Article originally posted on The Global Recruiter:
One in eight people in the UK consider themselves to have a disability – that’s over 11 million people. However, this rich talent pool is often unintentionally overlooked, or misunderstood, by not only employers, but also the recruiters they rely on to source valuable skills.
As such, there continues to be a significant gap between the employment rate of disabled people and the rest of the population. According to the Office for National Statistics, just 49 per cent of disabled people of working age are in employment. According to the 2017 Department of Heath report, Work, health and disability green paper: improving lives, eight per cent of employers report they have recruited a person with a disability or long term health condition in the last year, yet we still have further to go. To meet its pledge to halve the disability employment gap, the government would need to increase the employment rate among people with disabilities by over a million by 2027 – and the recruitment profession has an instrumental role to play in making that happen.
While the benefits of diverse teams are now widely recognised and celebrated, the advantages of actively engaging with disabled candidates specifically are arguably even greater. According to research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), disabled employers outperform all other groups in terms of innovation and professional ambition, with individuals with disabilities ranking more highly than any other group in the categories of ‘Brings new and innovative ideas’ and ‘A great desire to develop’. The group also scored particularly highly in the categories of ‘Fits with organisational values’, ‘Good work ethic’, ‘Reliable’, and ‘Positive attitude to work’. Furthermore, according to the Health and Safety Executive, disabled people take less days off sick and have fewer accidents in the workplace. However, despite this, when quizzed on current approaches to recruiting from diverse workforce groups, only 11 per cent of those surveyed said they actively target individuals with disabilities during recruitment.
In our experience, this hesitance can often be attributed to a lack of understanding. Our own research supports this. Despite the fact that 28 per cent of recruiters report that there had been ‘some progress’ with clients becoming more open to hiring people with disabilities, 95 per cent believe that companies continue to be ‘fearful’ or ‘unsure’ around disability. This may explain why, according to separate research which we undertook last year, 75 per cent of disabled people report that their condition has impacted their job hunt.
Confidence in engagement
It is natural to have a fear of the unknown, but recruiters can have a positive impact on disability inclusion by not being afraid to ask questions, being visible in their support of the disability agenda and learning from others, both internally and externally.
In order to become more confident on disability, recruitment leaders who wish to tap into this valuable talent pool must first make the case for change. Whatever the reason – whether it be a desire to appeal to clients who are increasingly asking questions around disability inclusion or a need to widen your current talent pool in a progressively more competitive market – your team needs to know why seeking disabled people is relevant to your organisation, clients and other stakeholders.
Next, get back to basics and review each stage of the recruitment process, from job adverts to on-boarding, and strip it down. There is a myriad of advice out there – take advantage of it to ensure your team know what questions to ask and when. By understanding the needs of your candidates from day one, you can offer them the support they throughout the recruitment process. Finally, make adjustments. Be sure of what support you need to offer and when this will need to be put in place.
With the ‘war for talent’ raging, widening your talent pool to become more inclusive to disabled professionals is a smart way to engage with candidates your competitors may struggle to connect with. Single-handedly changing company culture to become more inclusive to disabled talent may sound like a daunting task. However the small, easily implemented changes in processes that I have outlined above will have a ripple effect which will benefit not only disabled individuals, but also your ability to compete for business and future profitability.
We’ve now moved beyond selling the business case for diversity – clients are no longer asking ‘Why?’ but ‘How?’ Poor inclusivity is rarely intentional and success is entirely dependent on organisations partnering to share best practice. By supporting others, and holding others to account, we can move this agenda forwards – and the recruitment profession is in the perfect position to change the shift in tide.
No one has all the answers, but by consulting with clients and candidates, holding those we work with to account, and constantly reviewing processes to ensure they are accessible, recruiters can open themselves to the widest pool of talent available – to everybody’s benefit.