In this second blog in a series focusing on breaking barriers and influencing social change, we celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities and offer ideas for promoting disability inclusion in your organization and in our communities.
December 3rd is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The annual observance was proclaimed in 1992 by the United Nations General Assembly. It aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness and disability inclusion in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation and places that are open to the general public to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.
You are no doubt familiar with the need to comply with the ADA in all areas of your business, but disability inclusion reaches far beyond compliance with the law. Proactively supporting inclusivity in your organization can have important and meaningful impact for your employees, customers and communities. CEB, now part of Gartner, found that highly diverse and inclusive organizations had a 26% increase in team collaboration and an 18% increase in team commitment. A study by Harvard Business Review showed that companies with higher-than-average diversity had 19% higher innovation revenues. So, how can you effectively and respectfully promote disability inclusion in your organization?
These are our clients, prospects, coworkers, and employees. How can your organization think about greater equity and inclusivity, especially during these times?
– Giselle Mota, board member of the ADP BRG, Thrive
Be sure that your staff and leadership includes a diverse a range of employees and perspectives. When developing anything from internal policies to new products to client-facing marketing campaigns, getting input from employees and clients with disabilities helps ensure that you are addressing their needs rather than operating on assumptions. Martha Bird, Chief Business Anthropologist at ADP says, “It is important to design WITH excluded and diverse communities, not FOR them. Seek their expert input in the process.”
Representation is key to meaningful and genuine inclusion. If you have Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) or Business Resource Groups (BRGs) in your organization, you can partner with them on inclusivity initiatives to get valuable firsthand perspectives. At ADP, the Thrive BRG has a mission to understand the diverse impact of disabilities, end the stigma, and bring awareness and education to ADP associates about people living with disabilities. Susan Lodge, a Thrive board member and mother to a son with a genetic disease says, “This BRG has given me a new appreciation for the company I work for and the people that I work with. I no longer feel like I am the only one who faces the challenges that disabilities can bring. We are all in this together.”
Work to overcome bias
Inclusivity isn’t an “issue” just for people with disabilities; it’s important for everyone in your organization. Once you set the goal and expectation for a diverse and inclusive organizational culture, follow up with education aimed at promoting understanding and awareness of unique challenges of people with disabilities as well as the importance of inclusion. For example, adopt a policy of using people first language (PFL). People first language is a way of communicating that shows respect for people with disabilities by focusing on the individual and not their disability. For example, if you were discussing modification to your retail space for your clients, instead of saying “disabled customers”, you would use “customers with disabilities.” This recognizes that they have disabilities and allows you to be inclusive and respectful in your planning but doesn’t use their disabilities to define them entirely.
Disability inclusion in post-COVID business
Inclusion is particularly important right now. The global health crisis has highlighted inequities for people with disabilities. Routine healthcare needs like diagnostic testing and therapies are no longer as easy to access. Virtual and masked communications also present challenges that disproportionately affect people with disabilities. As Giselle Mota, board member of ADP’s Thrive BRG, Principal Consultant at ADP on the Future of Work and moderator of an ADP webcast on disability inclusion said, “These are our clients, prospects, coworkers, and employees. How can your organization think about greater equity and inclusivity, especially during these times?”
Register for or replay this webcast for more discussion of this question and tips from ADP experts: Disability Inclusion in the Workplace: Best Practices for Engaging and Supporting ALL of Your People.
To learn more about ADP’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, please visit our Corporate Social Responsibility site.
“The best employees love what they do”, former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi once responding to a crowd of bright-eyed summer IT interns. Quite a simple answer to the question “what do the best employees do, and how can I be like them?”. The more you think about the fast response Indra had given, the more you realize it extends to more than simply ‘what’ we do. As one of those interns, I didn’t quite understand the depth of this statement until I had exposure to different roles later in my career.
Loving what you do is inherently important, yes, but it’s not exactly the single most important aspect to making you an incredible employee. Whether people want to acknowledge it or not, what you do for work becomes part of you. For example, I may have been called a ‘tech bro’ once or twice after being asked what industry I’m in, to which I usually respond: “I’m not fixing your computer”. After the laughter calms down, I usually begin talking about the work I do, and then inevitably, the “are you happy?” question arises. Most people respond fairly quickly, and to varying degrees, but if you stop and think about the rounded picture of happiness at your job, it usually comes down to one thing: personal fulfillment based on the investment of your time. Many concepts can be abstracted from this — work relationships/enjoyment, culture-driven benefits, monetary compensation, societal impact, etc. How many start-ups have you heard say that they’re going to change the world? Have you ever stopped to think about this as a marketing ploy, rather than a vision statement?
We all have different opinions on what’s heavier when it comes to our personal happiness, but I’ve found that one particularly weighs more than others, and that’s culture. From an organizational perspective, culture is tough to get right and easy to ruin, but when fostered correctly can truly breed the best and happiest employees. Culture is something that’s created organically, targeting the basic human desire to belong, fit in, and feel like a contributor to the group. A group that allows for the dynamism of thought, and freedom to express it without judgment, enables each individual to feel heard while allowing the best outcome to become possible. This, in turn, opens up avenues for new and personal discussions between individuals, potentially turning into friendships. When an employee goes into work every morning, considering his/her coworkers to be people he/she looks forward to working with, that’s where the magic happens, and culture is born. Good relationships grow general satisfaction with a person’s environment. Happy employees are much more likely to go out of their way to make the organization succeed, which full circle, makes them a good employee in the eyes of the organization.
