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We all value diversity, but what that means and our commitment to its pursuit in our workplaces is different for everyone.

This year I’ve had the opportunity to speak on topics surrounding diversity as part of an HR college panel. Seeing today’s HR students and their commitment to bringing advancement of diversity to their workplaces is very encouraging. Today, 56 million people in the United States are living with a disability; that’s one in five.

In my 15-year HR career, I’ve seen diversity range from an issue of misunderstanding or company compliance to an industry buzzword or case-by-case implementation. Today, I’m happy to say I see diversity shifting to a culture of inclusion. If you only read the headlines, you’ll be discouraged by the ignorance that still exists and missteps in workplaces today. But you will miss the everyday wins of inclusion happening all around.

In a recent training I conducted on diversity and inclusion, I worked with an employer who I quickly learned is committed to both. Even still, they know they need to keep the conversation going to advance their workforce and culture. In addition to the common types of diversity you’d think of, their management team includes a female combat veteran and a gentleman who is a double amputee. But the contribution to their employees and the team is the focus. Not only does this make them a great place to work, but they are quickly becoming an employer of choice in our state.

Disability often gets neglected in considering diversity hiring. When you post jobs, does your organization post to GettingHired.com and WorkplaceInititiative.org, hiring sites focused on individuals with disabilities? When you look to universities for new grads, do you only contact Career Services or Disability Services also?

I attended a training last week at Tangram, where Kathy Bernhardt, Managing Director Business Resources, shared these tips among others. In the pursuit to decreasing the 10.6% unemployment the disabilities community experiences, higher than any other minority group, Tangram supports people with disabilities to help find employment solutions in our community.

Not only is unemployment an issue, but underemployment is a concern. Individuals with disabilities have such difficulty finding employment, they rarely leave their work. Only 18% of people with a disability are employed, based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2016. And contrary to popular belief, people with disabilities have overall better retention and better or similar attendance rates of their non-disabled co-workers.

This makes an employer’s responsibility to their workforce even greater. Knowing your people and how they want to grow in the organization is key. Inclusion is especially important to your workers with a disability, hidden or otherwise. Individuals don’t just want to stay, they want to grow and make meaningful contributions to their employers. What does succession look like in your organization?

With overall unemployment at such lows, and the pursuit for great talent more challenging than ever, have you considered training and developing people working within your walls today? And when you do recruit, consider not only your go to recruitment sources, but new sites that will appeal to a broader candidate pool that will advance your workforce.

Focusing on the abilities of those with disabilities could be a key differentiator for your company in the war on talent! If you could use some help making your workplace more inclusive of individuals with disabilities, please reach out to Purple Ink.

Erin Brothers
Erin Brothers
Erin is Purple Ink’s Director of Consulting Services. Erin’s top strength is Achiever and she truly enjoys working hard and gains energy by accomplishing more work. Every day starts at zero, and tackling projects big and small helps give that sense of accomplishment to benefit her clients, peers, family and friends.

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