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  • Sasha Wight

Episode Transcript: Disability Inclusion and The Employee Experience

00:00.00

sashawight

All right? We're recording Hello Charlotte Welcome to the podcast. How are you doing.


00:05.79

Charlotte

I am good. Thank you for having me how are you.


00:09.99

sashawight

Yeah, not say bad. Thank you Super excited to have you on? Um, obviously because of the work that you're doing but also because we're neighbors and that's very exciting.


00:19.16

Charlotte

I know it's really nice. Not only to find someone in Singapore who does similar types of work as me, but but to live as close as we do to each other. We still do.


00:25.19

sashawight

Yeah, yeah, but we're still doing this remotely because you know it's early. We've got kids. We're not looking our best but that's okay, um, exactly.


00:39.33

Charlotte

Ah, but not in the same room. But.


00:42.38

sashawight

Ah, but no lovely to have you on the podcast. So before we get into today's topic which is um, super excited and all about disability inclusion. Why don't you tell our podcast listeners a little bit about yourself and what you're building with purple consulting.


00:59.39

Charlotte

Yes, cool I'd love to thank you? So um, so a bit of background ah about me so I was at a biofimal company I was at glaxys with flying for 1213 years um historically in. Marketing roles so various commercial roles. Um, always had an interest in the do space I was always involved outside of my cool job in ers and the do space and I identify as having a disability so I have an invisible physical. Disability chronic pain which has at various times throughout my career disabled me from being able to work in the way that I would have liked to um and then towards 20182019 not long after I'd have my son but not related. We believe to having him. My pain got significantly worse and a long story cut short I ended up off work for a while I was still at that. So and I could talk about that later I was privileged and very lucky to work for a company that had amazing support and accommodations and policies to support people with disabilities. Um. But I took that time off as well as within that time I had to have a surgery on my spine which didn't work. Um, and in that time I as well as reading most of the internet and watching most Netflix really got into reading and learning more about dei and.


02:31.47

Charlotte

Systemic inequities and particular with a disability lens. Um and I became more and more fascinated around how so ingrained systemic inequities and we can talk a bit about that later. And ableism which is the the term that describes discrimination of people with disabilities is so ingrained in society. Um on returning to work at Glao I moved into a de in a culture role and I just really felt like I found my purpose in this space.


03:04.61

sashawight

So yeah.


03:08.40

Charlotte

It's not ah, a simple space to be in. It's a complex. It takes a lot of understanding and I really saw how the more you can create external and inclusive workplaces. The more employees can thrive the more they can be productive um and better outcomes for all.


03:20.98

sashawight

Yeah.


03:26.90

Charlotte

Um, and so I left blackstone last year where you know obviously ah but for your listeners I'm based in Singapore now and I decided to set up a d consultancy but specializing in disability and there's not there's more. There's more of us than at first I thought.


03:42.86

sashawight

M.


03:45.82

Charlotte

Um, and there's a few brilliant folk in this space both in the Uk and Singapore but very um, ah that it's it's very rare that companies put huge focus on disability. It's definitely growing now which is a great time for me to be doing what I'm doing but disability has.


03:58.90

sashawight

Yes, yeah.


04:02.84

Charlotte

Historically been not prioritized on the dbi agenda. So purple consulting is all about working with corporates of which many of them are valuable 500 members. Um and some people might not know whether their copy is valuable 500 member and but a lot of the babies are. To look at disability from a di and productivity. Then so what is the strategy. What is the data telling us. Um, what programs do we want to execute against our strategy. How are we measuring them and a big part of what I do um is training so line manager disability inclusion training.


04:35.50

sashawight

Yeah.


04:41.43

Charlotte

Leadership training trying to build confidence and create safe space for all employees to start changing the narrative of disability and normalizing that conversation and just making it a better place for everyone to work. So that's what I do.


04:55.50

sashawight

Yeah, amazing I think it's so refreshing for me to hear of someone coming into this sphere from a non-h h r background because I think so often I meet consultants like myself right? Um, who come from the h r.


05:05.48

Charlotte

This.


