After thirteen years working in recruitment and fourteen months as the director of the Executive Women Shortlists, Amy Cato has established herself as in industry expert in diversity recruitment. A career that was borne from a genuine love of helping people achieve a goal and a specific focus to empower women into the workforce, Amy soon recognised an added barrier for many of these women (and many men) – disability.
This passion to advocate for those with disabilities in both her professional and personal life has resulted in a workshop with Emma Gee, a young stroke survivor aimed at portraying the true business, social and personal benefits of attracting and recruiting people with disabilities. Together, they hope this workshop can assist in creating a workplace culture based on acceptance, equality and value.
This week Jenni Nelson talked to Amy on why diversity is such an important issue to her, the business and social benefit of targeting candidates with disability and the importance of creating inclusive recruitment marketing.
On why organisations should target people with disability and the business benefit.
There’s huge benefit for business and I think that as the Australian business community moves forward into 2015 we’re all quite conscious of that. there is a push from the decision makers in Australia towards maximising the talent pools and making sure we are creating environments that people with disabilities want to work in and are attracted to work in.
I think that shift towards inclusivity in all forms is an obvious choice for all businesses and maximising the amount of capable and experienced candidates that they have at their disposal. In terms of the business case, it is well acknowledged that diversity of any sort leads to greater retention, greater innovation, greater collaboration.
We all know that personality if we think about if we had a group of people around us that came with different experiences and different values, different perspectives on the world – how much more innovative we would be as a group. That collective ‘think’ is at it’s maximum when we look to have people around us that add a different dynamic to the current team. It’s also very good for collaboration and team building.
People with disabilities tend to take less sick leave. They are also often, not in every situation, but more likely to stay with the employer for a longer period of time. So the business case is there. In terms of overseas studies, we’ve found that workers with disabilities are not more likely to be injured at work, so I think there’s a little bit of myth around that.
On the social case for having a more inclusive workplace culture
There’s also the social case for us, where one in five of us has a disability or disabilities, and there’s that acknowledgement that as a community we’re blocking 20% of population from genuine employment opportunities, it’s not only wrong for us, but it’s damaging for all Australians as well as the business community.
On thinking about ‘capability’ not ‘disability’
I think that we have a talent pool available to us who are willing and ready to work, who have tremendous experience and can add so much value to our businesses, so that’s why as a community we need to say “how can we attract more people with disabilities?” and find out what they are looking for because we want to make sure we’re providing that to candidates so when they look at that seek ad, or they go to an agency they say “yes I feel really happy with this employer”.
On her own personal successes in this area
I have to be mindful of privacy, but I can we had a fantastic team of fifteen candidates who all identified as having disabilities who progressed their careers with a supportive and understanding employer that really values their input. I’m very very happy about that. We were able to create a campaign that was very successful in creating opportunities for people, but also for the hiring manager and the client to get some really exceptional talent into their team that they wouldn’t otherwise had. It was an exciting process.
Also just watching people as a recruiter that I’ve worked with who I know have felt left out of the system. Watching them triumph and be promoted and take on leadership positions has been a real joy for me personally.
On the the challenges in moving the culture towards being more inclusive
I think what needs more work is the attraction and selection process that these clients have. I think we need to be mindful of being respectful and sensitive to the individual as a candidate – that’s paramount and really effects the clients brand. If they get it wrong you’re going to have a reputation that a lot of talent candidates won’t want to work with you. That can be very damaging.
Hiring managers needs to be genuine that they are going to create an environment where the candidate understands that this is what success looks like. An environment where they are encouraged to challenge, to ask questions and to be curious. There also needs to be a top down understanding of disability.
On mental health
I’ve worked with clients who have specifically asked for people with disabilities but what they’ve really wanted is people with physical disabilities, but as a lot of people would know that the majority of people identifying with disabilities are mental health related. You really need to ask yourself before you go down this process of how supportive your workplace will be if you take on a candidate who needs to take some time off for mental health reasons.
If your workplace is moving towards diversity through disability, but really it’s only as a token and it’s really open to employing people with physical disabilities then you’re going to upset a lot of people, and you will do more damage to your brand than continuing as is.
So I think that one of the things people really need to factor in is how flexible are we an employer, so a lot of hiring managers are still going to expect a full time workload and that’s not always possible and you will put of talent people with disabilities if that’s the message you’re taking out to market. So it begins right from that initial drafting of your recruiting advertising in terms of how it will play to attract people.
On creating a workplace that will breed success for every employee
It can take a lot of conversations, internal conversations, dialogue and collaboration because you want to get this right, and the benefits are huge when you get this right. There are a lot of really great candidates with disabilities out there that want to work for your workplace, but you have to be ready to create that environment that they’re going to succeed in
On the importance of your recruitment marketing in attracting a more diverse candidate pool.
Amy: I think it’s intrinsic to the brand values. It’s got to be from a place of your personal mission and vision for your organisation and has to tie in with your marketing, to your recruitment strategy, they’re all coming from the same place. So candidates with disabilities will seek out environments that are welcoming from whether your inclusion and diversity practices are visible on your website, as to whether you put a disclaimer on your recruitment ads that you value an inclusive workforce.
These are all little ticks and signs to people that say “we want you” and that helps encourage people to apply. People will self select out if they don’t think the ad is going to create a job that will be suitable for them. In the sense that it will be flexible or understanding or want to employ people with disabilities. So again I talk back to flexibility and to the achievements of your organisation and the marketing, and making sure they’re really obvious, really visible to people from every touch point they have with you in that recruitment journey.
Also to be mindful of the photos you use on your website and your print advertising. You could subconsciously be putting people off if you’re using the same generic images of people they feel don’t fit their mould. So just think about that individual candidates and whether it is potentially putting them off without you even realising.
On her workshop with Emma Gee
Emma has a wealth of knowledge on this topic, and she’s very passionate about delivering her insights and her message to people so I think what we’re going to get from her, which I’m so excited about, is her personal tale. Emma has gone through a lot and she has come out stronger for it.
Some of the insights she has around the discrimination she has felt, and that has genuinely happened to her in the job search process following her stroke is unbelievable, unconscionable and you think ‘no that doesn’t happen’ well yes it’s still happening.
Her journey is really right from the horses mouth and this what’s happening in the market, here’s what we’re hiding from and here’s what you can do to help to change our employment practices so that people like Emma are applying for the jobs we have online, are wanting to work for us and we’re getting the maximum use of the talent pool. Emma’s insight into this is phenomenal, and she speaks really candidly and really honestly about the challenges, the barriers and also the successes and the wonderful outcomes that can arise by getting your marketing right around attracting candidates with disabilities.
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