Our HR analyst specializing in people with disabilities tells the challenges and achievements of an inclusion project
In recent years, Resultados Digitais has been reinforcing its concern with issues of Diversity and Inclusion. Those who follow our blog have already read about actions aimed at women and our position at the RD Summit 2017. Taking advantage of the National Day of Struggle for People with Disabilities and the Brazilian advances in relation to inclusion, Blue World City will show a little more of the RD’s inclusive actions and how we think about and execute the program for people with disabilities.
Those who analyze the Brazilian Inclusion Law (and especially the Quotas Law) may think that forcing companies to hire people with disabilities is “forcing the bar”. In this post, you will understand how we reversed this logic, realized the benefits of inclusion, and started to actively invest in this program.
But, above all, it is worth answering an important question: what is inclusion? Quoting our own program, RD Sum :
We understand inclusion as the full and equitable participation of all people in the workplace. Each one with its own demands, having the same opportunities, the same goals, and the same growth.
Here we will present the four support points we built:
- The accessibility
- Recrutament and selection
- The FOLLOW.
We’ll show you what our main lessons learned in almost two years of the program, in addition to giving a fundamental tip for each of the points.
At the end of the reading, we hope you will also want to invest in inclusion! And if you’re curious to get to know RD Sum better, we always have our doors open 🙂
Before even thinking about attracting, hiring or developing people with disabilities, you need to look inside the company and assess its accessibility. There are legal guidelines to follow that will already give you a great foundation.
It is necessary to allow access for people with physical and visual disabilities in its structure, with ramps and tactile floors, but it is also essential to think about other barriers. For example: can you call a Libras interpreter to receive a deaf person?
We built, together with SEBRAE-SC, an accessibility checklist for you to kick-start your inclusion program! It is important to understand that this accessibility is the basic, the first step.
We learned here at RD that accessibility is a personalized element and in constant construction. We will never be completely accessible because each person has a different demand.
It was together with people with disabilities that we evolved from basic accessibility. Without customizing actions to the person’s own demand, we will inevitably make mistakes.
Be close to who you hire, ask them the ideal way to adapt the environment. After all, who better than the person to tell you how to customize the environment for you? It’s the old motto of people with disabilities: Nothing about us without us (or “nothing about us without us” in Portuguese).
It is very easy to always think about the accessible physical environment, and forget that there are other barriers for people with disabilities. Communication in Libras for the deaf, screen reader software for the blind, inclusive equipment for the physically handicapped.
So, also look for new technologies, applications and tools that can be acquired to make life easier for everyone.
Never forget that being accessible is a cross-cutting process in your company. It’s important to look at inclusion elements for your contractors, but what about your selection process?
Think about this: is there accessibility at all stages? If I apply tests, are they accessible for the blind? If not, what is my alternative to evaluate this person? Can I call Libras interpreters for interviews with deaf people? And so it goes.
Without this reflection, inclusion dies even before a person enters the company.
The time to hire
Once the principles of inclusion are established, let’s think about hiring. It is one of the main pains of any company in Brazil to fill its quota of people with disabilities, and RD does not differentiate itself in this respect.
It is difficult to find qualified, well trained and experienced people. When found, they are usually well employed. Now wait a little bit and take a step back to think with us: why does this happen?
The market reality for people with disabilities is cruel: only about 1% of the more than 45 million people are informal employment. Is it their fault? No, quite the opposite. What is really lacking are opportunities to develop, to show service.
If a candidate with a disability does not show all the experience for a vacancy that has been registered, he possibly didn’t even have a chance to build that career. It’s a scenario that seems to loop : people with disabilities have no opportunity in the market and the market is looking for experienced people.
Our learning from hiring was to understand the reality of the market and think about how we can be protagonists of change . We started to do a selection process that looks at the person’s potential and seeks to find — or create — a good opportunity for the candidate, rather than putting the candidate in a good position for us.
Understanding the market as lacking in possibilities, but with great growth potential, we concluded that building opportunities aimed at our candidates would make more sense. Half of the people with disabilities hired in the RD have jobs that did not exist before they entered the selection process .
Some positions were created based on existing roles in the DR. For example a software developer who has a longer ramp and works with a focus on inclusion; or an HR analyst who specializes in the inclusion of people with disabilities (myself, the author of this post!).
Others are completely new, such as a junior job as a content editor or sales operations analyst, who have very specific roles and differentiated development plans.
Each person with a disability who enters our selection process (and has the cultural values we are looking for) undergoes a potential assessment. It’s a time when we get together with managers and think “how to include this person here in RD so that he can develop and we earn a great RDoer?”.
This paradigm shift, from stopping looking at the curriculum and starting to look at the person, increased our hires by almost 300% between 2017 and 2018.
Tip for the recruiting team
A big question when working to hire people with disabilities is: to create or not exclusive vacancies? It seems inconsistent, talking about inclusion and “exclusive” elements, doesn’t it?
At RD, we have left all our positions open to people with disabilities since the beginning of the program, with a place in the inclusion program available for those who do not identify with the other positions.
However, in 2018 we opened jobs aimed only at people with disabilities, trying to improve our attraction processes. The response was very positive, with an increase of almost 50% in the number of subscribers.
So, always leave all your vacancies available for people with disabilities, but assess whether there is room for strategic positions for this audience.
Preparing your teams
Imagine this scenario: a company starts its inclusion program, creates an accessible structure, and works with strategic hiring positions. People with disabilities enter and, months later, they are leaving. What’s the problem?
