Updated August 2021
What Defines Inclusive Employers?
The most successful companies often have one philosophy in common- they put their employees first. They know respecting their employees and treating them well will foster a positive environment and reflect back to the customer. Diversity and inclusion has become a hot topic among human resources teams and other culture-builders in major companies.
According to Disability:IN, a nonprofit geared towards disability inclusion in the workplace, companies become good employers by offering competitive wages and benefits, opportunities for advancement, flexibility to achieve a work-life balance, and by celebrating a culture of diversity and inclusion. Diversity often includes a focus on race and gender or gender identity, but disability inclusion sometimes falls behind.
Companies can achieve disability inclusion is by ensuring that employees with disabilities- who make up as much as 20% of the population – have the necessary tools to be successful. Inclusion starts before the potential candidate applies and continues until their final day of employment.
Who Decides What Disability Inclusion Looks Like?
Disability:IN has developed a list of best practices that employers should consider to help make the workplace accessible to everyone. In addition, they publish an annual list of companies who very successfully implement these best practices and adhere to their Disability Equality Index (DEI). This index was created by the American Association of Persons with Disabilities (AAPD) and Disability:IN, along with a host of advisory committee members from across a variety of industries. These include disability advocacy groups like the National Federation of the Blind and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, as well as for-profit giants like CVS Health, MGM Resorts, and Bank of America.
The inclusive employers in the DEI self-reported their disability policies. The index measures those policies on factors such as culture, leadership, employment practices, and supplier diversity, among other things.
Some of the Top Companies for Inclusion and Diversity
Airbnb is dedicated to making sure everyone, not just the travelers it serves, feel like they “Belong Anywhere.” This inclusive employer scored a perfect 100% on the DEI evaluation. In order to make everyone feel welcome, they have taken real and deliberate steps to build an inclusive environment. As many inclusive employers do, they ensure their recruitment, hiring, benefits, and employment practices all consider people with disabilities. Benefits include items like vision and hearing aids, as well as paid medical leave. All employees are trained on accessibility and allyship. Airbnb also offers an employee resource group for employees with disabilities, and collaborates with top outside organizations to advance disability inclusion.
Tech giant Oracle also scored a perfect 100% on the DEI evaluation. Oracle is committed to building a workforce that “reflect[s[ the diversity of the billions of people who use [their] technology” and that includes people with disabilities. Their inclusive hiring and employment practices include diversity recruitment programs, extensive employee disability inclusion programs and accessibility options, and even an annual internal accessibility conference. Oracle is another company that uses employee resource groups to facilitate disability inclusion.
Starbucks is no stranger to the DEI evaluation top inclusive employers list, having scored perfectly every year since 2015. It offers a number of initiatives to support employees with disabilities, from a centralized accommodation budget to on-the-job training for people with mental and physical disabilities through Starbucks Inclusion Academy. Like many other successfully inclusive companies, Starbucks uses employee resource groups, called Partner Networks, to promote a culture of inclusion and contribute to employee success.
Wells Fargo is committed to inclusivity in many areas of business, including employment. Their very own Enterprise Diversity and Inclusion Council, led by the company’s CEO and President, guides corporate inclusivity.Senior leaders from throughout the company make up the council and meet quarterly to set goals and develop strategies to promote diversity and inclusion on a company-wide level. Wells Fargo also uses employee resource groups called Team Member Networks to enhance diverse recruitment and retention and professional development. The company encourages a healthy work-life balance. They are committed to seeking accommodations as well as coaching and training for employees with disabilities.
Food and beverage giant Nestle is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in their work culture, in society, and through innovation. Nestle is a proud member of various international business leadership organizations that promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce including the International Labor Organization’s Global Business and Disability Network and the Valuable 500, a collection of 500 private sector behemoth organizations that are committed to “help[ing] unlock the social and economic value of people living with disabilities across the world.” Nestle developed a global self-assessment program to track progress and best practices in training and awareness, return to work procedures, and accessibility of sites and workplace arrangements.
Becoming an Inclusion and Diversity Champion
So how can you model your company after these champions of diversity? Many companies that scored highly on the DEI evaluation had similar best practices for promoting a culture inclusive of employees with disabilities.
A culture of inclusion starts at the top. Providing training and development sessions specifically for leadership encourages a culture of inclusion and diversity. Training new leaders from the beginning helps to continue that momentum.
Plan meetings and events with every employee in mind. Implement a series of best practices so that all types of events – from formal meetings to training sessions to volunteer days to team-building activities – are accessible for every employee.
Workshops can be provided to address particular concerns such as mental health awareness. They can facilitate discussions on the topic to provide methods for implementing conversations, develop more effective accommodations, and help employees learn how to interact successfully with one another regardless of ability.
Guidebooks can provide a roadmap for entire organizations or specific departments regarding disabilities and inclusivity, and can range from quick one-page flyers to full policy manuals. They can address such topics as etiquette, info about disabilities, dispelling misconceptions, or networking opportunities to connect employees with disabilities.
Aim for inclusive design through participatory approaches
The best way to learn more about disabilities and disability inclusion is by involving those who experience them. Creating a disability roundtable with members of various departments provides a place for employees to share what they need at different stages in their employment.
Understanding disabilities and what they require can improve many accommodations. Include employees with disabilities in these decisions to provide the most accurate information. Focus groups can provide insight into the barriers people with disabilities face.
Accessibility teams allow companies to pair the experiences of people within the organization to customers on the outside. For example, an accessibility team that includes employees with disabilities might collaborate with a customer service team to address the needs of customers with disabilities.
Some companies use early recruiting initiatives like programs for students with disabilities to expose those students to a variety of job possibilities and also demonstrate the company’s dedication to inclusive hiring practices.
What Champions of Inclusion have in Common
Inclusive employers achieving perfect scores in the DEI assessment had several particularly strong commonalities.
Written policies in 93% of these companies included disability accommodation procedures, and 82% also included a process for employees to request accommodations for off-site or virtual company meetings or events. Nearly half had set budgets specifically for accommodations.
Beyond physical accessibility, 82% of companies have committed to also providing accessible digital resources. 64% of companies have accessibility experts to help resolve digital accessibility issues for internally facing digital programs. (Need help making your PDF files accessible? Equidox can help!)
Hiring goals in 68% of these companies included specific hiring targets for people with disabilities, and 79% have retention and advancement programs for people with disabilities.
86% offer Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to make employees feel welcome, included, and heard. These ERGs can also make suggestions as to how the company can attract and retain more people with disabilities. Of those groups, 96% have a senior executive member as a sponsor.
Benefits also contributed to inclusion, with 91% of companies providing wellness benefits beyond the standard employee assistance program (EAP).
It starts with a culture of inclusion
Creating a culture of diversity and inclusion is achievable, even for giant corporations with thousands of employees. Airbnb, Oracle, Starbucks, Wells Fargo, and Nestle are just a few companies that have chosen to ensure all employees feel valued, respected, and included. But inclusion isn’t just for large companies. Any organization can provide resources, accommodation, inclusive design and develop specific strategies for the inclusion of their employees.
Not sure where to start in making your organization more inclusive of everyone? Equidox can help. Check out our accessibility consulting services for more information.