Inclusion@Work: A Framework for Building a Disability-Inclusive Organization
Lead the Way: Inclusive Business Culture
Commitment at all levels of an organization is critical to creating and maintaining a diverse and inclusive work environment. Establishing an inclusive business culture begins with leadership at the highest levels, including top executives and boards of directors. Managers and supervisors, and particularly human resources staff and other personnel involved in hiring decisions, must also understand the role they play in facilitating an inclusive environment. Of course, communicating the goal of an inclusive workplace to all employees—and indicating what they can do to help—is also important. One action company leaders can take is to adopt formal expressions of commitment and intent related to the recruitment, hiring, retention and advancement of qualified individuals with disabilities, including veterans with disabilities. Successful approaches used by both large and small employers include:
- Making equal employment opportunity for individuals with disabilities an integral part of the company’s strategic mission.
- Implementing a comprehensive, continual series of equal employment opportunity initiatives and building a related infrastructure, with leadership as the catalyst.
- Developing and communicating policy statements and other illustrations of the company’s commitment to disability diversity and inclusion. Policy statements may:
- Affirm the company’s commitment to equal employment opportunity for qualified people with disabilities and taking affirmative steps to recruit, hire, retain and advance them at all levels;
- Provide for an audit and reporting system of efforts to attain equal employment opportunity and eliminate discrimination;
- Assign responsibility for ensuring disability inclusion and diversity to a person or office for implementation;
- Express commitment to recruit, hire, retain and advance persons with disabilities at all levels;
- Ensure that all personnel actions are administered without regard to disability and all employment decisions are based solely on valid job requirements; and
- State that employees and applicants with disabilities will not be subjected to harassment, intimidation, threats, coercion or discrimination because they have engaged in activities such as filing a complaint or participating or assisting in an investigation into one.
- Establishing an enterprise-wide team consisting of executives, managers and employees with disabilities to support and advance the recruiting, hiring, retention and advancement of individuals with disabilities. This team may also function as a disability-focused employee resource group (ERG) or affinity group.
- Distributing an equal employment opportunity policy statement to all employees, by prominently posting the policy statement in all human resources offices and using all channels available, including online, both internally and externally (for example, distributing reasonable accommodation procedures to all managers, supervisors and other personnel responsible for processing reasonable accommodation requests, as well as the entire workforce).
- Seeking input (for example, using employee surveys, focus groups, discussions and ERG or affinity groups) regarding the existence of an accessible and disability-inclusive workplace environment.
- Including disability within the company’s diversity and inclusion policies and activities. This strategy includes using the words “disability” and “people with disabilities” in statements defining the company’s diversity and inclusion policies, inviting disability organizations and people with disabilities to the company’s diversity and inclusion events, and recognizing that talent with disabilities are part of the company’s other diverse communities (including racial and ethnic minorities, veterans and the LGBTQ community).
- Encouraging workers with disabilities and other employees to identify barriers and individual and systemic concerns without fear of reprisal, and also providing mechanisms to allow them to provide this information anonymously or confidentially.
- Establishing a universal policy providing workplace flexibility and accommodations for all applicants and employees, with and without disabilities, including using telework and flextime options, if appropriate.
- Implementing work-life programs and initiatives to help employees balance work and non-work responsibilities.
- Developing emergency management plans that specifically address the needs of employees with disabilities. In addition to providing practical guidelines for emergency managers and employees, such plans should address communication and distribution, employer and first responder responsibilities, employee self-determination and emergency notification channels.