Prudential Employees Recruit and Support Interns with Disabilities
This case study describes Prudential Financial, Inc.’s targeted internship program for students with disabilities created and managed by Prudential employees who are members of the business resource group, Abled & Disabled Associates Partnering Together (ADAPT). While students with disabilities are invited to apply for any of Prudential’s student internships, the ADAPT program directly recruits and matches students with disabilities for summer internships throughout the company. To ensure an inclusive work experience, ADAPT provides comprehensive disability awareness training to hiring managers and employees who work with the interns. ADAPT interns participate in a program-specific orientation, within each business area, along with all Prudential interns and receive ongoing support from the ADAPT team throughout their internship. Prudential benefits from the ADAPT internship program by attracting qualified students with disabilities as job candidates and transforming other employees’ perceptions of individuals with disabilities.
Prudential Financial, Inc. has robust student internship opportunities in all business areas from insurance and financial services to marketing and human resources. Every summer, students are hired for paid internships at Prudential’s multiple locations. All students, including those with disabilities, who meet the basic internship qualifications, are encouraged to apply for any of Prudential’s internships. In 2008, members of Prudential’s Abled & Disabled Associates Partnering Together (ADAPT) business resource group piloted the internship program.
ADAPT is a network of Prudential Financial employees, some of whom have either a disability, chronic medical condition, or an interest in disability issues. The group supports the personal and professional development of their members by encouraging the sharing of information and insights while striving to educate themselves and other employees on disability awareness issues. ADAPT members created the targeted internship program to support inclusion and to recruit more individuals with disabilities into the talent pipeline. This annual process starts in the winter when hiring managers submit intern requests to ADAPT. The internship positions must be designed to provide the same meaningful corporate work experience for ADAPT interns as any other Prudential internship, which may even be a session with Chairman and CEO, John Strangfeld. Once the internship positions have been identified, ADAPT members conduct outreach to a network of college and university campuses and disability employment organizations to recruit student applicants. One of Prudential ADAPT’s outreach partners is the National Business and Disability Council’s Emerging Leaders Program. Emerging Leaders is a highly competitive program that places undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities in fulfilling summer internships and provides them with leadership development opportunities. Emerging Leaders partners with businesses to help them find outstanding talent while also promoting diversity and inclusion in their hiring practices. More information about the program is available online: http://www.emerging-leaders.com. ADAPT also recruits interns through the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP).
One of the advantages of the ADAPT internship program for both the students and the employees is the disability awareness training. ADAPT requires hiring managers and any employees with whom the intern will work to complete training to ensure a positive experience for the students. The training covers a wide range of topics including: the definition of disability and understanding that a person’s disability may be invisible; why disability inclusion matters to the company; overview of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the company’s own policies on nondiscrimination and reasonable accommodations; what it means to create an inclusive work environment and culture; disability etiquette; and considerations for disaster preparedness. The training is typically held in person or through teleconferencing to allow for participant discussion. Training participants are encouraged to talk about any fears and apprehensions about disability. Hiring managers are trained on interviewing practices such as asking all applicants job related questions and inquiring what they may need to be productive. These questions provide an opening for students who have disabilities to discuss any accommodations they may need to perform the job without asking whether they have disabilities.
ADAPT interns also participate in a specialized orientation prior to starting their internship. During this teleconference orientation, the interns meet the ADAPT team and other interns to discuss their assignments, receive an overview of the company, and learn about the Business Resource Groups, including ADAPT. If a student intern with a disability requests an accommodation, the ADAPT team connects the student and hiring manager with Prudential’s Accommodations Area staff to initiate the process prior to the intern’s start date.
Throughout the ten-week summer internship, the ADAPT interns participate in the same professional development and social activities as all other Prudential interns. The ADAPT team members meet with the interns regularly, by phone, email, or instant messenger, to see how their experience is progressing and to offer support. Additionally, the ADAPT team also offers to help each intern find a mentor within the company other than his or her workplace supervisor who can provide support and guidance.
As their internship concludes, the ADAPT interns convene again by teleconference to discuss what they learned and what their next steps will be. The ADAPT team also collects interns’ feedback about the experience to guide ongoing improvements to the program. Prudential benefits from the ADAPT internship program by attracting qualified students with disabilities as job candidates and transforming employee perceptions of individuals with disabilities.