How to Become an Inclusive Employer After COVID-19

Moderated by Trish Kelly (formerly) of Presidents Group, along with HR and inclusion experts Jamie Millar-Dixon and Kristin Bower (who published the Untapped Talent B2B guidebook), this webinar was made in partnership with Small Business BC for Access Ability Week 2020.

The informative webinar was meant to equip business owners with the tools and know-how to build a more inclusive workplace.


Full Transcript:

HOST: [Housekeeping comments]

TRISH KELLY: Hi, everybody. I’m so happy to be here with you today on the final day of Accessibility Week here in Canada. I wanted to start today by acknowledging, at least for myself coming to you from the unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples, the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam First Nations. Thank you to Jillian and to Catherine who are helping improve our accessibility of this webinar by providing ASL and closed captioning.

I have a few things that I wanted to say about Accessibility Week. Today, as I mentioned, is Friday of this national initiative to raise awareness about accessibility in Canada.

The Presidents Group is leadership table for business owners of small businesses and CEOs of large companies who have made a commitment to employing people with disabilities. So this work means a lot to us, and I’m glad that we could work with Small Business BC and the incredible team there to provide you with this whole week, as well as this really compelling webinar about how you, too, can be an inclusive employer.

As I mentioned, the week finishes today, and we finish quite strong. We finished the week with announcement with a — [echo] — that there will be another — added to the…become more accessible during — [echo] — the technology and employment. I’m hearing an echo on my cell phone,and I’m sorry about that. Luckily, I’m pretty much done…to the rest of our presenters. I don’t know if someone from Small Business BC can help with that echo? Maybe I’ll try — how about this. Can you still hear me? Yeah, okay, so…for myself.

So we have a really great agenda today for this one-hour conversation with you, just the beginnings of why accessibility and why an inclusion as an employer  is important. And Jamie Millar-Dixon and Kristen Bower are going to walk you though some amazing content that really covers the why, which is the business benefit, the what, which is what is an inclusive employer, and how does it impact your brand as an employer and as a company in the community.

And then also some of the how. So you get a bit of each of those, and they have great content. I don’t want to delay getting over to them, so we’ll just move along now.

Kristen Bower and Millar-Dixon have been working in this space around inclusion for decades. They have so much knowledge that they share, and I’m so glad that we can connect their expertise to you as a small-business audience. So I’ll leave it and say take it away Jamie and Kristen.

KRISTEN BOWER: Technical difficulties; right? And the new crazy world of online webinars. So for some  reason, I can no longer see my slide deck, so I’m just going to go with my notes of what we’re going to talk about today, Jamie and I. We’re really excited to have this time together to share some things that we have always kind of known to be true through our experience, but even more so we believe them to be true because we spent quite a few months working with some amazing employers in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, but also some small business owners throughout metro Vancouver as well. And that is the result — as a result, we have been able to put together an inclusive employment guidebook.

And so some of the things that we’re going to talk about today — and you Jamie and I are going to trade back and forth — we’re going to go through some of the key human resources concepts, how to think of recruitment in more inclusive ways.

Traditionally we thought about recruitment in a pretty narrow definition: Who is the best person? And we know that there are some things we can apply to make it more inclusive.

We’re going to talk about what are those inclusive hiring practises and how they actually benefit your business. So they’re good for people, but they’re also really good for business. What are the recruitment strategies that you can adopt in order to access some untapped sources of really amazing talent. And then share some of the key stories.

You can see many more case stories in the free resource. But we’re going to go through some of the key studies of small businesses that are already practising inclusive hiring.

So as an employer — and if somebody could advance the slide for me because I don’t have that up, that would be great — as an employer, you’re very likely seeing that many of the things that we thought of as non-negotiables before COVID-19, are really now back on the table. So for employers, you know, the idea that many jobs could be done remotely probably seemed impractical, and certainly I know that in the work we do, working with different clients and employers, there was always a little bit of reticence around allowing employees to work remotely.

But we’re seeing through COVID-19, that actually it became an imperative, and so employers were able to make it happen.

