Is your attraction strategy inclusive? 5 critical success factors to reach the 13% of disabled students

Author - Helen Cooke, Director, MyPlus

Once again it is that time of year when student recruiters’ attention is very much focused on planning for the next recruitment season. Agreeing your strategy and putting plans in place is crucial if you are to meet the headcount needs of the business. And if you are going to capitalise on the growing talent pool of disabled students it is imperative that you are inclusive from the off. Last year the number of undergraduates who have a disability rose to 13%; that is more than 1 in 8 of your talent pool. This is a huge talent pool that any intelligent recruiter would want to capitalise on.

The following 5 steps will ensure that your attraction strategy is fit for purpose when it comes to including all students, including those who have a disability.

1.     Clarity
Before you start putting your marketing plans together, or indeed implementing them, it is obviously important to ensure that you are clear about what you want to achieve and what success will look like. An effective way of doing this is to start by identifying where you are currently i.e. what % of your applicants inform you they have a disability / request adjustments / are offered places. You then need to agree what success looks like; it is advisable to set targets (not quotas) as these enable you to measure progress, your ROI and how effective your strategy is.

2.     Buy in
You will only really achieve actual, sustainable success if you gain buy in, and indeed ownership, from across the firm, and particularly from the senior management team; without this it will be harder to make the progress you want to make.

Identify and seek input from all of the different stakeholders including, but not limited to, interviewers, hiring managers, sponsors, campus reps, as you put your strategy together and keep them informed as you progress. 

3.    A compelling disability-focused value proposition
All potential recruits want to know what your value proposition is; they want to know about your company, the culture, the opportunities, career progression and so on. Disabled individuals also want to know this however, in addition, they also have another layer of questions that are related to their disability. 

Your value proposition will set out why you value diversity in general, and disability in particular; your approach to disability; the support that is on offer and how to access it; and whether you have a disability network to name but a few things. From this will come your marketing messages which, if effective, will engage with this talent pool

4.    Authenticity
Students are a cynical bunch and they will spot tokenism a mile off. With that in mind, how are you actually going to demonstrate that who you say you are, and what you say you do, is real?
All organisations say that they are an ‘equal opportunities employer’; you say you are inclusive. Of course you do; you aren’t going to say otherwise. So now you have to prove it. And the most effective way of doing this is for those already in your organisation, who have a disability, to share their experiences including the support they have had, how this has been provided, team dynamics, reactions from clients – and all the other things that applicants want to know. And you need to have role models from throughout the organisation, from recent graduates to senior managers, since individuals want and need to know that support continues throughout their career and that their progression won’t be limited.

5.    Metrics
As that well-known quote states: what gets measured gets done. The only way to really know if your strategy is working is to have quantifiable measures.  And, as I said earlier, it is advisable to set targets in order that you can measure your progress against these.
In addition to tracking the number of applicants who apply, and success rates as they progress through your process, these measurements may also be used to highlight any unintended barriers in the process that need further exploration. For example, if high numbers of disabled applicants are rejected after the telephone interview there may be a reason for this that needs to be addressed.

There is obviously much more to consider when setting an inclusive strategy and considering how you will engage with the growing talent pool of disabled students however, by ensuring you have these 5 factors covered at the beginning will get you off to a great start on which you can build.