05:12.14

sashawight

Space and so I think it's really, It's a real commercial advantage for you to be able to talk to business leaders outside of Hr um in a way that they'll understand you know and your profile your background is incredibly relatable for large organizations and you know, really significant Leaders. So I think I think that's really cool and you. I Guess slightly off off topic better you finding that your experience in marketing and working for such a large organization is is helping you in those conversations.


05:44.18

Charlotte

Yeah I think it is um and I feel very lucky to have had the time to go and learn about Dei away from the workplace which is what I think a lot of people who.


05:50.85

sashawight

Um, yeah.


05:56.91

Charlotte

Do what I originally did which is move from a non-di Hl grog straight into space struggle with is the time to relearn. But I think yes the in particular around um strategy and execution. So you know really thinking about.


05:58.86

sashawight

Yeah.


06:10.79

sashawight

Yeah.


06:12.38

Charlotte

What's the end goal. How are we going to achieve it and what do we need to do and how do we measure it along the way that was you know what I did extensively at Glaxo is building strategy and execution plans. But also the nuances of influencing and culture change and how do you drive a change.


06:26.80

sashawight

Um, and.


06:31.44

Charlotte

Through people often. What? um we struggle with and I hear this from clients is you know we can have an amazing strategy. But when you're trying to execute it through a business of a thousand two thousand ten thousand through to the much larger companies. It's very hard to drive change through a business.


06:40.30

sashawight

I mean.


06:51.90

Charlotte

If you don't have that understanding when the connections are murder the influencecing plans behind it to think about how you how you drive that So that's been a real. That's really helped me for sure.


06:52.30

sashawight

Yeah.


07:01.45

sashawight

Yeah, yeah, definitely. Okay, so for some of our listeners. You know we we focus a lot on um inclusion but to be honest with you when when we look at the eex space. A lot of the content around inclusion is more focused on Gender. Um and race. And so what do we mean by disability inclusion.


07:27.35

Charlotte

Yeah, it's ah it's a great question and I use the term disability inclusion really to mean disability inclusion equity and accessibility. So it's for me, it's kind of a short term and let me. Expand a bit on what we mean and maybe it's helpful. First of all for me to to define what we mean by disability and then I can talk a bit about what that means from other angles. Um I mean I use the on our website we use the un definition of of disabilities. So which is persons with disabilities.


07:50.43

sashawight

Yeah, yeah.


08:05.60

Charlotte

Include those who have long-term physical mental intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. That's a pretty bored term you've got physical disabilities of which I have an invisible one. Um and it's worth mentioning while we're on that topic that around 80% of disabilities are Invisible. So a lot of people in the workplace.


08:38.28

Charlotte

Are able or at least try to hide disabilities for reasons that we can talk about but it tends to be stigma and fear of sharing that they have a disability but it also includes mental health conditions, intellectual disabilities and sensory Impairment. So um, people who might be deaf or Blind. Um. So. It's a really broad definition and the interesting bit for me as well is that which in interaction with various barriers making their full and effective participation. So a lot of what we look at and the angle that we um that I work from is we call it the social model of disability is. Looking less at trying to fix the person with a disability and more around how do we improve? Access. How do we change Society. How do we? How do we make our workplaces more inclusive. So when I talk about disability inclusion I'm talking about inclusion. So. Feelings of trust feelings of belonging so that we talk about a lot about eye Matter. So Do you feel as a disabled employee in business that you are listening to respected and included accessibility is a form of equity and um accessibility is all about. Removing barriers to participation and engagement and understanding so that everybody regardless of whether or not they have a disability can experience the world around them to the fullest extent possible. So when we talk about and and from a.


10:12.18

Charlotte

Employee experience lens. For example, when a disabled person can fully use and experience a product or service that's accessibility. Um, and we often measure can a person with a disability access a piece of tech with the same ease or.


10:27.30

sashawight

Yes.


10:30.40

Charlotte

Lack of for everybody but with the same ease as someone who doesn't have a disability and then equity which is included under disability. My disability inclusion term is how do we level the playing field in the workplace for people with disabilities and recognize. Everybody has different needs and support and access requirements to achieve the same outcome. So One of the myths we try to work to overcome is and I don't see this as much but it does come up sometimes is that accommodations in the workplace are. Special treatment and actually it's not what we're saying is the devil one starts from a different starting place and we want to try and level that playing field so equity accessibility to inclusion are 3 terms that I would use to describe how do we ensure our disabled employees.


