With the recruitment bar seemingly getting higher and higher for students to reach, success appears ever more difficult. And this is never truer than for the 13% of students in UK universities who have a disability.
When you have a disability, it’s very easy to think about all the things you cannot do, or that you can no longer do. It is easy to compare yourself to others who don’t have a disability and for that comparison not to be positive. It is easy to think that employers would prefer not to deal with the ‘hassle’ of making adjustments and to instead reject the disabled candidate from the process. It is therefore no surprise that these individuals take themselves out of the recruitment process and in doing so remove the potential for rejection and disappointment.
So, what can employers do to make themselves more accessible to disabled students, assure them that their talents are valued, and encourage them to apply?
The following 6 steps will set you on the road to success...
Step #1: Recognise the talent pool of disabled individuals
To engage with this talent pool, you have to genuinely recognise the unique skills and talents that disabled individuals have that will make a positive difference to your organisation. Only if the whole organisation is committed to attracting, recruiting and supporting disabled individuals will you be able to achieve real, sustainable progress in this area.
Step #2: Understand your target market
If you wish to engage with any group of people you firstly have to understand them and the same is true for disabled individuals. You have to understand everything from how they search for jobs, the concerns they have and the questions they’ve got. Only by understanding your target market can you successfully engage with them.
Step #3: Tailor your marketing messages
When considering your marketing messages, you must firstly recognise that disabled students will have questions relating to the fact that they have a disability, such as your approach to disability, your culture of inclusion and the support you offer.
Only by answering their questions will they be assured that you are an employer of choice for disabled individuals and, subsequently, feel comfortable in starting to engage with you.
Step #4: Encourage openness
In order to provide support and / or adjustments during the recruitment process, you have to encourage students to be open with you. Rather than asking them about their disability, ask them about what they need. Make it easy for them to communicate with you and reassure them of confidentiality.
Step #5: Be confident in your communications
Disability can be an uncomfortable subject, and some people lack the confidence to engage with disabled people. If you are going to market yourself as a Disability Confident employer who values the talents and skills of disabled individuals, every single stakeholder in your recruitment process, including your third-party suppliers, must be comfortable and confident enough to engage. Face-to-face training is the best way to build confidence, however, other training techniques can also be effective.
Step #6: Bring it to life
All employers will say that they are Disability Confident; so how do you prove it?
The single most effective way to engage with disabled students is to bring it all to life by enabling them to hear from those who are already within your organisation. Employees who share their own experiences of managing their disability in the workplace and talk about the support they benefit from is the most powerful tool you have.
Being a Disability Confident employer isn’t actually that hard. However, it will require you to be proactive and to put the required resources in place. The key is to be clear about what you want to achieve and why, and have a plan of how to get there. The 6 steps outlined above will help set you on your journey.