The Financial Times has featured several reports on employment and disability. One of the articles asks employers to give themselves a chance to find hidden talents. Written by Lord Blunkett, past Work and Pensions Secretary in the Blair Government, it shows the importance of having champions at high levels of decision making. When it comes to budgets, disability is too often seen as a cost – and a cost that can be easily deleted. Lord Blunkett was there to make sure that didn’t happen under his watch. There are several articles and reports in this series on the modern workplace and disability, including flexible attitudes, and workplace adaptations.
As technology and artificial intelligence (AI) evolves, businesses will have to consider the ramifications. Technology will determine the inclusiveness of our emerging digital society. These developments have the potential to bring many more people with disability into the workforce – provided accessibility and inclusive practice are considered today. Accenture.com has posted a report, Amplify You, on the state of play for digital inclusion. In the introduction they claim:
“As technology evolves and new platforms emerge, the way businesses design and develop new technology will determine the inclusiveness of our digital society. New technologies have the potential to bring an estimated 350 million people with disabilities into the workforce over the next 10 years—provided we design with accessibility in mind today.”
The 24 page PDF report covers understanding the digital divide, design for humans, AI is the new UI, and more. I the last section, What to Do Now, it has bullet points under headings of: Understand the implications of accessibility, Design accessibility into your business, Build an ecosystem of accessibility – and continuously think about what is next.
It’s one thing for an individual in a group or workplace to understand inclusion, universal design and accessibility, but it sometimes seems people turn their ears off when it is mentioned. AND has posted on their website some tips to help get others on board. There are links to other documents and a self assessment tool. The main point is that change is a slow process – a journey. It needs a whole-of-business approach – one person cannot do it alone, but perhaps it is a start. Story-telling is a good tool too and they have links to videos. It is timely for ABC TV to be broadcasting a program on 3 April called Employable Me. The series draws on science and experts to uncover their hidden skills. It follows people with neuro-diverse conditions such as autism, OCD and Tourette Syndrome as they search for meaningful employment. The Australian Human Rights Commission published a report “Willing to Work” which covers the issues for older people and people with disability. There is an Easy Read version too.
The Fifth Estate has published a very interesting article titled, Why people hate on diversity and inclusion (and how to get them not to). It’s by the CEO of Diversity Council Australia, Lisa Annese. She argues that when diversity and inclusion fall on certain ears it raises hackles as being a problem. She quotes David Gaider, “Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it’s not a problem to you personally.” Annese discusses the research that shows the more diverse a company’s workforce, the more satisfied the whole workplace is, and that leads to improved productivity. It should also lead to better service for their customers. They are a diverse lot too!
The principles of universal design can be applied to the workplace as well as the built environment. Some of the basics are covered in Sean McEwen’s slide presentation, “Workplace Diversity Strategies: Utilizing Universal Design to Build an Inclusive Organization” such as:
Physical accessibility (ramps, ergonomics, work stations)
Systemic accessibility (protocols, polices, flexibility)
Leadership / Interactional Competencies (cultural agility, EQ)
Work Culture Accessibility (inclusive, employee well being etc)
The presentation addresses the question, “How do we intentionally design recruitment and onboarding protocols and workplace cultures that work for everyone?” It covers cultural agility, micro inequities, wellbeing at work, and strategies for building an inclusive team, among other topics. There is also an employment toolkit with various sections that can be downloaded. While the focus of this web tool is on people with disability, the principles can be applied to any group that is considered part of population diversity. This resource comes from Canada.
For an Australian perspective on similar issues, see the Australian Network on Disability (AND). They specialise in creating disability competent organisations and businesses.
Time to ditch the age stereotypes when hiring and retaining workers. Whether a person is young or old has no bearing on their suitability for a postition. Stereotypes and suggested generational clashes created by media stories have not helped employers realise this. Taking an age neutral approach to workplace policy is the answer. Philip Taylor says, “There’s very little evidence to support the notion that older workers perform better than younger workers or younger workers perform better than older workers”. Read Philip Taylor’s article in the CPA newsletter and get his tips for employing older workers and the links to his research.
A new report by Per Capita about employment and older people advises that stereotyping, even if positive, is still stereotyping and not helpful for employers. Indeed, the report reminds us that ageism can be applied to any age group, but more recently it has been captured in policy agendas as a term belonging older people. The research for the report, “What’s Age Got to Do With It?“, was carried out by Philip Taylor* and Warwick Smith. The report challenges some of the notions in the Willing to Work report by the Human Rights Commission. There is an Easy English version as well. It also suggests that ageing advocates might like to rethink some of their messages.
“Age-based stereotypes (such as loyal, reliable, wise) are often used by older people’s advocates but recent research has shown that these stereotypes may be reinforcing already existing negative views of older workers among employers because these are not the traits they are primarily looking for in employees. This has potentially important implications for efforts to overcome age discrimination by employers. Not only are older workers being promoted in terms of qualities that employers are already more likely to ascribe to them, such qualities are given a lower weighting in terms of employment decisions that take account of productivity.”
*Professor Philip Taylor is a Director of CUDA