You probably are much more aware of what your employees need, you know. So, for example, who has care-giving responsibilities for children, for eldercare, who is having to juggle working from home and managing childcare responsibilities? Who has underlying health conditions? One of the things that I will mention as well is that the Angus Reid Institute did a study — they just related the results three weeks ago. Typically we have heard the statistic repeatedly: One in five Canadians will experience a mental health challenge at some point in  their life. Angus Reid, through their study, were able to ascertain that, as of right now, not in the future, 50% of Canadians are currently experiencing a mental health challenge as a result of what we’ve been going through with the global pandemic. And then when you add on top of that all of the things that we’ve  been seeing in the news in the past week or so in regards to the death of George Floyd. So there’s a lot going on, a lot of mental health which is an invisible disability, and certainly some visible diversabilities as well.

And the good news is that, you know, open communication, transparency, encouraging your employees to talk about what those challenges might be, and encouraging them to bring their whole selves to work are really all practises in inclusive employers. So employers who weren’t doing that before have kind of had to, as a result of the shifting replaced landscape over the last few months.

The other thing that you’ve probably noticed of late is that consumers are becoming much more interested in how their purchasing decisions can impact their community. So with the start of COVID, you know, as the global pandemic started to take hold and impact Canadians businesses, Canadians were becoming very aware of which were the organizations that were donating to different charities, first responders, who were pivoting in terms of the products that they were creating and distributing.

You know, a really great example is all of the breweries that we’ve seen from coast to coast that immediately started, you know, saying, “Hey, we’ve got alcohol; we’ve got bottles; we can make hand sanitizers.” And a number of them were not only selling them, but donating them. And so that is a huge thing.

The other thing I will add, because I think that it’s, you know, really, really relevant that we do talk about this. And I know Trish and Jamie and I were just talking about it before we got on the webinar is, you know, acknowledging what is happening in terms of race issues.

And so I think a great example of an organization back in 2017 that took a stand for something that they believed in was Nike. And they signed Colin Kaepernick to a sponsorship deal. And that was a very controversial thing to do in 2017, but boy, fast-forward three years, and it’s incredibly relevant.

So, you know, consumers are taking, you know — they’re watching what organizations are doing and how they’re treating their employees, absolutely. And I would also add that they’re — consumers are very concerned that it’s not just about lip-service. So don’t talk about being inclusive unless you’re actually being inclusive. So the action is the really important part to think about.

And so with that, I’m going to pass this over to my partner, Jamie, and she’ll start to get into some of the things that we learned within our research.

JAMIE MILLAR: …inclusive employment, and we developed a business-to-business guide for employers on how to adapt each stage in the recruitment and retention process. This project was led by Mission Possible, a social enterprise on the Downtown Eastside, and was funded through the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.

A little bit about the guide. A hard-copy launch, formal launch, of the guide was produced. We were set to launch on March 11th, and on March 10th we made the very difficult decision to postpone that formal launch, and fortunately we did. But the document is available online as a resource, and it’s hosted currently on the Presidents Group site. We’ll give you a links to that resource as well so you’ll have that.

And in addition, we’ll be developing a series, an e-learning series, of modules over the next couple of months funded through the project I lead, BC Partners in Workforce Innovation, BC WiN. And these e-learning modules will be offered on a complimentary basis to both BC WiN and for Presidents Group employers, as well as the employers that Kristen works to support in this field as well. So if you’re interested, feel free and reach out following.

So much of what we’ll share with you is coming from the guide, but also coming from the years of experience that both Kris and I have had working with employers on their inclusive hiring initiatives.

So what is inclusive employment? Well, it’s really about having a workforce that reflect a community, the communities that we live in, do business in. And in this case we’re talking specifically about people with disabilities or those with diversabilities, as I prefer to say, or others facing barriers to employment. And those barriers could be low literacy, cycles of poverty, lack of stable housing, lack of stable social connections and so on. And what it really involves for us, as employers and as organizations, it means looking at our traditional hiring practises to identify and remove barriers that we may not even be aware of, that unintentionally prevent people from being employed in our businesses.

A little bit about the demographics here in Canada. So approximately, and as Kristen said, 1 in 5 Canadians with mental health — will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime.

Approximately one in five Canadians have some form of disability or barrier, whether visible or not. 6.2 million Canadians, roughly 75% of people, acquire their disability as adults, which is something that surprised me when I first saw that stat. Canadian Mental Health Commission tells us that by the time Canadians reach 40 years of age, one in two will have had or have experienced a mental illness. It includes depression, anxiety, PTSD and addiction.

Roughly 10% of Canadians live in poverty. And the employment rate for people with disabilities is half of what it is for people without disabilities. So there is a largely untapped pool of people who are ready, willing, and able to work out there.

I’m managing two screens here, so pardon me as I go back and forth between them.

