Over the past several years, more and more employers have grown increasingly interested in encouraging employees with disabilities to self-identify. This is largely due to federal regulatory updates and positive disability inclusion trends in the workplace. However, many employers still have questions about how to encourage self-identification among their employees.
Why Don’t People with Disabilities Self-Identify?
Some of the top reasons include the following:
· Fear of discrimination and stigma - People with disabilities do not want to be viewed differently or for their disability instead of as a person first. There also may be fear that identifying could negatively impact their chances for promotion or other opportunities if their abilities are now doubted or viewed differently.
· No impact on their daily job functions – Some feel that if they do not need an accommodation, or if their disability does not affect their ability to perform their regular job functions then the employ doesn’t need to know.
· Not sure of the benefit – In most cases, people with disabilities are unsure of the personal benefit, and benefit to the employer, of self-identifying.
· Don’t know they have one – Many people are unaware of the definition and examples of disabilities and therefore do not realize that they have something that they could identify with.
What are Self-ID Campaigns?
A self-identification, or “self-ID,” campaign has the goal and intention of encouraging current employees to identify as having a disability by checking the box on the voluntary self-ID form provided by the employer.
These campaigns are an opportunity for leadership to share why disability inclusion is important to the organization and the benefit for the individual to identify.
How Frequently Should Self-ID Campaigns Occur?
Employers who are federal contractors are required to have individuals with disabilities represent 7 percent of their workforce according to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, and typically conduct self-ID campaigns on a quarterly basis.
Most employers who are not federal contractors also strive for 7 percent representation to stay competitive and aligned with other organizations’ goals. Best practice is to conduct a self-ID campaign at least two times per year.
How Can My Organization Create an Effective Self-ID Campaign?
Here are five tips for creating an effective, well planned Self-ID campaign:
1. Gain Executive Leadership’s Participation – Encourage leadership to openly discuss disability with the workplace. This includes sharing their experiences either as a person with a disability or family member of a person with a disability and explaining the benefits they saw in identifying and sharing their story. Perhaps it encouraged others to share their stories and feel more comfortable to request an accommodation they needed. Stories like this should be shared prior to sending out the form and be done in alignment with disability awareness months like National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), or during annual meetings or as a “Lunch & Learn.”
2. Implement a Strong Communication Plan Prior to Implementation – Organizations should ensure that every appropriate leader and department is included in your self-ID campaign plans. This includes the marketing and communications team, human resources, leadership and specific groups like disability and/or caregiver Employee Resource Groups (ERG) to help with ideas and execute plans.
3. Explain the Purpose and Benefits of Self-Identification – Before developing your campaign, determine what you want to share regarding the importance of self-identification. Outline the reasons why you are asking and the benefits to employees. These include explaining that self-identification leads to a stronger culture of inclusion or that the organization is required to report this information as a federal contractor. Also let employees know if the information will be kept confidential and what will be done with it.
4. Determine How You Will Collect Information – Organizations planning to host a Self-ID campaign should provide multiple methods for collecting information from employees with disabilities. This can include allowing employees to self-identify anonymously, perhaps by sending out a general employee survey that includes the question, “Do you have a disability?” Some may use the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs’ formal Voluntary Self-Identification of Disability Form, while others may have more public opportunities for employees to share personal stories about their disability-related experiences.
5. Create a Unique, Educational Campaign – Hosting an effective Self-ID campaign requires just as much creativity as it does knowledge. This means developing a memorable slogan and a variety of resources for reaching employees. These may include videos, e-newsletters, posters, and more. Use these spaces not only to share stories, but also to explain the ADA definition of disability and provide overall disability awareness facts. It’s also important to explain the confidentiality of self-identification and that it will not affect employees’ employment with the organization.
While it’s important to know the number of employees with disabilities an organization has, self-identification campaigns also help foster more inclusive workplaces and create better experiences for all employees.
To learn more about how to encourage self-identification, check out Do Ask, Do Tell: Encouraging Employees with Disabilities to Self-Identify, a report prepared by The Conference Board in collaboration with the Employee Assistance Resource Network (EARN). For more ideas on how to host an effective Self-ID campaign, contact the Getting Hired team.Contributions to this blog were made by Andraéa LaVant of Solutions Marketing Group.