Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) initiatives within the corporate sector have been surging lately as progressive organisations scramble for desired talent to sustain relevance and competitiveness in the Digital Age. However, achieving efficacy in proportional representation of conventionally marginalised segments of the workforce in promising career paths is proving to be a daunting goal. One of the key factors in the respective context is the inability of the disenfranchised to have a ‘loud and coherent voice’ by influential backers that resonates effectively throughout the corridors of power. Willing and capable ‘People of Determination’ are confronted with such a dilemma at each and every stage of their endeavours to make meaningful contributions to society. While technology has increased the possibility of adding more ‘People of Determination’ to the workforce, for example, as customer service representatives, app developers, bloggers, data scientists, etc., the overall contributions of ‘People of Determination’ at majority of the businesses are still relatively low and prone to promotional ‘organisational branding’ moves, rather than, concrete inductions as a significant element of strategic initiatives.
Additionally, the penchant to use technology as a ‘panacea for all ills’, rather than, as an ‘enabling tool for achieving efficiencies’ leads to considerable lags in ‘low-tech’ solutions that are often more important for organizational effectiveness than the flashy allure of ‘do it all’ gadgetry. Consequently, let us explore how an organization can calibrate effectively for becoming an Inclusion Champion for the ‘People of Determination’ by prudently optimizing the hybrid use of high-tech (product-focused) and low-tech (people-focused) solutions. A simple way is by developing a checklist of astute self-reflective questions that cultivate the right thought processes and galvanize robust actionable measures to bring desired results. Some of those are as follows:
- How is technology facilitating the inclusion of people with disabilities in our organisation? Can we see some shining examples in the respective context?
- What are some of the challenges faced by people with disabilities in our workplace? Have we taken some measures to overcome them with the help of technology? If so, were the respective measures effective?
- How important is workplace design in terms of the effective use of technology to increase inclusivity of people with disabilities? e.g., general access areas, customer-facing locations, signs/boards, washroom facilities, ergonomics, etc. Have we been able to successfully do that in our organisation?
- Have we taken robust and effective measures to address the safety, security and privacy concerns of people with disabilities in our organisation through the effective use of technology?
- What are some of the innovative ways in which our organisation is using technology to train, develop, sensitise other employees about their peers with disabilities?
- What are some of the ways in which technology is helping people with disabilities in terms of enhancing their skills within our organisation?
- What are some of the challenges/drawbacks of using technology for people with disabilities in our organisation? How can we overcome them?
- What are some of the frontiers where technology still needs to make a bigger impact for people with disabilities in our organisation?
- How is technology being leveraged to increase the ‘voice’ of the people with disabilities to improve their inclusion in our organisation? Is it effective?
- How is technology helping to safeguard people with disabilities against bullying/obnoxious behaviour in our organisation? Is it effective?
- Do we use psychometric testing or any other evaluation for evaluating people with disabilities in relation to their peers? If so, what was the result?
- Are there any areas in our organisation where ‘humanistic’ aspects hold more relevance than simply relying on technology?
- Is bench marking done by our organisation to see how others are faring in terms of using technology to increase inclusiveness of people with disabilities?
- Do we take the time to acknowledge our colleagues with special needs and ask about their well being when meeting them in the hallways/corridors?
- Do we advocate/enable/give ‘visible’ assignments to colleagues with special needs to provide ample opportunities for recognition and career progression?
- Is career growth and development clearly defined and implemented for employees with special needs in our organisation?
- Have we sat down/gone out with our colleagues with special needs for lunch and casual chat?
- Have we gone on any informal outdoor activities with our colleagues with special needs? e.g., cultural festivities, museums, historical places, boat rides, sports events, etc.
- Do our colleagues with special needs feel comfortable in talking/coming to us for discussing any challenges that they are facing in the workplace?
- Do we mentor young talent with special needs in our organisation?
- Have we stood up for our colleagues with special needs in their absence when confronted with insensitive/derogatory remarks by other peers?
- Do employees with special needs engage in recruitment initiatives for our organisation?
- Are the same standards of performance applied for colleagues with special needs in our organisation?
- Have any employees with special needs left our organisation? If so, did we do an exit interview? What did it reveal?
- How do we assure and ensure stronger bonds in our organisation within teams whose members also include people with special needs?
- Are mentors provided to people with disabilities? If so, has that helped our colleagues with special needs?
- Is there a day dedicated to colleagues with special needs in our organisation? If so, are there any shining examples of recognition and bonding activities done during the respective day? Can other employees also bring anyone in their family with special needs on that day?
- How have we changed the policies/procedures to increase inclusiveness of people with disabilities? Has that helped? What have been the key lessons?
The aforementioned checklists can be used during a periodic management review for reinforcement, restructuring or refinement of prevalent Inclusion practices. There can also be informal ways of gauging the success of Inclusion initiatives for ‘People of Determination’, e.g., observing the ‘employee grouping’ at lunch tables in the office cafeteria, seeing the eagerness of peers to engage in projects with their colleagues with special needs, watching employees going the ‘extra mile’ to facilitate the orientation of a new colleague with special needs, etc.
A few prominent organisations are already taking significant strides in becoming Inclusion Champions, e.g., Microsoft has initiated positive measures to benefit from the talent of people on the autism spectrum
It is prudent to recall the following evergreen quote of Maya Angelou in the respective context:
‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel’
Ladies and Gentlemen, how does your organisation make ‘People of Determination’ feel? Do you even know? Do you care?