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In today’s rapidly evolving corporate landscape, fostering diversity and inclusivity in the workplace is not just a moral imperative but a strategic necessity.

Among the diverse groups that enrich our workforce, People With Disabilities (PWDs) are often overlooked. Yet, they represent a significant and valuable candidate pool.

According to the Singapore government, it is estimated that more than 110,000 Singaporeans have some form of disability, approximately 3% of the citizens living there. Some 2.1% of the student population and 3.4% of 18-49-year-olds are people with disabilities, with the numbers rising to 13.3% for those 50 years and older.

Traditional recruitment methods often unintentionally create barriers for PWDs, leading to their underrepresentation. This not only restricts their access to opportunities but also hampers businesses from gaining varied insights and abilities.

Understanding accessibility gaps in conventional recruitment

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Understanding the importance of inclusive hiring necessitates recognising the unintentional obstacles that conventional recruitment practices can place in the way of PWDs, hindering their full participation.

Related: How to create content for people with colour-blindness

Inaccessibility of job advertisements and postings

Screen reader compatibility: Often, job advertisements are not formatted for compatibility with screen readers, essential tools for visually impaired applicants. For instance, a posting with complex graphics or without proper alt-text descriptions can be unreadable by screen readers.

Complex language: The use of complex, industry-specific jargon can be particularly challenging for individuals with certain cognitive disabilities, who might benefit from clear and straightforward language.

Physical accessibility challenges

Interview locations: Physical access to interview locations is a significant barrier for candidates with mobility impairments. An example could be an interview held in a building without wheelchair access or adequate disability-friendly facilities.

Transportation: The lack of accessible transportation options to and from interview locations can also pose challenges for those with physical disabilities.

Conventional interview techniques and their limitations

Neurodiversity consideration: Standard interview processes often do not consider the unique ways neurodivergent individuals (e.g., those with autism or ADHD) may process information and communicate.

For example, an individual with autism might find fast-paced, back-and-forth conversational styles in interviews challenging.

Communication differences: Individuals with speech impairments or hearing disabilities might find traditional face-to-face interviews inadequate. Without the provision of alternatives like written interviews or sign language interpreters, their abilities may not be accurately assessed.

Lack of flexibility in application processes

Rigid application formats: Standardised application processes often lack the flexibility needed by some PWDs. For instance, an online application form that times out quickly can be a barrier for someone with a cognitive or physical impairment that slows down their response time.

Understanding these barriers is the first step in moving towards a more inclusive and accessible recruitment process. By recognising and addressing these issues, employers can begin to create a more equitable hiring environment for PWDs.

7 strategies for accessible and inclusive hiring processes

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1. Rethinking job descriptions and advertisements

Use clear and inclusive language to reduce bias: For instance, instead of using technical jargon, use straightforward language and explicitly state, “We welcome applicants with diverse abilities.”

Consider essential functions: Clearly list job requirements but distinguish between ‘must-have’ and ‘nice-to-have’ skills. For example, if a job in tech lists “excellent communication skills” as essential, clarify if this means verbal communication or can include written communication for those with speech impairments.

Related: How to hire to improve gender diversity in the workplace

2. Leveraging accessible technology

Website and application accessibility: Ensure your career website is navigable for someone using a screen reader. Use alt-text for images and provide transcripts for video content. For instance, this Michael Page website has an accessibility toolbar called ReciteMe to assist site visitors with visual impairment.

Utilise Assistive Technologies: Implement screen readers like JAWS, speech recognition software like Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and captioning services for video interviews.

3. Flexible application and interview processes

Alternative application methods: For example, allow job seekers to apply through a simple phone call or a video submission if they have difficulty with written forms.

Customisable interview formats: Provide options like conducting interviews over video calls with sign language interpreters for hearing-impaired candidates or extending the duration of interviews for those needing more processing time.

4. Training and awareness for hiring teams

Disability awareness training: Conduct workshops that simulate disabilities, like wearing a blindfold to understand visual impairments, helping the team empathise and adjust their approach.

Unbiased interview techniques: Use structured interviews where all candidates are asked the same questions, minimising unconscious bias, and focusing solely on the candidate’s qualifications.

5. Building a supportive infrastructure

Workplace accommodations: For example, provide adjustable desks for wheelchair users or special software for those with dyslexia.

Fostering an inclusive culture: Implement mentorship programs where employees with disabilities mentor new hires, promoting understanding and inclusivity.

6. Partnering with organisations and advocacy groups

Collaborate with groups like Michael Page's DE&I (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Client Solutions team, which can offer guidance on best practices, information on available government initiatives and subsidies, and connect you with skilled candidates.

7. Feedback and continuous improvement

After a recruitment cycle, conduct surveys specifically designed for candidates with disabilities to understand their experience and areas of improvement.

By implementing these detailed strategies, employers can create a more inclusive hiring process that not only complies with legal requirements but also embraces the strengths and skills of individuals with disabilities, enriching their workforce.

Benefits of inclusive hiring

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Inclusive hiring is about actively seeking and valuing diverse perspectives and skills that individuals with disabilities bring to the workplace.

Embracing inclusive hiring practices not only aligns with ethical standards and social responsibility but also brings tangible benefits to an organisation. Here are some of the key advantages:

Enriching organisational culture and performance

Integrating PWDs into your workforce transcends compliance and quota fulfillment. It fundamentally enriches your organisation with a variety of perspectives and skills.

For example, a study by Accenture found that companies with highly inclusive cultures, including those with disabilities, tend to outperform their peers in profitability.

Related: How to create a great employee experience – in the office or at home

Enhancing creativity and innovation

Diverse talent pools, including individuals with disabilities, are known to bring unique perspectives that foster creativity and innovation.

A Harvard Business Review study indicated a diverse workforce can solve problems faster than cognitively similar people. For instance, an employee with a mobility impairment might offer valuable insights into designing more accessible products or services.

Understanding and serving a wider customer base

Companies that are inclusive of PWDs are often better equipped to understand and cater to a broader spectrum of customers. This understanding can lead to developing products and services that are more universally accessible, thereby tapping into wider markets.

A classic example is the development of voice recognition technology, initially designed to aid those with disabilities, which has now found widespread use in the mainstream market.

Talent pool expansion

By creating an inclusive hiring process, employers can access a broader talent pool. This approach opens opportunities to tap into the skills and talents of PWDs who are often overlooked.

For instance, individuals with autism might have exceptional abilities in pattern recognition and attention to detail, valuable in fields like data analysis and software testing.

Brand reputation and corporate responsibility

Embracing inclusivity enhances an organisation's brand reputation, positioning it as a socially responsible and progressive employer. This can lead to increased customer loyalty and attractiveness as an employer.

For example, Microsoft’s Autism Hiring Program not only brings valuable skills to the company but also significantly enhances its reputation as an inclusive employer.

Building a resilient and dynamic workforce

An inclusive workforce is often a more resilient workforce. Employees from diverse backgrounds, including PWDs, bring different approaches to problem-solving and adapting to change.

This diversity of thought and experience makes the organisation more agile and better equipped to face business challenges.

A more resilient business for the future

Creating an inclusive and accessible hiring process for PWDs is a journey that brings substantial benefits to an organisation. These benefits span from enhanced creativity and innovation to an expanded customer base, improved company culture and improved brand reputation.

This journey is not just about meeting compliance standards; it is about building a more diverse, resilient, and successful future for the organisation.

Looking to create stronger teams with diversity and inclusion solutions? Learn about our solutions for inclusive hiring here.

Read more:
How leaders can gain better engagement with their teams
12 ways to create work-life balance for employees
Employee retention strategies amid the Great Resignation

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