How to evaluate what you offer candidates with disabilities

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A CareerXroads Colloquium Mind Map Exercise

At our recent Recruiting Automation and Innovation Meeting, we conducted a Design Thinking Exercise to explore how employers perceive their employee values and, in turn, what their candidates feel are important – in this case, specifically, candidates with disabilities. We are working through this exercise at a number of our meetings this year and it quickly becomes obvious that “one-size-fits-all” messaging is no longer acceptable – particularly if you are focusing on diversity initiatives.

Using research we drew on from a Universum study, we first asked attendees to prioritize key employee values related to: corporate reputation, people & culture, job characteristics, and rewards. This exercise helps employers focus on the gaps in how they see themselves and how qualified candidates see them.

The added twist for the Recruiting Automation group? The target market was candidates with disabilities. AND we asked them to think outside the box and develop innovative approaches to addressing the needs of these candidates. Candidates with the following disabilities were considered:

  • Speech impairment
  • Hearing impairment
  • Vision impairment
  • Dyslexia
  • Autism
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Mobility challenges

[Are you offering what your target candidates are seeking?]

Tripped up by knowledge gaps

The group quickly identified two additional challenges with this target market. First, not all disabilities are easily identified, some must be disclosed and it can be difficult to get that information. Some disabilities require varying levels of accommodations while others are “work-ready” and require little adaptation. Either way, even the best messaging won’t reach the right people if you can’t segment the audience and determine their needs.

The second challenge that needs to be addressed to better meet the needs of candidates with disabilities is learning more about their actual needs. Groups found themselves making a lot of assumptions while working through this exercise. It became very clear that they simply don’t know enough about what to do or even if what they are offering is sufficient. We weren’t expecting the exercise to uncover these challenges but they are real. We all have biases and knowledge gaps; internal training – particularly interview training – needs to be part of the solution for meeting the needs of candidates with various disabilities.

Seeking the innovative solution to hiring candidates with disabilities

The go-to solutions presented were ones we’ve heard before: inclusion groups, better communication of offerings, flexible work conditions. The exercise didn’t uncover much innovation in addressing this solution. Why weren’t we reinventing our response? In large part, because of the two challenges mentioned above. There is a startlingly large gap of knowledge here that needs to be addressed. In other words, we need to better define the box before we can start to think outside of it.

[An overlooked diversity hiring opportunity]

For logged in members, the following shows the results of each group’s work evaluating what they see as core values at their company on the left and what they see as core values from their target candidate group. The learning comes from identifying the gaps.


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