11:09.88

sashawight

Yes, yeah.


11:24.43

Charlotte

Of which we know from a recent Bcg report on average 25% of businesses already have employed 25% of employees identify as having a disability which is probably quite surprising to a lot of people um make sure that 25% of our employees are able to thrive in the workplace.


11:35.21

sashawight

Yeah.


11:43.61

sashawight

Yeah, yeah, definitely well a very detailed explanation there say. Thank you and I think it's really nice for us to break it down into that inclusion equity and accessibility lens as well. Um, and.


11:44.34

Charlotte

And have the same opportunities as among the same employees.


11:59.76

sashawight

It's really interesting when you talk about equity in this space because I think you're right that is not contentious but I think that's where some people just even in kind of the the terms of gender equity As an example can be quite a um, not divisive but a tough.


12:19.20

Charlotte

Um, yeah.


12:19.20

sashawight

Topic in the workplace. Um, so yeah, no I really I really really like those definitions. Um, and it's funny what you were saying as well about invisible um disabilities and. I've got here in front of me because I was doing my research before our podcast recording because I want to be prepared because I know you're super knowledgeable on this one. Um, and so I've got this hpr article I'm sure you've seen it from April this year called how to make workplaces more inclusive for people with invisible disabilities and.


12:34.80

Charlotte

Great I Want to know what you learn you could teach me.


12:48.78

sashawight

Um, just a few things that I highlighted here the shows so research research shows 88% of employees with invisible disabilities choose not to disclose at work to avoid stigma and discrimination. Um, it goes on to say here. Um, our study confirm that people with invisible disabilities often feel excluded at work and are likely to receive fewer benefits or access to training and advancement this can lead to physical and psychological distress putting them at risk of social exclusion poor wellbeing and just decreased job performance and so I think.


13:17.16

Charlotte

4


13:19.78

sashawight

This is one of many articles I've come across recently published and I've got another one here from Hbr about disability as a source of competitive advantage. So everything that you've said thus far about this becoming more of a area of interest for organizations and this concept of in. Invisible disabilities as well. I think is so pertinent and really really relevant to the eex audience as well. So super exciting to be talking about it. So let's spend a bit of time exploring then the intersection between disability inclusion and employee experience. Um.


13:44.94

Charlotte

Great. Yes.


13:55.27

sashawight

And so really bringing it to life for the audience listeners here. How do you think disability inclusion and employee experience are connected.


14:06.63

Charlotte

Yes, so I think it's a great question and for me I look at it quite simply that um, we're talking about the employee experience across the full employment life cycle. So recruitment on boarding et cetera into being a role and leaving a role for 25% of employees. Um, and that's how I that's how I see it. So it's the experience of all those points both from a systems and process perspective. And the more you dig into disability inclusion the more it opens your eyes up to the barriers in systems and process space and also from a leadership and culture perspective.


14:49.38

sashawight

And yeah and I think that's quite a significant proportion of the workforce when we look at that 25% right so I mean it it can't be ignored and I think when we look at employee experience design.


14:58.10

Charlotte

Yeah, yeah.


15:07.85

sashawight

As a concept and and how we talk about it on the podcast. You know we always talk about designing with personas in mind. So you know if we're looking at redesigning on boarding process or um, you know, even workspaces both digital and physical workspaces. You know we need to i. I would argue based on that Statistic. We need to be. You know, thinking more about disability because it's such a high percentage of employees. Would you agree.


15:39.42

Charlotte

Um, yeah, absolutely yeah I agree and I think um, a lot of the stuff we can do is reasonably simple to implement. It's about having the right conversations.


15:51.46

sashawight

Yes. Yeah.


15:56.44

Charlotte

A lot of it doesn't have a cost to it. A lot of it. Um, and I'll I'll just pick a few. If. For example, we're talking about flexible working which is a very um, very frequent. Um and appropriate adjustment for somebody with. A long-term health condition. For example, so that someone like myself benefits hugely from that um or using captions on all videos for employees who are deaf or hard appearing. Not only do they reduce barriers for disabled employees but they make the workplace better for all.