So there’s a lot of really clear data. The research is clear, hard to argue with. Hiring people with diversabilities is actually good for business, and we’ll share some of that information with you.

Pre-COVID we were facing fairly significant labour shortages in Canada. You probably experienced this as you were hiring before March of this year. We actually have no indications that these advantages will change post-COVID. And actually may become even more relevant than ever as consumers become more aware of their purchasing and as our society comes out of this period more compassionate than ever, which I happen to believe we will. We still have an aging baby boomer population, we still have increased retirements, declining birth rate, although this year may be an exception, I’m not sure. Fairly steady job growth, and fewer people to fill those opportunities. That’s what we were experiencing just three months ago.

The 2018 report by the Business Development Bank of Canada concluded that those labour shorts were holding Canadian businesses back and were most serious in Atlantic Canada, British Columbia, and Ontario. A recent study, Deloitte study of 750 hiring decision makers, 76% indicated that attracting candidates was their No. 1 challenge in their organization.

Yet there’s this whole pool of people who can work and want to contribute and are often overlooked. Recruitment practises — we look at this as our traditional employment practises — those were recruitment practises that we have in place in many of our organizations are typically aimed at screening candidates out.

They once served a purpose, when there was an abundance of candidates for every job, but in today’s labour market it’s simply outdated.

Some really great data on the Presidents Group website. If you haven’t seen this, I encourage you to have a visit to the site. There’s a lot of great resources there.

Why is hiring people with disabilities good for business? Well, we were trending by 2029 BC employers will need to fill an estimated 861,000 job openings, and we have an opportunity to engage the over 614,000 working-age British Columbians to fill those job openings. And the data shows that, as consumers, we prefer to see ourselves reflected and valued in the companies we do business with, and that may get even stronger as we move ahead.

Being inclusive of people from different backgrounds with different skillsets and abilities actually increases an organization’s financial success through an increased consumer base. And the research shows us that staff retention rate is higher, attendance is average or better. This is reports from employers. 90% said employment was equal to or better than co-workers without disabilities.

Organizations that are diverse and inclusive are twice as likely to meet or exceed financial goals, six times more likely to be innovative. How important is that these days? And six times more likely to be able to effectively manage change. For your business, that gives you an expanded consumer reach. Over $55 billion Canadian, that’s the annual buying power of Canadians with a disabilities, and when you add family and friends into that and the stories that are told about how your business is valued, how you are valued by that business, that grows to over $366 billion Canadian annually.

So a consumer advantage, a financial advantage, talent advantage, innovation advantage. The question really is can your business afford not to be inclusive?

When Kris and I spoke with different leaders and organizations that were seen as being inclusive and supportive, we asked their leaders, “What is motivating you to be inclusive?” And there are many reasons why business leaders choose to provide an inclusive workplace. It’s different for every company.

But many will say they are driven to be inclusive because (a) they clearly understand the business advantage; they get it, or they have personal experience, either themselves or a family member, close friend with adversity or barriers to employment, they’re motivated to make a positive difference to others, they take intentional steps to make sure that their workforce reflects the communities and customers that they do business in.

Really interesting data for the millennial generation. They’re a generation where inclusion is valued and expected. And for some it’s their mission, and they’ve established their business with inclusion in mind. We think of some of the social enterprises in particular.

I love this quote from an employer…and the employer quote is hiring manages who believe in the value of everyone in the workplace, it really pays off. When employees enjoy coming into work, there’s such a real sense of purpose. They feel connected to each other and the community, they have increased self-esteem by contributing to something, and this holds true for all employees, not just people with barriers.

So we are still operating in a time where we need talent on deck, we need all talent on deck. And we need to address those challenges and barriers that have typically excluded people from the workplace.

Kris is now going to talk to us next about employer branding. I’m going to turn this back over to my colleague Kristen.

KRISTIN BOWER: Great, thanks, Jamie. And I’ll ask you to keep moving the slides forward for me, please.

So yeah, we’re going to talk a little bit now about external brand image and internal brand image.

So how do you promote what that external brand is to drive recruitment, and to tap into that really large talent pool that is largely untapped, and promoting the internal brand that really drives retention, engagement and productivity.

So let’s talk a little bit about what are the five key elements of a really strong employer brand. So those would be culture, work environment, career opportunities, compensation, and benefits. So let’s explore a little bit about what these are from an inclusion perspective, because I think that when you see those five if, you know, worked in this — in human resources or recruitment or any business, really, you get that those are really important elements. But what do they mean from an inclusion perspective?

