Creating healthy work environments to increase employee recruitment and retention

Recruiting and retaining qualified employees is a critical priority for the success of any company. As such, it is in a company’s best interest to do everything it can to create a work environment that increases employee recruitment and retention. This includes developing company policies that benefit all employees, whether they have disabilities, varied religious beliefs, or other differentiating backgrounds and health. For such policies to be effective, they must also make employees feel engaged as well as valued.

Notably, communication and flexibility within a workplace are often stated as overarching factors motivating employee retention, especially amongst those with disabilities. Incidentally, studies show that promoting an accessible and inclusive company culture by means of open discussion, advanced planning and reasonable accommodation is an effective method for recruiting and retaining a diverse talented workforce.

To help develop an effective company strategy for employee recruitment and retention in today’s competitive talent marketplace, provided below are 5 Strategies for Promoting Accessibility and Inclusion in the Workplace.

Widely Advertise Available Positions

Well-formatted and advertised job descriptions are the first step to attracting the largest possible talent pool for recruiting employees. Job descriptions should be pointedly detailed and outlined to reflect primary and secondary responsibilities. In addition, the available position should be advertised in many locations, including newspapers, related magazines, college and university departments, employment resource centers, as well as on the company website. Finally, it is important to be aware of language and details that may end up limiting applicant return, such as narrow or inappropriate advertisement venues, or most commonly, not accurately expressing job responsibilities. Most importantly, job advertisements, regardless of their location and language, must be formatted in such a way as to be accessible. That means online job postings must be scalable in size, readable via screen readers or provide an audio component. Furthermore, braille should be used in hardcopy job descriptions when appropriate.

To attract the largest return on an available job advertisement, the International Labor Office (ILO) in Geneva cites several strategies:

  • Write a clear description of the education and experience requirements for the position, distinguishing those that are necessary from those that are desirable.
  • Identify the job functions that are essential and those that are non-essential.
  • Post your announcement in a variety of venues, including publicly available newspapers, websites and in-house newsletters, as well as with governmental agencies, social service
    providers, organizations of various groups (persons with disabilities, HIV or AIDS, etc.) and universities.
  • Job announcements should be available in a variety of formats, including in electronic versions that are compatible with screen readers.

READ: Accessibility Barriers Block Employment

Awareness Training

Awareness training develops understanding of different cultures and varying capabilities throughout a company’s workforce, which in turn promotes positive attitudes and provides skills for working in a diverse company environment. Training may cover such varied subjects as physical and mental disability, sexual orientation and identity, HIV and Hepatitis, as well as temporary conditions like pregnancy and injury.

Company training programs help to establish communication channels and foster greater understanding company-wide. In this regard, awareness training is generally an effective means of dispelling stereotypes associated with individuals who are disabled or otherwise in need of accommodations in the workplace. In addition, such training will reinforce a company’s pro-inclusion and accessibility stance. Furthermore, providing awareness training as a component of a pro-inclusion company policy will work to engage employees and make them feel valued by the company.

According to the ILO:

Employers cannot compel workers to disclose personal information at the time of appointment. However, periodic training for new staff as well as for existing staff provides an important opportunity to communicate the company’s desire to support workers who may need an accommodation and to explain how such requests will be handled (including by affirming the employer’s commitment to safeguarding confidentiality). This should encourage workers to feel more confident in disclosing their requirements.

Budget for Accommodations

Rather than have individual departments within a company be responsible for the potential costs of any accessibility or inclusion related accommodations and modifications, the company should establish a company-wide budget for all accommodations. As the responsibility of considering reasonable accommodation requests becomes subject to a centralized budget consideration rather than a smaller, department budget, undue hardship claims against reasonable accommodation requests should be drastically reduced. In this way, a company-wide budget will do away with any hesitation in hiring a qualified and disabled candidate on the department’s part. Incidentally, ridding a company of such social pressures encourages an atmosphere of equal opportunity and enhances productivity.

The ILO reports:

In most companies, it is recommended to plan in advance for any costs associated with providing reasonable accommodation. If expenses are dealt with on an ad hoc basis and absorbed by the local department in which the worker is located, then this may create resistance to accommodation requests. Specifically, the manager of the local department may feel that the cost of accommodation is adversely affecting the department’s budget.

Incorporate Accessibility into All Building Plans

Regardless of the size of a company, many businesses undergo large scale construction (new buildings or large add-ons) or remodeling. In such an event, a company should always incorporate accessibility improvements. Such improvements may include large and unimpeded paths of travel and work areas, shelves, tables, and desks at appropriate heights to be utilized by those who may use wheelchairs, as well as providing accessible entrances and exits that may require wheelchair lifts or ramps. Learn more about accessible design requirements at the Americans with Disabilities Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) website.

Planning accessibility modifications into new construction projects and remodels in advance will save money by deferring potentially difficult and costly modifications later on, as well as help mitigate possible litigation. In addition, accessibility planning will facilitate a more productive company-wide environment, while also cutting down on future accommodation requests.

Furthermore, it is a good idea to plan technological accessibility – video conference call, remote login, Skype, screen readers, etc. – into new project plans and incorporate them into new facilities and remodels. Doing so will provide a company with the ability to make many adjustments quickly and easily, often with little to no incurred costs. In fact, in most cases, such accommodations save money.

According to the ILO:

Effective approaches to accessibility should reduce the need for individuals to seek reasonable accommodation; if information technology (IT) equipment is designed for the needs of a variety of users, then requests for specific adaptations will be less frequent.

READ: 5 Critical Concepts for Inclusive Education

Communicate with Employees

Often, people are unaware of how to communicate with others about their disability or cultural background. However, it is acceptable to ask a disabled employee about any obstacles or barriers they may encounter at work. Such barriers may be physical, such as architectural issues, as well mental, such as the negative attitudes of some coworkers. Frequently, these barriers may be hindering the performance of their work and the work of others.

In addition, asking questions shows trust and compassion, and may prompt suggestions for both immediate and long-term modifications that may need to be made. For instance, asking disabled employees about the current barriers they are experiencing may inform the planning and design of a new facility or add-on. Furthermore, answers given may provide a company with information for immediate action, such as the need to correct a problem with entrance and egress from a building, or the negative attitude of another employee. Accordingly, some barriers may be easily overcome by rearranging furniture or other equipment.

The ILO provides an example of when asking questions led to big developments within a company:

In 2008, Honda Sun celebrated the completion of its new plant in Hijimachi, Oita prefecture. The plant was built with special consideration of each disabled worker’s needs. This was done by asking disabled employees to describe what constituted a barrier‐free environment. Their answers were incorporated in the design phase of the plant, making the facility accessible to both disabled and non‐disabled workers.

Companies in today’s rapidly growing and intensely competitive global economy must attract the greatest number of talented and creative candidates to remain successful. In order to attract and acquire capable candidates, employers must be committed to creating an accessible and inclusive company atmosphere. Doing so will provide a company with a broad talent pool full of individuals capable of invigorating a company with innovative thought, agility, and singular perspective. Such an environment is vital to promoting engagement and equal opportunity among employees, directly leading to higher rates of productivity and retention.

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