How often in pop culture is work-life balance portrayed with someone comically saying “I don’t know any of you outside of work”. Now, full disclosure, I’ve never once heard anyone explicitly say this, but have seen individuals act in this way. This mentality simply doesn’t instill a sense of trust, no matter what organization or industry you work in. Don’t get me wrong, separation is good and healthy to have, but communication is key.
At Lifion, by ADP, we’re in the business of ‘Human Capital Management’, and we understand that if an organization doesn’t manage its resources correctly, the strongest culture won’t prevail. Everyone wants to be treated as an individual, rather than just another employee. No inhuman litmus test for happiness should ever suffice for a one on one, a drink together at happy hour, or a sincere “hey, how are you doing?”.
In summary, you never know the amount of impact you have on someone’s daily work experience. People are more than just resources to get a job done and respond well when treated as an individual. At the end of the day, you can have the best strategy in the world, but with no one to build it, it’s not worth anything. Simply put, whether you are a company, a manager, or a coworker, the best advice I can give: be human.
“Finding commonalities and accepting differences is the key to belonging,” said ADP’s business anthropologist, Martha Bird.
When I started to consider belonging at work, I knew exactly who to call — ADP’s business anthropologist, Martha Bird [MB]. Here’s some of our conversation about why belonging matters and what organizations can do to create and sustain a culture of belonging.
HB: Having a sense of belonging seems so important to how we move through the world and how we relate to our work. What is belonging?
MB: Belonging almost strikes people as poetic. It seems like a feeling, so it can resist the critical lens we need to unpack it.
People think of belonging as a psychological state, but it is actually cultural. It’s the notion of being inside or outside and relates to enacted phenomena like what the cultural norms are around us and how we compare ourselves to those norms.
Everything cultural is nested in other things and is influenced by power, resources, how things have been done in the past, and what the expectations are for the people involved.
Kids can feel like they don’t belong because of their clothes. New employees can feel like they don’t belong because of the jargon used in the organization. I’m a social scientist surrounded by tech people and it’s not surprising that my sense of belonging is tested from time to time. Ultimately, I’m privileged to feel I’m part of something bigger than myself.
HB: What makes a culture of belonging? It seems like belonging is relational. It’s partly how I perceive the circumstances and culture, how people already in that culture see it, and what’s actually going on regardless of our individual perceptions and opinions.
MB: There are so many ways to feel like you don’t belong — socially, economically, intellectually, emotionally. It’s that sense of other. To make sense of it, we can look at othering, break it down, and pick it apart to see what’s happening. We identify the discreet instances where someone feels alienated and read the cultural cues about what is happening. This gives us information about the culture.
There is no universal recipe for what makes a healthy culture. There are many good and right ways to do things.
It partly has to do with a culture’s view of the individual and how the individual should relate to others. In the United States, belonging often evokes family, but we also have strong cultural values in individuality and being recognized and valued as an individual. In other cultures, a sense of harmony is highly valued and working toward common goals is more important than individual achievement.
A culture of belonging fundamentally has to do with common goals and values, respect for each other, and a sense of our shared humanity.
HB: How can we help people feel like they belong at work?
MB: We want workplaces where people feel like they can be themselves, but are also working with others to do the work. It’s less about fitting in and more about complementing. There has to be room for difference. It’s like an orchestra where the manager is the conductor and we have all these different instruments playing different parts in the same piece of music. We don’t want just the violins or the tubas. We need all the different sounds, rhythms and harmonies.
Belonging at work starts with leaders modeling the values and behavior for their teams. Is it comfortable to embody those values? Sometimes that means being vulnerable and asking for help.
I recently gave a big speech to a large group of people in a setting where I felt anxious. Walking up to the stage, I decided to tell the audience that and ask for help. So I explained how I was feeling and asked them to tell me, “It’s okay, Martha!” It was great, so I asked them to do it again. And they did! I felt so much better and they were all on my team at that point, because I was vulnerable and asked them to help me in a way they could.
In cultures of belonging, it’s okay to be honest about what’s going on, even if it’s that you don’t feel included.
HB: What are some specific things that managers or leaders can do to foster belonging at work?
MB: At the organizational level, it’s essential to ensure that the values of the organization exist at every level and in every manager without exception. It’s also important to consider how to structure teams and make sure they can communicate effectively, based on where and how people work.
At the team level, good manager training is key. Managers need skills in working with teams, allowing for different views, and figuring out how to handle disagreements and how decisions get made. When people can weigh in on something, there is a sense of being in it together.
It’s important to see each other as people, not work roles. Connecting in person and outside of work makes a difference. We need to tell and know each other’s stories and create opportunities for sharing. Have lunch, have informal video meetings where everyone gets to tell something about themselves. I was in a meeting recently where we all told the story of our names. I learned a lot and felt like the people who heard my story knew me a little better, too.
We need more awareness and cultural consciousness by design. People are fundamentally creative and want to learn. We all have different experiences and different lives.
Finding commonalities and accepting those differences is the key to belonging.