So really when we start to explore a little bit about culture, a healthy workplace culture is really one that is built on trust, collaboration, responsibility, and support. And so it’s about, you know, aligning your employer brand with the company’s values, and it’s made up of positive relationships between colleagues, managers, and leaders. It’s about relationship building, and how you build relationships is through trust and collaboration.

Can you hear my dog barking in the background? I apologize for that. Just ignore him.

So, yes, to go back to workplace culture. Caring, empathetic managers are really crucial. And, you know, I think probably 10 years ago if we brought up the idea of empathy in the workplace, you know, we might think oh, my gosh, there’s no place for empathy in the workplace, it’s about work. You come to work; you do your job; you go home.

But the more that we learn about what inclusive leadership is, we know that empathy is actually a superpower. So I really can’t underline that enough. Empathetic managers are absolutely crucial to inclusive workplaces. And through coaching and encouragement, you can set up your employees for success.

So the second one here is work environment, factors that really contribute to a positive work environment range really from understanding what your job responsibilities are to having a healthy work/life balance. And of course I will mention that, you know, these things also mean — they have different definitions to different people, because we are all different; we are all unique.

So work/life balance to me might mean something different to Jamie or to Trish. A sense of autonomy, personal achievement, respect, recognition.

And I will say that all of these things, if you’re ever curious about the national standard for psychological health and safety in the workplace, these are all psychosocial factors that have been identified as really crucial to creating a psychologically safe and healthy workplace, and really you could use another word which is “inclusion”.

Career opportunities. So inclusive employers will focus on capacity building through training, coaching and feedback. They provide flexible job opportunities which goes to — it’s about engaging people in a number of different ways to work. So traditionally we used to think, you know, you put a round peg in a round hole, and that person has to fit that work.

Inclusive employers will also identify what someone’s capacity is, what they can do as opposed to just focussing on what they can’t do, and making them fit into a box.

Compensation and benefits, we know those things are important. But there’s also another way of looking at them from an inclusive lens. So employee satisfaction with compensation and rewards. Some considerations would be fairness and equity. Equity is an important concept. It doesn’t necessarily always mean equality. Equity is a really important thing.

Supportive employers also consider whether nontraditional compensation may be of value, including bonuses, meal plans, transit passes. I know that these are some things that employers are already doing. Not all of them, though, so it’s important to take a look at what might provide value to your employees overall. And to help really attract, you know, a diverse talent pool. And benefits could be of course, you know, certainly like the sort of the standard typical benefits such as health care. But other things such as personal days, wellness initiatives.

There’s a client of mine that I work with that have just said, you know, you get X number of dollars per year. If buying a bike is your thing to be well, then here is your money to buy a bike. If taking that money to take a course, and maybe it’s a guitar class, but that helps your mental health. That’s what you use the money for.

There’s also a member of the Steering Committee, one of the inclusive employers from the Downtown Eastside, who Jamie spoke with, and he spoke about the fact that they have a, it’s almost like a cabin, I think on Vancouver island that they had in the past used that for employees as a benefit, something that some of their employees from the Downtown Eastside have never even gotten out of the Downtown Eastside. And so for them to be able to go and spend time in nature was a really wonderful benefit and opportunity for them.

So there’s opportunity to think outside of the box. Just because we’ve always offered standard benefits doesn’t mean that those standard benefits meet everybody’s needs or are even valued any longer. So there’s opportunity absolutely right now to take another look at what we’re offering in terms of our employee value proposition and our brand.

Some of the tips that we have around how to strengthen your brand would be around championing inclusion. So that means that you’re actually walking the walk on it. You’re not just talking about it, but you’re actually doing it. You’re hiring people. You’re focussing on abilities. This is something I mentioned earlier. You’re focussing on what a person can do as opposed to what they can’t do.

So when you are looking at adding somebody to your team — and I think a good recruiter will always do this, they’ll talk with the person who is hiring and say, “Okay tell me about your team makeup right now. Is everybody — if you’re hiring accountants, are they all at a really senior level and you could actually afford to bring in somebody who is perhaps a little bit more junior and train them up?

You know, it’s really important to talk a little bit about what is the current composition of your workforce, where are your skills and abilities, and who can you bring in to complement those skills and abilities, and not just for now, but in the future. So what can somebody bring to your organization over in the next few years? You know, I think we’ve heard this a lot, Simon Sinek has said it before: Hire for fit and train for skills. So there’s opportunity to do that as well.