The main barrier in society that prevents inclusion is the attitudinal one (if you don’t know this concept, check out this video ). In other words, inclusion is not only designed for people with disabilities, but also for those around them.
We quickly learned in RD that there is a lot of misinformation about deficiencies , their specificities and potentials. It is not common knowledge how a blind person moves in their daily lives or how an autistic person’s brain works, for example, and it’s okay not to know that. The important thing is to know how to teach!
Without the minimum knowledge about the deficiencies, your collaborators will very likely have anxieties, doubts and even fear to approach their new colleagues. Based on these elements, these barriers, people with disabilities cannot create bonds at work, do not know anyone and vice versa, which ends up generating an inevitable disconnection.
Conducting internal training was one of the first actions we applied in the inclusion program, and the initial target was HR. Our Talent Management area went through learning activities, with classes on the most relevant topics of inclusion, going to a practice of temporary experience of disability: spending a whole day in a wheelchair. All this work made our recruiting team more aware of the barriers that candidates could face and greatly streamlined our processes.
Then, the need to train the company’s leaders was felt. We built a list of key people within each area, and in the close and individual work we developed multipliers, people who would reproduce the inclusion issues across the various RD teams. These people were in senior management positions, and they also served as a reference within their teams.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, were the RDoers in general. As we are a company that grows very quickly, and which today is close to 700 employees, we had to be more strategic. The training work always takes place when we hire a person with a disability, and it is done with the team that will be working with that person. In a personalized way, we talk about the specific disability of the person who will join, creating a context close to the reality that the team will experience.
Tip for training
Always seek to involve people with disabilities in these trainings. For example, are you going to talk about blindness? Bring a visually impaired person. When this is not possible, make partnerships with institutions and reference professionals so that they can bring this information. An external source brings greater credibility and builds an environment more open to exchange.
This preparation is essential to build a more receptive environment for people with disabilities. Interacting with colleagues, having a sense of belonging, makes attitudinal barriers disappear and creates an open door for the development of a great inclusion program.
Following the development
Finally, the person with a disability has joined your company! It’s working well, included in the team. Is our job done? No! As we’ve already said, the accessibility process is changeable, built together with people and over time.
Barriers that we don’t notice during all the preparation appear when the person with a disability enters the company. Therefore, it is essential to be close to these people, especially in their first months at home, and to map out all the adaptations that may arise.
We learned that the best way to do this monitoring is in individual conversation, a very common practice within HR. We’ve already talked here on the blog about the importance of 1:1s and replicating this technique brought great results to our inclusion program.
In these conversations, create an environment of freedom of dialogue . Confidentiality is critical, as is non-judgmental listening. We have learned that people with disabilities will often choose to “get by” with the barriers that arise instead of reporting them for correction.
Having no help for anything is how they are used to dealing with difficulties. Show that you are available, that you want to help, and actively seek, as an institution, to break down these barriers.
These one-on-one conversations don’t scale, that is, they will take up a lot of your time! However, they further personalize the company’s accessibility and bring with them a high level of satisfaction. Today, RDoers with disabilities report very few dissatisfactions with accessibility and inclusion in the company, and these results are the result of hard work.
Try to find a model that streamlines individual conversations. Initially they will be more extended, but the more people with disabilities join the company, the more standards are established. Recognize them and record what the main common discussion topics are, creating a sort of roadmap. But be careful, this cannot detract from the open character of this chat.
Quickies tips to finish:
- Seek more practice than theory! When thinking about the accessibility of your environment, try to find the barriers that will be the most difficult to overcome. Instead of racking your brain trying to fix them, find alternatives to get around them (the disabled person themselves must have a creative response). It will be an immediate gain that will give you more time to find the right solution.
- Be attractive! Develop specific recruitment campaigns for people with disabilities. Show your vacancies and your inclusion work. Give people with disabilities reasons to like your company, as we’ve done here .
- Keep yourself open to feedback from everyone! Non-disabled people can bring really cool insights into what they’re curious to know, which can steer their training towards more accurate actions.
- Publicize what you do! Even if you think your program is still in its infancy, sharing knowledge and experiences about inclusion is always aggregator.
- Encourage building an affinity group! When your company has a legal framework of people with disabilities, gather them into a group to exchange stories and experiences and see the magic of inclusion happen.
To summarize, the progression line of your inclusion program:
- Start with accessibility. Check the legislation references, but know the people you hire and what their demands are. Do this at different levels of interaction and in a modern way, involving new technologies;
- Then it’s time to hire. Assess your opportunities, make all your vacancies available to people with disabilities and build new jobs if there is space. Remember that the market gives these people few opportunities, so have a look at the potential;
- Empower your teams. Work with HR, leadership and don’t forget your employees. When talking about disabilities, bring people who experience them every day to talk about the subject;
- And finally, be close to people. The best way to be inclusive is to build accessibility with those who benefit from it. Encourage feedback and learn from them.
It seems like a lot to set up an include program, right? It’s because it really takes a lot of effort! Let’s not be hypocrites: it’s often difficult to work in an inclusive way, there are many barriers and you’ll break in your face several times before you succeed.
But fundamentally our message here is to show that it’s possible! We pass here the main elements that we worked on, but it is possible to go much deeper into each of them. So, if you want to know more about RD Sum, contact us, as we are always open to chat.
And if you have a disability and liked our inclusion program, how about enrolling in our selection process? Click on the image below to know the program!