16:16.72

sashawight

Um, yeah.


16:25.80

sashawight

Yeah.


16:32.60

sashawight

Yeah, yeah.


16:34.72

Charlotte

So when you're starting to explore this. You are this is absolutely about productivity efficiency. Um, and you know feelings of inclusion for 25% of your employees but often what you can do and and even around the recruitment process the more you look at.


16:42.40

sashawight

And.


16:53.65

Charlotte

Adjustments for neurodiverse candidates. For example, they will improve the post The the experience for everybody going through that. So it really is a ah win-win you know sometimes it's not simple, but very often it everybody benefits.


16:53.77

sashawight

Yeah. Move.


17:08.64

sashawight

Yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely. Um, and so ah I guess for our listeners who are maybe new to this or they're thinking about refreshing their approach to employee experience design with disciplines.


17:09.43

Charlotte

Building more disability-incluive environment.


17:25.32

sashawight

Disability inclusion in mind. What are some of the barriers disabled people face in the workplace.


17:34.51

Charlotte

Sure. So um I will I will list a few at each stage and before I do I think 1 thing to say is um, we always say in the in the disability world when you've met 1 person with a disability you've met 1 person with a disability and


17:46.63

sashawight

Yeah.


17:50.63

Charlotte

Key is to ask people and understand from them how they work best saying that there are some real um common barriers at all stages. So if we take recruitment and we think about before you that someone's even applied for a role in your company.


18:09.47

Charlotte

There are lots of things that you can do around the job description. For example, Um, so a job ad but might be inaccessible if it's only in a written format if it's not available in Braille for example or if it's not available in a format that a screen reader So someone. Who is blind or wishing a impaired might use a screen reader. Um, you can instantly put up barriers to accessing job descriptions if they're not accessible and also language and and text what's written on the job description. So um. For example, for neurodiverse candidates the the less complex and wordy. The job description the better and also thinking about um and I've I've seen this I get sent these you would believe descriptions I get sent from just friends and family who are looking online and they see something they send it. They say what do you think of this. Things like um, you know you might have a statement to say we you know we support you know everybody and we don't discriminate and we welcome people with disabilities. That's that's a good start. But if you don't then make it really clear what you mean in that commitment or make it really easy and positive for someone. To request an accommodation or an access need. Um it can feel very what we call performative which is you know it's just about what it looks like on the on the website but actually there's no, um, there's no real action behind it. Um, and also then if you have these.


19:42.58

Charlotte

If you have a great statement around accessibility and someone gets in contact and says right? Okay, you know I benefit from closed captions or I need a break after 45 minutes how have you trained your recruiters to. Deliver an amazing experience for somebody who requests an accommodation because the the reputational benefit and all risk and damage at this stage and you know we know it and I've heard you talk a lot about um, maybe not so much this specifically. But.


20:00.89

sashawight

Yeah.


20:17.38

sashawight

And.


20:17.92

Charlotte

Generations entering the workforce. You know their their expectations and requirements are a lot higher and they will call companies out and I see that now on on Linkedin um, you know that shouldn't be a reason to do it. But I think being mindful that you know the more you can do it actually it rebuilds your reputation. Um.


20:32.30

sashawight

So yeah.


20:36.39

Charlotte

And training exactly training your your folks so that they feel really confident in that space. Um, and other other areas around. There's a lot of language that's heavily embedded in our society that could be considered or would be considered. Able list. They're potentially discriminatory and 1 um one that I often get forwarded is language like you know we need someone to hit the ground running and it's just being aware of how that lands with somebody who has a disability so there's.


21:07.75

sashawight

Yes, yes.


21:11.46

Charlotte

And these are the kind of things consultants and I I do a bit of work in this space. Actually I'm working with a ah company now we're looking at the whole process of how do we in particular actually train creatures. How do we make that process more open and inclusive and continually learn from the feedback we get.


