Sometimes the most powerful assumptions are those that are most subtle. Who does recruitment and interviewing in your organization? What are some unspoken assumptions they might carry about candidates with disabilities? It is often these unspoken assumptions that form the basis of real-life hiring decisions.
When we talk about making changes in the unspoken assumptions that inform hiring decisions, we are talking about a fairly deep level of organizational change. Providing training is often the first thing we think of when trying to bring about organizational change. Disability awareness training can certainly be part of your effort, but research shows that training alone is often a weak intervention for bringing about real change (Robinson & Robinson, 2005). Sharing success stories can be a powerful way to change unspoken attitudes.
Share your own success stories. Several organizations, like Medtronics and IBM, make a point of showcasing successful employees with disabilities in their own organizations. These employees and their managers have come forward in their organizations to tell the story of the contributions that people with disabilities can make in a workplace. Often, these stories can be more powerful ways to changing attitudes than can training programs or formal decrees.
Share success stories in a broader network. The U.S. Business Leaders Network was formed to enable the sharing of real success stories of organizations that have hired people with disabilities. The many businesses that form the Business Leaders Network have joined together to share best practice ideas, resources and success stories around disability inclusiveness in hiring and other HR functions.
Have you heard this one? Two men were on a dark city street walking to their car to drive home. One of the men, after discovering he had lost the car keys, began to search the ground under a nearby street light. The other man asked, "Why are you only searching there?" The other man replied, "Because this is where the light is."
What guides your decisions about where and how to look for candidates? Where do you search for candidates? How wide is the beam of your search light? Your ability to find new sources of candidates will become increasingly important to your business success in the years to come. If your net (and your assumptions about talent and who has it) is cast too narrowly, you risk being stung by the upcoming projected talent shortage.
Many employers have improved their effectiveness by re-examining how the "job" is defined. At a package delivery firm, for example, turnover among drivers was costly to the company. They were able to significantly lower their driver turnover by re-designing the job. By removing the truck loading job task from the driver's job description and by forming a new job category that just consisted just of truck loading, the turnover rate for drivers was significantly reduced. Though truck loaders continued to have high turnover, this turnover was not as costly to the organization as driver turnover. By re-defining job tasks and by being flexible in job processes, you will be opening yourself up to new pools of candidates.