As a jobseeker, there are three benchmarks you can use to measure the effectiveness of a prospective employer’s work diversity record and inclusion efforts.
Of course, many organizations intend to put their diversity values into day-to-day practice so they can effectively integrate qualified people with disabilities into their workplaces. Most have good intentions. But actual practice doesn’t always follow intent.
That’s why you need to become savvy about how workplace inclusion is actually carried out in companies which follow “best practices” in this regard.
As you proceed through the second and third interviews for a particular job, ask yourself these three evaluative questions about a prospective employer’s diversity practices:
- Are the company’s statements of mission, values and management philosophy clear and meaningful?
- How well is the company communicating that mission and those values and philosophy to individuals at every level within its organizational structure?
- Is the company actively aligning its mission, values and philosophy with daily practices?
Clarifying Mission, Values and philosophy
Ask hiring managers this question: “How did you develop your statements of corporate mission, company values and management philosophy?”
The period immediately after corporate-wide disability awareness training is an opportune time for an organization to review its values statements and management philosophy.
Look for indications that senior executives as well as a cross section of associates representing every level of the organization had the opportunity to clarify why the company is in business and what values guide its day-to-day activities.
The resulting statements should be understandable and concrete. Did a representative sampling of people throughout the organization develop a series of specific examples in which each of the firm’s value statements about diversity come alive in on-the-job, every-day ways? Only then do an organization’s values become guidelines for making day-to-day decisions.
Communicating That Mission, Those Values and That Philosophy
Look for strong corporate communication and human resources (HR) functions within the company – professionals who helped plan and facilitate the brainstorming sessions for gaining those concrete examples of the organization’s values in action.
The corporate communication and HR leaders should also be in the forefront of summarizing and distributing these concrete examples to the right audiences, using the right media. Are there any indications of an umbrella communication program designed to show what the mission, philosophy and values mean to individuals at every level of the organization?
Further, are immediate supervisors/contact people fully engaged in interpreting the firm’s diversity values into meaningful and useful information for the people they supervise and the customers they serve on a day-to-day basis?
Aligning Those Values with Daily Practices
These immediate supervisors/contact people need to know specifically how the organization’s values relate to day-to-day individual practices, team practices and organizational practices. And they need to know how, when and where to communicate that information to the people they supervise.
Here’s an outline of the questions supervisors need to answer for the employees they supervise whenever an organization is announcing a policy change, such as a revamped diversity initiative:
- Why are we changing, and why it is important to me?
- What do you want me to do differently than what I’m doing today? Why?
- How will my work be evaluated, and what are the consequences?
- What tools and support do I get to make this change?
- What’s in it for me? What’s in it for all of us?
By knowing the answers to those questions, employees know how to effectively carry out the organization’s mission, values and philosophy – and can make it easier for you to transition into a new job and a new organization.
The Pay Back
Over the last decade, I’ve collected indicators of workplace inclusion from more than a dozen individuals with a disability who have successfully managed to build their careers within the mainstream job market.
They’ve cited specific incidents of work diversity in their careers which indicated, to them, that their co-workers were including them as full participants on the job.
Here are comments from two of those individuals.
“… Another illustration of how I am accepted by others in the workplace is that I am fully included in the fun activities we have from time to time.
“Today is an excellent example. We're having a sort of tailgate party to celebrate the upcoming Super Bowl game. One of the activities was a Ping Pong tournament. I was able to participate, thanks to some interesting modifications to the game. When I played, I had help from a co-worker to guide my hand to the ball. I also served the ball several times, mostly all on my own.
“I actually won, 22 to 18! Since I had never before played Ping Pong, I enjoyed this new experience ...”
“I very often dine with (colleagues), party with them and even tour with them, and this is a clear sign that I have been accepted as one of the team ...”
“Even though I am visually impaired, I have received several promotions, the first job being a telephoneist and finally ended up as an Administration Manager. Receiving such promotions, just like the sighted, is a clear sign that I’m accepted …”
By the way, you can gain valuable feedback about a targeted, prospective employer’s inclusion efforts by networking on LinkedIn with the company’s past and present employees, particularly those with a disability.
In doing so, you’ll gain a “leg up” by knowing how to get a quick measure of an organization’s inclusiveness during second and third job interviews.
Copyright © 2014. Hasse Communication Counseling, LLC. All rights reserved.
Jim Hasse, Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF), (www.jimhasse.com) has compiled and edited the recommendations of HR experts and the personal observations of both jobseekers and hiring managers into Perfectly Able: How to Attract and Hire Talented People with Disabilities (www.perfectlyable.com/), a comprehensive disability recruitment guidebook for hiring managers published by AMACOM (September 2010), the publishing arm of the American Management Association. Lighthouse International (www.lighthouse.org/), New York City, is the author of the 272-page hard-cover book, which continues to evolve online on Hasse’s forum, Timely Tips for Retaining Employee Talent (forum.perfectlyable.com). He’s the founder of www.cerebral-palsy-career-builders.com, a comprehensive career coaching guide for parents of youngsters with cerebral palsy.