Recent government statistics, which show a year-on-year increase of 238,000 disabled people in work, are testament to the huge strides that HR is making in engaging with diverse talent pools. However, we still have more to learn if we are to successfully tap into the advantages that engaging with disabled talent can bring.   

New research from the Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative (RIDI), which found that up to 85 per cent of disabled jobseekers find the recruitment process challenging, indicates that there is still a void in understanding of how we can best engage with those with disabilities.

If there is one thing I have learned since Guidant Group embarked on its journey to become more disability confident it is this: Awareness is the key to unlocking engagement with disabled talent.

Working with the Clear Company has opened my eyes to the vast spectrum of conditions that the term ‘disability’ covers. And how, as an organisation, we can take small steps to aid the attraction of these professionals, as well as further helping our existing disabled talent.   

Those that took part in RIDI’s research, which was undertaken in conjunction with Diversityjobs.co.uk and Evenbreak, identified themselves as having mobility impairments, visual impairments, learning disabilities and mental health conditions. One thing that many had in common was that a lack of understanding about the challenges they face is significantly impacting their professional prospects. 

Earlier this month, the communications activity of BlueSky PR – which Guidant Group is sponsoring to promote the RIDI Awards – was highly commended by the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion (enei) 2015 awards. While it is fantastic that the importance of promoting the engagement of disabled talent has been recognised by the UK’s leading employer network – real success lies in improving the experiences of disabled candidates and employees.   

According to a recent study by the Public Interest Research Unit (PIRU) for the campaign group, Disabled People Against Cuts, many people with disabilities are still forced to take unfit jobs. For example, the study highlighted the fact that zero-hours contracts, while inconvenient for many, can worsen non-visible conditions such as ADHD or OCD because of the level of instability. Simply employing disabled candidates is not enough. In order to get the best out of disabled candidates, we must understand their individual needs.

Reform lies in the power of collaboration, and although it may be daunting to face the task of becoming more inclusive to disabled talent, making the change comes down to five simple steps:

  1. Make the case for change. Whatever the reason – whether that be a desire to be the best, fear of breaking the law or a need to widen your current talent pool in an increasingingly competitive market – colleagues need to know why employing disabled people is relevant to your organisation, clients and other stakeholders.
     
  2. Get back to basics. Review each stage of the recruitment process – from job adverts to on-boarding – and strip it down. For example, a shortlist index works well – have a list of attributes you’re looking for and tick them off if you find them. Don’t over-complicate things. The simpler the better.
     
  3. Make sure your recruiters are confident on disability. There is a myriad of advice out there – take advantage of it to ensure they know what questions to ask and when.
     
  4. Find disabled talent. The key to seeking out disabled talent lies in collaboration. If you work in partnership with trusted and disability confident suppliers, disabled people will apply.
     
  5. Make reasonable adjustments. Be sure of what adjustments you should make, when these will need to be put in place, and how they will be funded. The Government’s Access to Work fund may be able to help employers cover costs of disabilities that might be a barrier to work.

RIDI has supported appeals by the Government minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, to take advantage of government funding to increase the numbers of disabled people in work. Tomlinson urged employers to consider tapping into the grants available after revealing that £3m of last year’s £100m Access to Work budget – which is allocated to businesses to assist them in making reasonable adjustments to increase the inclusion of disabled people – was unspent. The fact that millions of pounds of the Government’s budget allocated to assist disabled talent into the workplace remains untouched, is indicative of the huge gap in awareness that still surrounds the employment of disabled people. There is a myriad of assistance available to HR teams who would like to better engage with disabled talent – all you have to do is take the first step. 

I don’t underestimate the brevity of the task to understand and become attuned to the needs of all disabled employees and candidates. However, by opening our eyes to the challenges that those with disabilities face, and giving disabled people the opportunity to find their own solutions to work-based challenges, we can ensure that we stand the best change of engaging with disabled talent.

If your organisation is taking steps to become more inclusive, don’t keep quiet about it – share your story by entering the RIDI Awards today.

You don’t have to have all the answers, but by sharing what is working for you, we stand the best chance of making the recruitment process more accessible for those with disabilities – while in turn broadening our access to the very best candidates.

The RIDI Awards are free to enter and attend – the submissions deadline has been extended until the 31st of August.

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