Set and communicate inclusive hiring goals. And this is important. I’m working with a client right now around increasing representation of women in tech. And to really explain the “why” is so important, because you don’t want to fall into that pitfall, really, which is, “Oh, we’re just firing to get that number up. We need to have X number of women, X number of people with diversabilities.” No, it shouldn’t be that, it should be that you’re doing it for all the right reasons, but you also need to communicate that.

Set the goals. I think there is value in setting goals and working towards them, but the communication and the “why” is really crucial.

Something Jamie and I both really strongly believe in is partnering with community organizations for recruitment. When I was an in-house recruiter and an in-house diversity and inclusion manager, we worked very intentionally with some really wonderful organizations, certainly BC WiN — sorry, Jamie, I’m going to put a plug-in for you guys — but there’s a lot of really great organizations out there. And if you build a relationship with them, not just when you immediately need someone to hire, like, yesterday, but if you build a relationship with that partner and get to know them; they get to know you, you’re going to have a higher-quality of candidate, and, you know, that supportive organization, that community organization with that expertise.

And it could be in a number of different areas. It could be around people with diversabilities, it could be indigenous organizations, it could be new immigrants or refugees, people with mental health challenges and lived experience. There’s a lot of really great organizations to partner with. So don’t feel like you have to be the expert. There are a lot of great experts out there that can support you.

I think the fifth — sixth point here is a really important one. We’ve been talking about it a lot over the last few years, and certainly more and more organizations are investing the time and the money in unconscious bias training. I do believe it’s a foundational element when you’re having these diversity and inclusion conversations, and working towards inclusion, because we all have bias.

As David Rock of the NeuroLeadership Institute in the US says, if you have a brain, you have bias. So we need to recognize that bias in order to mitigate it.

And so there’s definitely some great work that can be done in that area that will provide some lift within your organization.

So you really want to shift, prepare for, create a culture of inclusion in your workplace, and that can include a number of different things that I’ve spoken about. It could be training, you know, it could be having conversations. Even just starting conversations is an important piece. So when we talk now a little bit more about inclusive employer branding, you can be really creative actually when it comes to designing your employment brand.

So just some quick tips that we have seen that have worked really effectively in the past for other employers, and certainly again I’ll direct you back to the guide book, because there are some great case studies in there. You know, highlight your employees. Put your employees on your website. Maybe a “day in the life,” so that those potential new employees can see what it’s actually like to actually work in your organization. You can have video testimonials; you can highlight employees with diversabilities, and just in fact diversity overall. I know for myself, and perhaps I am a little biased because I’m a diversity and inclusion specialist, but whenever I work with a new client, or if I’m curious about an organization, the first thing I do is I look on their website and look to see who their senior leadership is. Is there diversity in their senior leadership? What does their careers page look like? You know, is it just a bunch of white people?

So it’s a really big opportunity on your careers page to showcase who you are, what you believe in, and what your people look like. And I mean that literally and figuratively.

Yeah, the other thing I would mention, and, again, I’ve heard this from colleagues, I’ve experienced it myself when I worked in-house, but employee resource groups, so seeking feedback from an ERG, which is an Employee Resource Group, is an amazing resource. Employer resource groups, if you don’t have them in your organization, I would recommend that you consider starting them. They can be a wonderful tool, not only to give employees from a wide variety of backgrounds a voice in your organization, but they can also provide you really valuable, important feedback. So they can advise you on your employer brand, and things that I spoke about earlier, like your compensation and benefits.

Go to the experts; ask your employees what’s important to them, and how, you know, they can help you to attract diverse candidates.

You know, an organization, a business that is seen as providing employees with a caring, respectful place to work is really highly valued in today’s employment market, absolutely. Jamie and I hear this constantly from our clients, we certainly heard it from the steering committee members and the research that we did for the guide book, and I think it’s worth mentioning that we also did a number of focus groups with employees from those organizations, and they were all, you know — everybody was singing from the same songbook; they were saying the same thing. You know, this can really be leveraged to make it easier and more cost-effective for you to hire and retain from a much wider talent pool.

