Hosted by Channel 4
Engaging with disabled students and encouraging them to apply for opportunities continues to be one of the key challenges that face many recruiters. The reasons for lack of progress in attracting disabled students are many and varied – from being too busy and lacking resource to being fearful of seemingly ‘getting it wrong’. However, underlying all the reasons is often the fact that employers lack an inclusive attraction strategy; they are not clear what they want to achieve, how they are going to achieve it or what resources they need to support them. The purpose of this workshop was to help employers ensure that their attraction strategy was inclusive of all, including those who have a disability.
After reminding themselves of what is covered by the term ‘disability’, the delegates moved on to think about the challenges, questions and concerns that students with disabilities may have which their non-disabled counterparts will not have. The reason for doing this as Helen Cooke, Director of MyPlus Consulting, said is that if we are to ensure that our engagement messages are appropriate we first must understand our audience.
Knowing more about our target audience including that they may fear discrimination, be concerned about being open about their disability or have questions about the support available to them, the delegates moved on to think about key messages. These are the messages that employers need to communicate to potential applicants to address these concerns and position themselves as an employer of choice for those who have a disability. These will include, but are in no way limited to, talking about the importance of disability to them as an organisation, encouraging openness in order to access support, and how they support individuals both during the recruitment process and in the workplace.
The final part of the jigsaw is to effectively communicate these messages so that they are easily accessible to those who are looking for them. The main communication channels are those that student recruiters are already leveraging – their website, university careers services, student ambassadors and marketing events such as skills sessions and presentations. What is fundamental, however, is to ensure that all communications include your messaging about disability. Only by ensuring that every single message recruiters communicate is inclusive of those will a disability, will they be able to position themselves as employers of choice for this growing talent pool.
Whilst it is understandable that many recruiters do struggle to attract applicants with disabilities, breaking down the strategy into building understanding, key messages and communication channels makes it so much more achievable. Delegates left the workshop with a number of practical solutions that they could easily implement, along with some that would take more time. Of importance, however, was that they all left feeling that this was something that they could do rather than as an obstacle that was just too difficult to tackle.