information. Focus groups can provide insight into the barriers faced by people with disabilities.
Accessibility teams allow companies to pair the experiences of people within the organization to customers on the outside. For example, an accessibility team that includes employees with disabilities can be utilized in conjunction with a customer service team to ensure the needs of customers with disabilities are addressed.
Some companies use early recruiting initiatives like programs for students with disabilities to expose those students to a variety of job possibilities and also demonstrate the company’s dedication to inclusive hiring practices.
Support Diverse Suppliers
Being fully inclusive and diverse goes beyond what happens within the four walls of the company building. It includes supporting diversity when choosing procurement options and contracting with outside companies as well. Choosing companies who identify as diverse and developing quotas requiring a percentage of the purchasing budget to set aside specifically for diverse suppliers are two ways to accomplish this.
What Champions of Inclusion have in Common
Those achieving perfect scores in the DEI assessment had several particularly strong commonalities.
Leadership in 93% of these companies includes an individual who has a disability or is an ally to those with disabilities and is known as such throughout the company. This helps to not only demonstrate that a disabled person can be a leader within the organization but also shows that members of leadership care specifically about employees with disabilities and can understand their accommodation needs.
Employment practices in 92% of these companies also reflected their dedication to inclusion. They encourage employees to self-identify any disabilities so that accommodations can be made to provide the optimum work environment for everyone.
Facility policies at 90% of these companies insist that all company locations and facilities be accessible and usable by all employees.
Company culture also reflects its commitment to inclusion, and most have a diversity and inclusion policy that specifically mentions those with disabilities. Many of these companies also have a formal procedure in place to address the needs of the disabled community, and others also make an effort to use diverse suppliers for their procurement needs.
Creating a culture of diversity and inclusion is achievable, even for giant corporations with thousands of employees. Facebook, Microsoft, Delta, Proctor and Gamble, and Fidelity are just a few companies who have chosen to ensure all employees feel valued, respected, and included. But inclusion isn’t just for large companies. Any organization can provide resources, accommodation, inclusive design and develop specific strategies for the inclusion of their employees.
Not sure where to start in making your organization more inclusive of everyone? Equidox can help. Check out our accessibility consulting services for more information.