The next slide is an example of an inclusion tip that we’ve included — no pun included — within the guide book. There are a number of tips that really stood out from the steering committee members. And this is one that I love, and I think it’s fair to say it’s one of Jamie’s and my favourite tips, and that is really about asking the experts. So what this tip says is the best way to ensure that your employee value proposition hits the mark with inclusion is to ask the experts: Your employees. Ask what they like most about working with your company. If they view the business to be supportive, and what you can do to provide a more inclusive environment.

Including all staff in these conversations. You can do this through team meetings and informal online survey, one-on-one meetings, focus groups, or through an employee engagement or inclusion survey. You can also reach out to a community partner for ideas and support.

You know, I’ll share just a really quick example of an organization that a few years ago decided that they were going to hire somebody with some significant diversabilities, significant barriers to mobility. And they had the right intention: They got a number of people sitting at the table to ensure that the hiring and on-boarding would be successful. And guess who was the one person that was not literally at the table? It was the person that they were hiring. And unfortunately the person ended up leaving because they hadn’t been engaged in the conversation.

And so it’s so important to always go back, ask the expert. If it’s somebody that has been experiencing barriers and challenge for most of their life, I’ll tell you, they’ve got a lot of life experience that they can share.

So I’m going to pass this back now to Jamie, and she’s going to take you through some of the next steps.

JAMIE MILLAR: …Kristen on employers branding, thank you for that. So I’m going to cover off different stages in the recruitment process, the hiring practice, various ways to make sure or adapt your hiring practises so that you make sure inclusion is included in that process. And before looking at specific practises, we’re going to start with barriers to employment. Barriers can be personal barriers experienced by the individual, or barriers that are present in the workplace, combined with unconscious bias towards people who face multiple barriers. This can keep an individual in a constant cycle of unemployment, underemployed, and poverty.

So some of the typical barriers to employment are attitudes towards people who are different. Some HR policies and practises, whether intentional or not, can be a barrier. Rigid hiring processes traditionally aimed at screening people out: If an individual has a learning disability, poor self-esteem, a mental illness, lack of readiness, or lives in poverty, that can be a fairly significant barrier to employment, and of course unconscious bias and stereotypes, and Kristen touched on that a little earlier as well.

Rethinking work. So we have an opportunity, especially now, to rethink how work is performed in our organizations. Not all jobs need to be full-time; not all job seekers wants or needs to work full time, and I think especially through this period of being redeployed from home and working from home, it’s going to provide us with some interesting opportunities going forward.

When you’re rethinking work, being flexible is key, and it can be a real win for both the organization and the individual. You can rethink how jobs are structured and delivered and performed. Your business may even have temporary needs or one-of needs that, for someone to do certain tasks, either once a week, once a month, a casual basis, part-time, as well as full-time.

We’ll talk a little bit about that as well as we move forward.

We do have inclusion tips sort of scattered throughout different phases of the hiring process, and this is one that we heard from an employer.

Flexibility is key, so with new distancing guidelines comes more spacious workplaces, in some settings at least, which could result in the workspace being more contusive for somebody who uses a wheelchair for somebody for mobility, for example.

But if you are a move supportive employer, you will gain access to a wider talent pool. Are you open to being flexible, working-from-home options as a result of the COVID-19 experience? What alternative work arrangements are now more possible than they were before? It certainly accelerated working from home.

When things to do — when you’re looking at your website and careers page — start by making sure that the website is accessible, that your application process — you know, is your application process creating an unintended barrier?

Some of the things to include on your website and careers page: Your mission and vision and values, any employment recognition awards that you’ve received, either as a small business, a medium business, or a large business. What makes you stand out as an employer of choice, as  an inclusive employer of choice? You should include how to apply to positions, including accessible options for someone who can’t navigate an online process, for example. You should highlight the recruitment and selection process, and any supports that are available for people with diversabilities, if required. And then who to contact if that person requires support with the process to apply to work with your company.

If you’re not sure if your website or your careers page on your website is accessible, ask a diverse group of people to test-drive it for you. Be sure to include people who are — blind or have a visual impairment, people with autism or diverse cognitive abilities, or people who live with a mental illness. It will give you a fairly wide advisory group on how accessible your careers page really is.

Job postings. Consider whether where your posting opportunity — where your posting opportunities and where you might draw the best candidate pools.

Some things to think about: Do you invite applicants from diverse backgrounds and abilities to apply? Do you have a statement that encourages people who — from diverse backgrounds to apply with your company? Partner in local job fairs and hiring events hosted by community partners. I know there’s lots of organizations, especially here in the lower mainland, that provide job fairs, and they’re free of charge to participate most times.

