Inclusively is a professional network and employment platform with a committed focus on flipping the conversation around hiring disabled candidates firmly on its head.
The company’s approach to redefining and reenergizing what it means to be disability confident is a simple but effective one.
Organizations are strongly encouraged to explicitly demonstrate their efforts towards disability inclusion right from the very outset of the recruitment process.
One way this is achieved is by employers actively tagging their job posts on the platform with workplace disability accommodations they may have previous experience undertaking and know they can reasonably make.
Candidates, in turn, tag their profile with what adjustments, known as “Success Enablers,” they require to perform at their highest level, which can range from anything from assistive technology to asking to make a presentation using alternative formats or extra time to complete a test.
This kind of ultra-transparency brings much of the recruitment process out of the shadows, where, traditionally, candidates have been afraid to disclose their disability and recruiters afraid to ask.
The company was launched last summer to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Individuals with disabilities comprise one-quarter of the staff team so as to roughly reflect the prevalence of disability within the general population.
Riding the crosswinds of global D&I
Concerning Inclusively’s launch, co-founder and CEO Charlotte Dales certainly feels it was timely, given the backdrop of major global events across the D&I spectrum.
“Everything that happened last year has made a huge difference for people with disabilities. We’ve noticed a real difference in tone regarding disability inclusion when talking to employers, even from where things were two years ago,” says Dales.
“Demonstrating to employers that remote working is an accommodation they can reasonably make helped a lot and of course, a global pandemic gets everyone thinking about the possible future repercussions.”
Nonetheless, Dales appears to attribute even greater importance to the slaying of George Floyd at the hands of local law enforcement on the streets of Minneapolis in May 2020 as the true turning point.
“It took a very drastic event for everybody to wake up and to not just bring awareness to a cause, but figure out how they’re going to solve it. Employment is one of the greatest opportunities to address some of the injustices and inequalities that exist.
“That event really made people realize that there’s a difference between talking about it and doing something about it,” Dales says.
With major clients like Microsoft and Salesforce firmly on board with Inclusively’s super-transparent approach to disability recruitment, hope exists that other major brands will recognize the value of such a strategy.
“Self ID is one of the largest challenges in the application process because there are preconceived notions that deter candidates with disabilities from wanting to disclose,” explains Jessica Roth from Salesforce’s Office of Accessibility.
“At Salesforce, we’ve engaged our U.S.-based recruiting team with Inclusively to help build a pipeline of candidates that have already identified what some of the “Success Enablers” are needed for an interview, such as screen readers, emotional support animals, accessible parking and entrances, braille signage and more. Through this partnership, candidates are set up for success.”
Far beyond box-ticking
However, Inclusively is about a lot more than simply facilitating the disclosure process.
The company deploys a baseline algorithm for job-matching but incorporates this into a hybrid model whereby members of Inclusively’s Talent Operations team make regular manual checks to boost candidates where appropriate.
This is to ensure that no algorithmic biases towards non-standard resumes creep in but also help refine the algorithm over time by allowing the AI to learn from how the human recruiter is supplementing the candidate’s profile.
The big picture thinking is to create a level of technical scalability and uniformity to disability recruitment practices that have too long been dogged by a siloed approach driven by individual charitable initiatives.
An example might be an autism charity approaching an organization over a one-off hiring drive. Such programs remain complex to replicate and roll out at scale.
The company additionally offers training, such as on how to interview neurodiverse candidates, to its clients and is intent on building long-term collaboration, rather than providing its recruitment partners with a simple tick box opportunity to demonstrate they are doing something about disability inclusion.
“We’re just not cheap enough for somebody to use us just to tick a box,” says Dales.
“We’re on top of them. We’re annoying them,” she laughs.
“We’re telling them ‘You need to train more,’ asking them what other jobs they have and pushing them to take our candidates.”
Organizations serious about growing their business should brace themselves to be “annoyed.”
Staff with disabilities are often highly adaptive and far easier to retain than their non-disabled peers. They can also provide an in-house touchpoint for a global disability market worth over $1 trillion in annual disposable income.
According to research published last year by Accenture, from a broad cross-section of companies surveyed, those most focused on disability engagement are growing sales 2.9 times faster and profits 4.1 times faster than their peers.
Sadly, as stated in earlier research by Accenture, only 29% of disabled Americans currently participate in the workforce, as opposed to 76% of non-disabled people.
Dales is under no illusion that this will change overnight. “Part of the problem is that companies don’t really understand how easy it can be to start evolving their culture to be more disability-inclusive,” she says.
“So, by bringing in employers and getting them to think about accommodations as they’re posting jobs, it’s really helping them understand how much easier it is to include this population more efficiently into their workforce.”
Addressing her company’s longer-term aspirations, Dales adds, “I’m a firm believer that proximity creates empathy. If we can just get more people with disabilities into the workplace, it will organically become part of the social norm.”
Should, by that stage, the company require a name change because there has ceased to be anything exceptional about inclusivity per se, then this should herald the accomplishment of a very fine mission indeed.