The OFCCP-established benchmark for employing individuals with disabilities (IWDs) – 7% – seems insurmountable to many. Time and again, though, employers tell us that they believe the representation of IWDs in their workforce is higher than what the numbers show. Proving your organization’s performance against this goal in your AAP is challenging if employees don’t self-identify. HR Works’ affirmative action project managers have compiled their top tips for encouraging employees to self-identify as having a disability:
- Distribute the IWD self-identification form to employees annually. Set a deadline that requires employees to return the survey in the near future (i.e. 1-2 weeks). Don’t allow employees too much time as they may forget about it. Include the form in other initiatives your organization is undertaking, such as diversity/inclusion programs, training sessions, company meetings, benefits enrollment, or other forms that employees must complete.
- Have senior leaders start the conversation. Have executives openly discuss the company’s support of employees with disabilities. Also, ask senior leaders in the organization who have a disability (or have a family member with a disability) to talk openly about the disability and the importance of self-identifying for government reporting and accommodation purposes. Consider brown bag lunches or annual company meetings where an executive talks about why s/he is proud to work for a company that employs individuals with disabilities. Assure employees that their disability status will remain confidential and will not impact their employment.
- Create a memorable self-identification campaign. Your campaign will be most effective with employees if it has a catchy slogan, includes company leaders, and is communicated through a variety of media, including video, articles, and visual materials. Discuss the importance of keeping disability information confidential and assure employees that self-identifying will NOT affect their employment with the company. Create concise FAQs for why and what will happen if someone identifies as having a disability, pass them out and post them on the company’s intranet. Provide examples of disabilities from the self-identification form so employees understand that some disabilities, such as cancer and diabetes, are common in the workplace.
- Increase the visibility of disabilities in the workplace. Consider allowing Service Dogs-in-Training into the workplace. Bring in a keynote speaker to discuss advantages of hiring individuals with disabilities. Consider highlighting or publicizing the use of special equipment or other accommodations in the workplace.
- Form an Employee Resource Group (ERG) that focuses on disabilities in the workplace. Integrate their efforts into business goals by having the ERG brainstorm recruitment channels, assess workstation accessibility, and ensure that the needs of individuals with disabilities are considered when policy or structural changes occur in the workplace and when company-sponsored events are held outside the workplace.
Remember that the disability self-identification form is government mandated and cannot be modified. For a copy of the current form, click here.
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