Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion initiatives have many tangible benefits that can reach every level of an organization. A comprehensive Inclusion plan can improve customer relationships, increase employee engagement, and cultivate an organizational culture that truly sets a business apart.
Without a sense of intention and clear set of goals, however, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion are simply words. How can an organization create real actions surrounding efforts to welcome marginalized individuals?
An article published in the New York Times revealed that employers were 34% less likely to hire an experienced job candidate with a disability, and 15% less likely to hire a novice candidate with a disability. This study suggests what those in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community already know: although Diversity and Inclusion are modern buzzwords, putting these concepts into practice remains a challenge.
Deafness in the Workplace
The National Deaf Center at The University of Texas at Austin reports that only approximately 48% of Deaf and Hard of Hearing adults in the United States are currently employed. Those who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing face employment obstacles beginning with the job interview. Deaf / HoH job candidates face the difficult decision of revealing their disability to a potential employer, knowing full well how this might impact their chances of getting hired.
If they are able to secure a job, Deaf/HoH employees are often left struggling to access communications and participate in workplace conversations. Over time, an employee who feels left out will become disengaged and uninspired.
A 2016 Deaf Jobseeker survey conducted by TotalJobs revealed that more than half of Deaf and Hard of Hearing employees reported facing discrimination at some point during their career due to their hearing loss. Approximately 1 in 4 of the survey’s respondents reported leaving a job as a result of discrimination.
Benefits of Deaf Employees
Deaf or Hard of Hearing employees have the potential to be superstars on any team. They bring to the table a unique set of skills and perspectives. There are many reasons to hire Deaf/ HoH employees.
Those who are Deaf/ HoH are typically adaptable, talented communicators with strong interpersonal skills. Studies have shown that workers with hearing loss are dependable, loyal, and responsible; with overall positive job performance ratings and among the highest safety ratings in the workforce. Many Deaf job candidates are eager to get a foot in the door and for the opportunity to build a career, demonstrating focus and commitment to companies that recognize their value.
A 2017 study in the Harvard Business Review demonstrated that teams with greater cognitive diversity solve problems more quickly and with better results. Employees who are Deaf/HoH, as a result of their background and personal experiences, may think of ideas or point out potential that no one else on the team had even considered. They might see a flaw, or an opportunity, or a connection, or a consumer perspective that could have been overlooked without the right insight. These contributions flow more freely when employees feel supported and included on the team!
The Cycle of Inclusion
Once an organization has established effective ongoing inclusion practices, an ecosystem is created where the company increasingly attracts diversity among employees and customers.
Organizations with a strong reputation for providing accessibility and support naturally gain the attention of people from marginalized communities who face disproportionately higher rates of unemployment and are often disenfranchised through poor customer service experiences. People from these groups are typically looking for these types of opportunities and are eager to spread the word about progressive organizations.
Now for the big question: How can an organization take the next step toward creating a diverse and inclusive workplace that welcomes individuals who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing and makes them feel like they truly belong?
While employee communication can be accomplished with a few minor workflow adjustments, inclusion is a constant learning and unlearning process that slowly erodes unconscious bias. A workplace that supports diversity is one that provides everyone with tools and resources for professional and personal development, and challenges people to stand outside of their own experiences.
Cultural Competency Training is the key that unlocks inclusion potential. Organization-wide structural change comes from both the top down, and from the bottom up. Implementing a consistent employee education program that is culturally competent ensures that everyone from management to staff receives training that is not only thorough, but actually effective. When training programs are created and implemented by the individuals they are intended to serve, they achieve tangible results with greater impact and longevity.
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Innovative Inclusion helps find new ways to establish an accessible, welcoming environment for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community at public organizations and private companies of any size and type. Our programs are offer results individually, or can be combined to create a comprehensive ongoing training program that can be streamlined into any existing organizational processes.
Contact us to learn more about Innovative Inclusion Cultural Competency Training, or to refer a company for our training programs! We offer nationwide training from Deaf and Hard of Hearing consultants that can be custom tailored to meet the access and inclusion needs of any business.