Creating a Culture of Inclusion

A Culture of Inclusion, Diversity and Equality

Think of your workplace and your colleagues that surround you. Are there different gender identities, different ethnicities, different backgrounds, ages, nationalities? Do you have any colleagues who are neurodiverse? Are any of your colleagues disabled? If the answers to these questions are predominantly ‘no’, then you may be questioning your organisation’s culture of inclusion.

IMAGE: Green jigsaw puzzle and purple jigsaw puzzle fitting together.

IMAGE: Green jigsaw puzzle and purple jigsaw puzzle fitting together.

It’s no secret that a large portion of businesses suffer from a lack of diversity, in turn failing to create an inclusive workplace. Yet, bringing unique perspectives, experience and capabilities into the workplace brings about invaluable advantages for innovation and growth. For example, “neurodiverse people are wired differently from “neurotypical” people” and so they are likely to contribute unique, ‘outside of the box’ ideas.

To enable diversity and inclusion in the workplace, employers need to consider expanding job opportunities for people with disabilities and Specific Learning Differences (SpLDs). However, this problem lies deeper than simply recruiting diverse people, as recent statistics have shown that retention rates and job progression are significantly lower for individuals with disabilities and/or SpLDs.

The Problem

Despite the apparent advantages of diversity and inclusion for employers, major problems still exist in regard to disabled people’s unemployment and retention rate. Generally speaking, disabled people struggle to get into work and once they are successful, they find it difficult to progress or even remain in a job. But why is this the case?

CHART: 42.8% disabled people in employment and 80.2% of non-disabled people in employment.

CHART: 42.8% disabled people in employment and 80.2% of non-disabled people in employment.

The Scottish Government published the ‘Disabled People: Employment Action Plan’ which revealed some frightful statistics surrounding the lack of inclusive practices from Scottish employers. For example, only 42.8% of disabled people are employed, compared to 80.2% of non-disabled people. These statistics uncover a 37.4% rate change between disabled and non-disabled individuals, clearly exemplifying a large inequality between the two groups. Furthermore, the report stated that ‘disabled people with a degree are less likely to be employed than non-disabled people without a degree’.

With 1 in 5 working age people in Scotland being disabled, accessibility must be at the forefront for employers. Whether it’s with regards to recruitment processes or providing adequate support during employment to reduce dropout rates, workplace inclusivity should be considered during every decision making process. As it stands right now, disabled people are clearly not receiving this level of attention and support, as many find it hard to progress in work and are ‘almost twice as likely to fall out of work as non-disabled people’.

It’s dreadful to think that everyday tasks in the workplace such as distributing a recruitment ad can inadvertently exclude people. Although a discrimination is not always intended, without considering accessibility requirements and neurodiversity, inequalities in the workplace will continue to exist.

How can we make a change?

Alongside making colleagues aware of funded support available (such as Access to Work), let’s think about changing up the recruitment processes that are widely used by employers (because they can inherently exclude neurodiverse people and people with disabilities). For example, individuals with autism tend to under-perform in an interview setting because of their lack of social communication skills. Avoiding eye contact and misinterpreting tone of voice are to name but a few. With around 700,000 autistic people in the UK, it is evident that when designing recruitment processes, situations like this have to be taken into consideration. In the UK, only 16% of autistic adults are in full-time paid employment. So how can we do something about this?

Microsoft and Accessibility

Chris speaking alongside Hector Minto at a Microsoft Partners event on Accessibility

Chris speaking alongside Hector Minto at a Microsoft Partners event on Accessibility

Let’s look to Microsoft as a case study. Microsoft believes accessibility and inclusion are essential to delivering  their mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. They have their own ‘CAO’ Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Accessibility Evangelists such as Hector Minto, they’ve released exceptional inclusive tools including the Xbox adaptive controller and the Code Jumper to assist blind children with coding and they have specific programmes in place to provoke other businesses to think about accessibility - including the AI for Accessibility programme which Present Pal is delighted to be a part of.

Microsoft also have a unique hiring programme for individuals with autism, as it has been found that despite social awkwardness, some “possess exceptional skills in areas such as science, mathematics or technology.” This programme has allowed people like Kyle Schwaneke to pursue a career in technology due to the unique hiring process “It’s not a do-or-die phone screen or a several-hour, in-person interview, but rather an academy of sorts – a combination workshop and interview to help put job candidates at ease (and therefore let them more fully demonstrate their skills).” For those who are successful, Microsoft also deliver an ‘Autism in the workplace’ training programme and provide multiple mentors to support the employee as they build their career at Microsoft.

Here at Estendio, we aspire to adopt these accessible practices as our company grows. We’ve signed the Disability Confident employer pledge so that when we do come to make our first hire, we can do it with inclusivity in mind. Sign the pledge now.

Fairer Work Scotland

The Scottish Government have put plans into place to reduce these inequalities and work towards ensuring that inclusivity and accessibility are paramount responsibilities for employers. For example, fighting for the devolution of ‘Access to Work’ - a UK government initiative which provides reasonable adjustments for workers with physical or mental health conditions. This programme has been deemed ‘the government’s best kept secret’ as only 27,000 people are claiming out of an eligible 3.9 million. There are also plans in place for an ambassador scheme which showcases successful applicants by allowing them to demonstrate the benefits and transfer their knowledge of the process to eligible colleagues. This is incredibly important to ensure that people recognise and are aware of the potential support available to them, whether it’s travel requirements, physical assistance or special aids and equipment (including accessible technologies like Present Pal!)

These positive strategic plans are extremely reassuring, but we have to keep in mind that we as individuals can take small steps towards diversity and inclusion. Whether it’s having a one-to-one chat with a colleague about their need for support, or if it’s lobbying the government to support parents with dyslexia, we can all contribute.

Present Pal assists people to ensure that they feel more confident and prepared when communicating to their peers and is especially useful for individuals with dyslexia. If you want to get in touch to find out how you can make your workplace more accessible, contact us.

If you want to find out whether your eligible for AtW or how to apply, check out this great resource from DnA.