Hiring for Abilities within Disabilities

Champions Career Centre helps employers find the abilities within disabilities. The beautiful thing when you meet someone with a drive and a passion like Nicole Bourgeois is that you realize with great clarity that anything is possible. In her role with Champions Career Centre, Nicole counsels companies from various industries on inclusion and accommodation policies, and assists with recruitment and retention strategies that help them retain and obtain skilled talent.  Nicole can help you with recruitment strategies which will reinforce your foundation of Workplace Fairness.

Nicole’s presentation at a Workplace Fairness lunch generated interesting discussion. For example we took on the familiar tagline “We are an equal opportunity employer.” I am sure you recognize this tagline. It may even be at the bottom of your job ads. Does it still resonate for you? To some it says, but does not demonstrate, “We are moving with the times”. Luncheon participants from the City of Calgary indicated that the City has specifically moved away from a general tagline to more specific language. Others have found that the specific language can raise questions and objections from groups:  “Don’t single us out! We have been hired on merit!”

We also discussed setting up the interview, and the importance of asking the accommodations question prior to the first interview. There are dragons even there: we heard a story of a discussion that veered off to hotel rooms when this question was asked. Yes, it is important to be specific and differentiate between arrangements and accommodations.

With recruiters in the room, we learned about the possible pitfalls of disclosure.  Disclosure to a recruiter is disclosure to an individual. It is critical to have clear open conversation about what this disclosure means, and that it is personal information which the recruiter is not going to share with any potential employer. Clear conversation prevents dangerous assumptions.

I would like to share some of my takeaways from Nicole’s presentation:

A disability is a barrier to somebody’s capacity in some aspect of their everyday life.  Coping mechanisms for many mean there are no barriers and their condition may not be disabling.

It is important to understand essential requirements of the job being offered and ensure the requirements are valid and fair. The Bona fide occupational requirement recognizes that, in certain circumstances, a limitation on individual rights may be reasonable and justifiable. Examples of this include a minimum level of fitness for firefighters, and acceptable vision for bus drivers. You can read more here: http://www.albertahumanrights.ab.ca.

When interviewing, ensure interview locations are accessible and prepare in advance to provide special support. Ask questions that are job related. It is wise to take a page from a mediator’s playbook and ask the same questions of each interviewee, maintaining impartiality and focusing on specific job-related skills. DO ask “Part of this job requires lifting and moving 25 pound boxes around the warehouse. Are you comfortable doing this?” or “This job requires taking minutes at meetings. What is your experience in taking minutes?”

If you would like to learn more about Champions Career Centre in Calgary and how they can help you develop a retention plan and ensure you have the right person, in the right place at the right job visit www.championscareercentre.org .

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