People with disabilities actually use Linked-In and Indeed as part of their job search, too. And if you have need for one-of, casual labour there are groups like EMBERS Staffing Solutions, for example, in the Downtown Eastside who can help with that, some of the social enterprises as well. You could be creating some info employment for people in your community by expanding how you source candidates.

Language. Another key thing, before posting your job, is to review the language in your job description for anything that is not inclusive. You can ask for someone else’s feedback on that. They might even help you identify some unconscious bias that’s in there, again, whether you realize it or not.

Do you really need to have that level of qualifications, skills, and previous experience that you’ve always asked for, or have things changed since the last time you posted or hired for that job? Have a look at your job descriptions and look at what you can reasonably adjust to be more inclusive and encourage applicants from a larger talent pool to apply with your business.

Some of the things you can do to be deliberate and intentional with your recruitment: First of all, taking an intentional active outreach to recruit diverse talent, look at developing candidate pipelines, work with some of the service organizations in the lower mainland. I think we’ve got two really great organizations that I could see earlier registered on this webinar.

Open Door Group works with a lot of the Vancouver catchments and WCB works with employers in the Burnaby catchment.

Reach out to those organizations, and see what they can do to help you develop a candidate pool, provide training, help you support job seekers. Again, a lot of it is free to you as an employer. And then hire from a trained candidate pool, so you can develop training to prepare people for opportunities in your organizations, and then hire from that candidate pool when people have finished their training.

Adapt your interviews and assessment tools. Behaviour-based interviews, for example, can be really tricky, and we’ll talk about that next.

Invite people on site for exclusive hiring events in your organization on a specific day.

Disclosure is a big one, but have some open dialogue on expectations with a focus on abilities in relation to the opportunity. You know, asking what adjustments would bring out the best in each candidate will help benefit every candidate.

Working with a job coach, if that person requires the job coach that will help bring out their best in the interview, and help set up that employment relationship up for success. You can use work experience, job shadowing, internships, practicums, all the way to build a candidate pool for your organization — and again, another shameless club for BC WiN; we’re happy to help.

When you’re considering your applications, I guess, you know, is there a way? Are you open to prioritizing job seekers with diversabilities? Are you — that’s one way to sort of — I’ve heard this referred to as “stack the deck.” If you’re intentional about your efforts to be inclusive, you may want to intentionally screen in applicants who identify as having a disability. This is a chance to easily increase the diversity within your selection process and provide an opportunity for people who are traditionally under-represented.

Again, if they don’t have the skills, or the person is not a good match, they can then be screened out.

Disclosure. You may not know if the candidate identifies as having a disability, is from a different group, unless you encourage and provide opportunities for disclosure. While you can’t ask the person if they have a disability, you can ask them to let you know if they require any accommodations or ask what adjustments, if any, would be required for that candidate to do their best work.

Examples would be a stand-up desk if the person has back pain or a quiet work space to enable concentration, check-lists for people who have diverse abilities, or early start times to accommodate any regular medical appointments. But these opportunities can come up at any stage, really, either the referring partner organization, at hiring events, in the application process. All of those areas any time in the employment relationship disclosure can occur.

Also consider different types of interviews; right? We know about telephone interviews. We’re doing a lot more virtual ones. At least our team has been lately. In-person interviews. But one area you might not be as familiar with is a working interview or work trial. And we’ll talk about that in a couple of minutes.

A tip for you in terms of adjusting your interviews. It could be holding the interview in a quiet space, if the person gets overwhelmed by noise, or wheelchair accessible if the applicant uses a wheelchair for mobility. Understanding those communication options for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Shifting to non-behaviour-based questions for people with autism, or having a job coach present to support candidates with diverse cognitive abilities.

The reason why we’re suggesting — I don’t know how many organizations are currently using — within small business — are currently using behaviour-based questions. Chances are, you are. Certainly medium and larger employers have long used behaviour-based questions.

The reason why these are so tricky for people with diverse cognitive abilities is there’s so many options in the range the way the questions are asked, and people can get lost in all of that verbiage in the way the questions are asked.

I spoke to you about working trials and working interviews. A really great approach, very effective at determining whether a candidate can learn or do task-oriented jobs, especially useful for people with diverse cognitive abilities, people who are nonverbal, for example, or people whose anxiety gets in the way of communicating well in a structured interview is show-do review.

