Yesterday’s post announcing the publication of “Business Strategies That Work: A Framework for Inclusion,” by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), referenced different facets of building an actionable plan that enables organizations to recruit, hire, and keep employees with disabilities. Each of those warrants further exploration and provides an opportunity to look at real-life examples of implementation.
The origins of almost any successful business initiative begin with thoughtful intention; and the first part of “Business Strategies That Work” (PDF) addresses how organizations can establish the groundwork for including people with disabilities in their workforce by establishing a company-wide policy. This section, entitled “Lead the Way: Inclusive Business Culture,” begins by encouraging top level executives and governance boards to craft policy statements demonstrating the commitment to employing people with disabilities. These statements shape the hiring practices of mid-level managers and supervisors as well as the behaviors of employees on all levels of the organization.
Can what seems to be such a simple gesture have an institution-wide impact? Susan Heathfield, the About.com Guide for all things related to Human Resources, cites a study by Watson Wyatt that indicates those companies that spend time communicating their mission and goals in this manner enjoy 29% greater return than firms who do not. In a related article, Heathfield suggests that the key is being real about the intentions and expectations:
Paint a picture of where the organization will end up and the anticipated outcomes. Make certain the picture is one of reality and not what people ‘wish’ would occur. Make sure key employees know ‘why’ the organization is changing.
Establishing this kind of strategic framework is at the root of the “Employment First” policy that many states have adopted. New Jersey and Wisconsin are two of the more recent states to take this step, and each of them are doing so with the purposeful intention toward greater inclusion of the population of individuals with disabilities.
State governments have a leg up on private businesses in the next suggestion, found in the Leadership section of “Business Strategies That Work,” which calls for “establishing an enterprise-wise team” drawing from all levels of an organization to focus on employment of people with disabilities. They already have administrative agencies charged with devising and executing strategies that meet the goals of the policy. But Sam’s Club has proven that even mega-corporations have the ability to implement a central task force dedicated to furthering employment opportunities like people with disabilities.
When we wrote about the Wal-Mart division’s ranking on the National Organization on Disabilities “Fine Nine” list, it was noted that the company has its own Advocates for Disability Awareness and Education Associate Resource Group (ARG) to build a sense of community and inclusion. If one of the nation’s largest businesses can be effective in fostering a culture of inclusion for employees with disabilities, then any organization should have the means to create and carry out such a policy.