Are Disability Assumptions Keeping Talented Employees Away?

For leader to create a more diverse and inclusive culture for their employees, they must recognize their own assumptions and their effect on others. This is especially apparent when it comes to recruiting, an industry that could have a huge effect on increasing diversity.

Assumptions might affect those with disabilities more than any other group. For a recruiting team to effectively meet and interview applicants with a variety of disabilities, it must first create the right environment, a relaxed environment. Acknowledge the source of any assumptions, and accept that preconceptions are a primary hindrance to an inclusive company culture.

Self-awareness of our own assumptions can put recruiters and hiring managers at ease, and let them focus on candidates’ abilities rather than disabilities. When recruiters or hiring managers feel at ease and are professional, they can evaluate the most qualified job candidates in an objective and unbiased way, which results in better business outcomes.

A great way to get a handle assumptions and their effect is through disability etiquette training. For example, some job candidates may appreciate the opportunity to discuss their disability, yet others may not like to talk about it at all. Only after a leader or manager gets to know someone is it appropriate to ask them if they are comfortable discussing their disability.

That level of awareness is important when it comes to offering assistance as well. Generally, one should ask and wait for the individual’s response before taking action. A recruiter or hiring manager may find themselves in a situation where a job candidate with a disability appears to be struggling, yet they are perfectly fine and would prefer to complete a task on their own. It is important to remember that individuals with disabilities have different preferences; what may be OK for one person might not be for another. A common assumption that people with disabilities always need help is often incorrect.

Recognizing assumptions and their effect is also relevant when it comes creating inter-office mentorship campaigns. Mentorship can foster a supportive environment, and help to create relationships that break down barriers. Individuals with a disability should have equal opportunity to be both mentor and mentee. Ideally, to better recognize personal assumptions and their effect, all employees should cross-participate in a mentorship program.

Ultimately, it is all about inclusion. When an employee mentors a fellow colleague with a disability, it is an inclusive gesture acknowledging that they are expected to, and capable of, performing their job function just like everyone else.

Recognizing personal and professional assumptions is a productive way to promote an inclusive culture for not only the business but also others in a professional network. For example, invite other business owners and their employees to the office to provide information and examples of how hiring individuals with disabilities has enriched employees lives as well as the organization.

Further, promote a company culture that actively strives for workplace inclusion by collaborating with organizations, such as the Campaign for Disability Employment. Help employees become more aware of their assumptions and their effect by getting involved with local and national initiatives and campaigns that promote core values of inclusiveness and unity.

Understanding who we are working with is fast becoming a core competency. It’s not a coincidence that employees who naturally have that skill set do very well as they rise up the ranks. Historically, almost every company has experienced this phenomenon, but it has never really been articulated until recently.

Today, management teams are beginning to acknowledge that understanding the differences within the workforce needs professional development, just like any other core skill. Acknowledging our own assumptions and their effect on others is an integral part of this increasingly valuable and necessary skill set.

Iain Scholnick is CEO at Braidio. Comment below or email editor@diversity-executive.com.