So the candidate is shown how to do a task, for example, data entry or filing or recycling, has an opportunity to do the task after being shown how to do it, and then strengths are reviewed on how well the candidate performed.

It’s a very effective interview style, and if you have not used it before, I encourage you to work with some of the local service organizations to help facilitate that in your company.

Yeah, personality assessments, also some organizations use psychometric testing. Those tests can be very tricky for people, again, with diverse cognitive abilities, especially some folks with autism, very detail oriented, can get stuck in the question of “do I strongly agree?” “Do I agree?” “Do I somewhat agree?”

Like, really that whole process of asking those types of questions, a person does not do well; it’s not a reflection of their personality.

I would rely more on an interview to assess that. And then finally just a couple of final points here.

In your job offer, so offers of employment, if an accommodation or workplace adjustment has been identified during the interview process, you can include this in the Letter of Offer.

So, for example, you know, “Our company is committed to accommodating the needs of employees with diversabilities to ensure these are in place to begin work. Here is what we have put in place,” and then actively offer, “if there’s anything else that you need, as you start the job, let us know.”

Then that way you’re putting that active offer out there.

And finally broadening references. This is especially important for people who have not been in the workforce recently or at all, is considering to broaden those references. Typically we look for previous employment references, but they might just not be there. It could a supervisor from a volunteer job, an employment program manager, a job coach, an instructor, somebody who is able to provide some relevant, valuable information on the person’s strengths and ability to do that job.

So as we mentioned earlier that we had a chance to speak with a number of people who benefitted from inclusive hiring, supportive hiring initiative as part of the development of the business-to-business guide.

So we asked a number of people who faced barriers to employment: Having a job, what does that mean with you? I just wanted to share some of that with you.

[Displaying the comments]… It’s really to remind us to never underestimate the power of having a job, that sense of purpose and worth, aside from the financial benefits that having a job provides purpose and meaning in connection to others.

And these are just some of the words that people shared with us, and we wanted to share that with you.

So at this stage I’m going to turn it this back over to my colleague, Kristen, and we’re happy to take your questions.

KRISTIN BOWER: Great, thanks, Jamie. Yeah, I just wanted to really underline what you just said, that employment is much more than having a job.

Something that I have said frequently, and I believe this to be true, is that employment is social and financial inclusion. People don’t just work to earn a pay cheque, they work because of social networks, they work to have a sense of connection and belonging, and that they’re contributing to something.

So really employing people from diverse areas and levels of ability helps us to build stronger communities. And I think that’s a really important thing for us to all work towards.

Now I do want to acknowledge it’s 11:31, and I know we did start a few minutes later than the original start time, so certainly Jamie and Trish and I are available to stay on and answer any questions that you may want to pose for the next few minutes.

And certainly we’re available off-line as well, and I know that Trish has been posting things in the chat box as well around resources.

So if there’s any questions, we would love to hear them and answer them for you.

TRISH KELLY: Might we suggest to say a quick good-bye, and thank you to those that may need to be moving on to the next part of their agenda, and then we’ll stick around to answer any questions that haven’t been in the chat box yet. But I wanted to say thank you so much, Jamie and Kristen, for sharing your knowledge, and for allowing the Presidents Group to host the Untapped Talent Guide Book on our website.

You will be able to download a copy of the slides from today, but you also have access to that very comprehensive guide that much of this content was drawn from.

And I want to say thank you to everyone that did make it to this call today. I know that this has been an incredibly difficult week for many people in the organizations, and many of you as business owners, and on top of the pandemic, which was part of the reason that we brought this webinar together, there has been even more that has come up that is competing for your attention, and I really want to say thank you for your demonstration of your inclusion by being here with us today.

And if you want more support in terms of doing this work, we shared the Presidents Group website:

There is a lot of information, an entire resource out there to join our community of accessible employers, and become part of the community of others that are taking this work on as well.

So thank you so much to everyone. And there was one question that came up in the chat, which I know that Micaela from the Presidents Group did put one answer together, but I wonder if maybe Kristen or Jamie, you might want to tackle it as well from your very tenured perspectives.

I don’t know I can see it right now on my screen, but it was a question around given what’s been going on with the amount of antiblack racism in the States and how that’s affecting our media consumption and our work places, do you have any commentary around the intersection of how we deal with inclusion, accessibility, and racism in the workplace.

Is that something that you would be able to give any comments on when you’re recruiting, especially I think the question was around getting started as a — with your hiring practises and from that lens.