Invest Disability

So I was thinking about that well used phrase “Time is money”. Rolls off the tongue doesn’t it? A nice little soundbite. I use it myself quite often. But – more often than not – it will shut a conversation down. What it often says – either explicitly or implicitly – is “I haven’t got time for you or your ideas unless they save me time or money”!

And I get it – we live busy lives. Things happen quickly and yes (sometimes) if you don’t reply there and then it means you lose out and miss the boat. But – more often than not – it isn’t the end of the world – and life (and work) will often carry on – despite the dramas.

We also need to recognise that (sometimes) the knee jerk, gut reaction isn’t always the right thing and that – long term – there will often be a much better outcome if we move at a steadier pace and think things through.

This is particularly true in one of the areas that I am heavily involved with in the NHS at the moment – namely the recruitment of people with disabilities. The employment rates for people with disabilities are half those of people without a disability. And so – in line with the government’s vision of a million more people with disabilities being employed by 2027 – we here in the NHS are trying to do our bit.

Now there are some quick, off the shelf solutions which organisations can buy in – schemes, initiatives, programmes etc. But – unless the right environment is in place and is created for those schemes, initiatives or programmes to thrive – they will not work. And these programmes aren’t cheap either! But – given a bit of time and investment – they can flourish and reap great benefits for both the individual and the business.

In order to create this environment and those conditions for people with disabilities to be able to thrive and flourish, the HR profession needs to adjust and refine some of our standard processes and procedures. Here are some of the things that we have learnt on this journey within the NHS:

  • Recruitment. Online recruitment – which is the industry norm now – works OK for the majority – but for some people it is like a Mount Everest of a hurdle! Even making websites “accessible” – voice activation and font changes etc etc – is good for some – but not for all. People with a learning disability – whose employment rate is the worst amongst disabled people generally – need to have a personal connection and face to face contact if they are going to give their best. So you need to think about how to make that possible. You need to think about going out to those communities and finding them – and inviting them in.
  • Work experience and induction. Once you’ve made a decision to invite someone with a disability into the workplace – whether for work experience or on a permanent basis – you need to think about how they assimilate into the workplace. This is the point at which things might need to happen a little more slowly – just to ensure that your new employees are properly welcomed – and also so that your existing employees have time to adjust some of their behaviours and practices to accommodate better learning by those new colleagues. And – again – this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When new people come into an organisation, it is often a good opportunity to review and revise how you do things and whether there is a better way of doing those things. If your new employee is a person with a disability they will often naturally bring a different and unique perspective on things. Maximise that opportunity!
  • Supervision and appraisal. I think this is an area that has sometimes been “rationed” and sacrificed at the expense of the “time and money” philosophy. People are often left to their own devices now at work – with minimal supervision and only lip service paid to anything like an appraisal. This is not good – from a HR perspective – for either employee or employer. It is certainly also not what someone with a disability needs when they come into the workplace. They need a regular point of contact and someone to go to if they have problems. They also need – as we all do actually – clear objectives and targets for us to work to our full potential. So please make sure that any member of staff with a disability – and those without – gets regular supervision and an annual appraisal (at the least).

Getting some of these basics in place might take a little time and thought – but they will pay dividends in the long run. And maybe then we can re-write that well known phrase and people will say “With a little more time, we can save a little more money.”

Paul Deemer

Paul Deemer is a guest blogger at nStratagem and is Head of Diversity and Inclusion at NHS Employers, UK. You can find out more about him and the work of NHS Employers via LinkedIn or Twitter. You can also access some detailed case studies of organisations who have employed people with disabilities here:

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** The views, information, words, concepts or opinions expressed in our blogs, articles and blog articles are solely the opinions of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of nStratagem, its employees or its affiliated companies.

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