21:25.80

sashawight

Yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely. It's um, it's so funny I've been taking notes where you've been talking and I think where you've said a lot of organizations will have statements and sometimes they are. You know, borderline performative or or just entirely performative and it has made me think you know just in terms of our own podcasts and I know Charlotte you said this to me before we were recording. You know can we have a transcript for people that won't be able to listen to the podcast and.


21:54.81

Charlotte

Yeah.


21:59.14

sashawight

It was a really amazing bit of feedback for us to receive because we talk all the time on the podcast and we have a statement at the bottom of the podcast show notes about being inclusive and using inclusive language but are we really doing enough and so you know I think it's a really healthy challenge for organizations to. I Guess on a regular basis to be looking at what are the commitments we're making Publicly. What are the statements we're including in our job Descriptions. For example, are we living up to those promises. Um and just constantly challenging ourselves as whether it be podcasts individual consultants large organizations to say like are we.


22:28.93

Charlotte

Um, yeah.


22:37.22

sashawight

Constantly moving the needle on this to make sure that we are being an inclusive organization. So I just kind of wanted to cool that out because I think it's really, it's really relevant and I think as well when you're talking about making job descriptions inclusive So thinking about the language as well. Um.


22:41.43

Charlotte

Um, yeah.


22:53.44

sashawight

And how people access them and the recruitment process I'd imagine as well. There's a big part of that work in kind of bias and discrimination as well And so you know having conversations that say just because someone's asked for adjustments to the recruitment process.


23:03.94

Charlotte

Yeah.


23:11.68

sashawight

You know, doesn't mean they should be um at a disadvantage when it comes to the overall process are those conversations you're having as well when you're talking to organizations about how to improve the recruitment side of things.


23:15.88

Charlotte

Um, walk.


23:24.46

Charlotte

Yes, and what you have touched on there alongside physical and digital barriers for me is the biggest barrier to to actually starting the work which is I call it an attitudinal barrier which is spigma.


23:31.70

sashawight

Was.


23:36.86

sashawight

Yes, move? Yes, yes.


23:43.61

Charlotte

Around disability and you know a lot of companies do unconscious bias training. Um I do unconscious bias training sometimes with a specific lens on disability and really getting rook. Well everyone to think. About what are the unconscious bias says that you have about people with disabilities whether it's around their capability whether it's around you know what can they do the job and what what are meaning? Do you put to the word.


24:03.11

sashawight

Yeah.


24:10.92

sashawight

Um.


24:15.77

sashawight

Yes.


24:20.20

Charlotte

Disability. Um, and what that court you know and there's if if we really explore you know media and the movie movies Portrayal in the movie story portraying of disability is terrible and I won't I won't.


24:26.00

sashawight

You yeah.


24:34.66

Charlotte

Start naming it shaing lots of movies. But you only have to Google it to see there's been kind of a few reports on that and and how we've grown up learning about disability. Especially if you're not surrounded by you don't grow up with someone with a disability a family member or yourself and what that has caused is a real.


24:34.71

sashawight

Yes.


24:46.32

sashawight

Yeah.


24:53.64

Charlotte

Fear and discomfort in leaders and this would be this would be you know recruiters I've all experienced this too to avoid talking about disability. Um, and you know I've heard stories of and there are some good stories. There are some organizations by the way doing this amazingly.


24:59.65

sashawight

16


25:11.15

Charlotte

But you know it's it's subtle things like someone might say you know just so I've got a disability and the reaction from a recruiter's perspective. 1 individual said that they said oh I'm so sorry I you know I didn't realize that you suffered. Um.


25:28.10

sashawight

Yeah, yeah.


25:29.59

Charlotte

And that's a very well. There's a lot to unpack there. But there's a lot of assumptions in that we we don't need people to of course feel sorry for us, we just want people to advocate for us and help remove barriers. So there's a lot around um and it takes time to work on making those biases conscious.


25:36.82

sashawight

Yeah.


25:42.38

sashawight

And.


25:49.20

Charlotte

And we call it disability confident leaders or disability confident employers and there are specific courses that you can do about this and we do some of this training to get more comfortable with disability to use the word disability not to avoid the word. To understand how it's intended that it's about removing barriers not focusing on the the person. Um, so yes, that is it a huge you can do all of the physical and digital accessibility changes. But if your employers aren't comfortable talking about it your disabled folk will not feel like it's safe. Space.


