Posted: 31 July 2017
This week, Ruth Stickler, Head of HR at Skills for Care, talks about finding talented people through work placements and mentoring.
This summer we’ve joined the Leonard Cheshire Disability Change100 programme which is a programme of paid summer work placements and mentoring for disabled students and recent graduates.
Change100 aims to unlock the currently untapped potential of talented disabled students and to give organisations like ours access to a talent pool of high calibre candidates. The other benefits to an organisation like Skills for Care is it helps us become more confident about disability, and increases diversity in the workplace where disabled people are underrepresented nationally.
Our commitment is take three highly motivated interns who have had their career aspirations matched to what we can offer.
I’d recommend any organisation to start this process with a session run by Victoria Passant, Programme Manager – Youth Employment, from Leonard Cheshire Disability who made us think hard why diverse workforces that reflects our society are so important, and how we can do more to achieve this within Skills for Care
Amongst other statistics Victoria told us that If the employment rate for disabled people matched that of the rest of the UK, an extra two million more people would be working
I think that really struck home with all my colleagues in the room who would be working in teams with the interns who were shocked that there is such a huge talent pool of people that we just aren’t reaching.
We were encouraged to think about our colleagues especially when Victoria noted that 1 in 6 people in the UK have a disability and 83% of people acquire their disability in during their working life
That was an important statistic for us. It means that some of our disabled colleagues may have acquired their disability whilst working for Skills for Care and that other colleagues may also go onto acquire a disability or a long term health condition whilst working for us.
We challenged ourselves to think about what more we can do to support new and existing employees…..
Potential employees are googling us!
Disabled people who are thinking about joining us want to know what it’s like to work at Skills for Care so we want to make sure that they know that we are an organisation that strives to support people to achieve their full potential. We have to be more proactive in getting this across via our website and our social media channels.
Victoria shared with us that many of the students on the Change100 programme don’t know what reasonable adjustments they might need in the workplace. They sometimes over or under estimate these and are worried that being honest about them might count against them. In many cases those reasonable adjustments aren’t adjustments, and we need to be clear that they are part of the fabric of our organisation.
A good example is flexibility. We get that people need flexibility at work for all sorts of reasons, and we are clear that where colleagues require flexibility then if we can accommodate it then we will. This is just part of the way we work and not an arrangement just for disabled employees – we need to let potential employees know this.
Accessible buildings, Mentoring, Managers who have open conversations about how to support you and opportunities for one to one support. Access to technology. Regular breaks. That’s just what we do, but we need to tell potential recruits that.is just part of who we are as employers.
One thing we can do is think about our language as Victoria shared with us best practice around descriptors and references.
We asked ourselves if we have been getting this right in our messages - internally and externally - we think we have, but we know there will always being differing preferences and we might not always get it right. That shouldn’t stop us from continuing the conversation as we must always remind ourselves to take the lead from colleagues around us, how they reference their disability (or don’t) and let their use of language guide us.
We are going to be more proactive about partnership working with organisations out there that are supporting disabled people into work. We advertise on websites specifically targeting disabled people in the same way that we use BAME targeted websites and sites for working parents. Results are mixed, and we know that that approach is not right for everyone. We are going to talk to support organisations who support disabled people secure employment sharing our vacancies, and talk about what we might want to do to make our roles more accessible. It makes sense to use their expertise to remove any unconscious barriers we might have,.
We are the start of a journey and the good news is that our interns have settled in well working alongside their colleagues and mentors who are sharing their own skills and knowledge. It’s really important to see this as a two way process where we can learn from the experiences of our interns and that can only help us develop our thinking and processes.