How to engage a diverse workforce through inclusivity
When you envision the future of your organization, does it include an engaging culture that helps you attract and retain top talent? Does it include a diverse group of employees who are energized because they feel valued and appreciated for their individual contributions to your organization’s mission?
Everyone wants to succeed in the marketplace and grow their organization, but in order to do so, you must foster a “culture of belonging” says Kristi Arcurie, a G&A Partners Client Advocate and one of four panelists for G&A’s February 25, 2021, webinar, “Playing off strengths: How to engage a diverse workforce through inclusivity.” Arcurie was joined by G&A Client Advocates Lucy Garcia and Michelle Beck-Howard, and Senior HR Advisor Rachel Williamson.
While many companies are interested in promoting a diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI) workplace and culture, Beck-Howard said individuals with disabilities or different abilities are often overlooked as a key part of the discussion. During the hourlong webinar, the panel proceeded to answer the following questions:
- What does it mean to have an inclusive workforce?
- What is the definition of a disability according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
- How do we create ways to become more inclusive?
- What’s considered offensive and what isn’t?
- How can we avoid alienating team members?
- How do we cultivate an engaged team of diverse individuals?
- What are the benefits of a diverse workforce?
One in every four American adults has a disability of some kind. Williamson explained that some disabilities can be seen (i.e., physical impairments that cause difficulty with walking, hearing, talking, seeing) while others can’t (i.e., diabetes, migraines, neurological issues or impairments, and chronic pain).
Stephen Hawking, for example, was a highly intelligent and capable person who had Lou Gehrig’s disease. The illness left him paralyzed and unable to speak, but still perfectly able to think and perform his job as a theoretical physicist. He was the director of research at the University of Cambridge at the time of his death at age 76 in March 2018. Williamson used Michael Phelps—a highly decorated champion Olympic swimmer and athlete—as an example of a highly functional individual with an unseen disability: ADHD.
In the panel of four presenters, Williamson explained that she has a disability herself, and hers happens to be temporary.
“I recently had a very major surgery and recovery will take the best part of a year,” she said. “But while there are certainly things that I cannot do right now, my brain and my voice still work and I’m able to keep working. And G&A has been fantastic—very helpful and supportive in being flexible with my schedule, allowing me to work from home, among other things.”
Arcurie and Garcia gave two more examples of intelligent and capable individuals with handicaps that could both be seen and then the panel reviewed some pro tips for recruiting, accommodating, and communicating in a positive, inclusive way with individuals who might be defined as disabled by the ADA. For example, Arcurie recommended that everyone use “people-first language” to emphasize the person and not the disability.
“When referring to a person with a disability, refer to the person first by using phrases such as, ‘A person who …,’ ‘A person with …,’ or ‘A person who has …,’” she said. “So, for example, saying, ‘Joe is autistic,’ defines Joe solely based on his disability. It’s better to say, ‘Joe is a person with autism.’”
Watch the webinar below to begin building a stronger, long-term DEI talent strategy at your organization. You may also download the slides.