26:05.57

sashawight

Yes.


26:16.92

sashawight

Yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely and I think we've we kind of we've focused on that example of I guess entering the workforce and and joining as well. But I you know my mind is.


26:23.48

Charlotte

To declare and talk about disability.


26:36.18

sashawight

Whirling with examples of where this is important throughout that lifecycle. So whether that's the offboarding experience. You know, just even things like how are disabled employees experience life events like going on maternity leave getting pregnant um getting promotion going for promotion. You know all of those.


26:51.20

Charlotte

Um, yeah.


26:55.32

sashawight

Really important what we call moments that matter kind of looking at them through that disability inclusion lens and thinking how how do our disabled employees experience these moments and I think so often we default to physical disability. Um. But that is narrow minded and quite shortsighted right? and I think that's why awareness is so so important and incorporating this into our design process is really key which leads me onto my last question. Um, for this part of the podcast part one.


27:15.42

Charlotte

Yeah.


27:30.25

sashawight

How do you think? yeah eex practitioners can help remove some of those barriers that we've discussed in the workplace. So what can we do as a community of practitioners given that we design these experiences to remove some of those barriers for disabled employees.


27:49.24

Charlotte

So there are and you've just named more and I could name many more um you know small examples across the lifecycle where there are opportunities to improve inclusion accessibility for me, it starts with. Asking your current employees and gathering data around accessibility and inclusion challenges and really until you know we talk a lot about nothing about us without us in the disability space until you know how your employees and. It helps to do this from a disabled disability lens but but it can also just be done from a how how well and with you know with what level of ease. Can you access our systems and processes where where do you face challenges. And what more could we be doing to improve your experience across the lifecycle I I taught we've spoken a bit about recruitment but I would actually focus first on the employees already in your business. The systems and processes that they are using the training they go to. Commons that you use internally to understand what the biggest barriers are and once you can identify what the biggest barriers are then you know where to start? Um, so I would start by trying to gather the data before you try and fix anything.


29:15.52

sashawight

Yeah, yeah, definitely that I think that's really great advice and you touched on this early and we've spoken about this offline which is often people can feel a bit anxious approaching this topic if it isn't an experience.


29:18.32

Charlotte

Without understanding how your employees are experiencing it.


29:35.36

sashawight

They have and so you know we spoke about leaders For example, um, often shying away from the topic because they're afraid of saying the wrong thing or asking the wrong questions and I think there might be that that kind of same consideration for Ex designers or Eex folks. Which is it's safer for us to jump into making changes before we ask questions because you know we're not confronting issues. We're not Asking. You know we're not asking questions that might lead to uncomfortable answers about the way that we've designed processes thus far. Does that make sense and so I think yeah as you say going out and and really investing time in what I would say is a very important and vulnerable exercise to gather feedback and gather the data as you say and have those more challenging conversations about.


30:13.17

Charlotte

Yes, yes.


30:32.60

Charlotte

Um, and.


30:32.90

sashawight

What isn't right right? Now. What's not working and so yeah I think it's a really a really great bit of advice. Go out and get that data. Um, and as you say focus on the people in your organization. Um I think you're right that when I when I see disability inclusion in the eex sphere at we and Accessibility. We. We do focus a lot on the hiring process which is really really important. Um, but your people that are already working with you and experiencing this day in day out are also an incredibly important Persona group. Um, So yeah I think that's a really great suggestion.


31:09.68

Charlotte

Great. Thank you I agree I'm just just not that sorry you made me think I know you need to move on but that for your employee experience folk and I agree with the challenges that the the concern that can be in that space. Especially if you don't identify as having a disability.


31:10.94

sashawight

Cool all right? yes.


31:26.84

sashawight

Um.


31:28.63

Charlotte

Starting with that disability confidence training building understanding taking time in your own space really helps and I've seen the difference that makes in confidence to feel like you're not worried about saying the wrong thing but you're not worried about offend people et etc. So that's always.


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