Truly Inclusive D&I Programs: Adding IDD

By: Taryn Oesch – 04/25/2018

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives are increasingly popular, and with good reason: Diverse workplaces are good for people, and they’re good for business. But many D&I initiatives focus on gender, race and ethnicity – all of which are important – but, ironically, exclude other areas – like integrating employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) into the workforce. In fact, less than one-fourth of D&I recruiting initiatives focus on individuals with IDD.

That’s despite research showing that hiring individuals with IDD has a lot of great benefits for employers. According to the Institute for Corporate Productivity (I4CP), at least 75 percent of employers rate their hires with IDD as “good” or “very good” on most performance measures, including work quality and productivity. A leadership development manager at Fifth Third Bank told I4CP, “We’ve shown that IDD workers can do complex work. They are prepared for the world of work, for orientation, for performance management.”

So, what are the first steps to including IDD as a focus area in D&I initiatives? Here are some guidelines.

  1. Sell It.

Build the case for recruiting individuals with IDD to present to your executive team. This case can include examples of successful companies, like the ones I4CP shares in its research and specific skills that individuals with IDD can bring to the table. It’s also important to share specific ways that inclusion will benefit your company. For example, is your company a government contractor? Hiring employees with IDD can help meet diversity requirements set by federal or state agencies. What types of programs does your local community look for in an employer? Including IDD in a D&I initiative – and sharing stories from the initiative with the community – can be an impactful public relations as well as recruiting strategy. People are increasingly looking for social conscientiousness from the companies they buy from and work for.

  1. Start Simple.

Provide simple educational and awareness programs for employees to launch the program, such as lunch-and-learns, an online video from the CEO or an internal blog post. These programs will help ensure that employees buy in to the program and relate well with co-workers with IDD once they are hired.

  1. Establish Metrics.

How will you know if your D&I initiative is successful? Determine how you’ll evaluate success. Do you want to hire a certain number of employees with IDD? What measures will you use to evaluate their performance? How will you measure their engagement with the company and with their co-workers? Answering these questions ahead of time will ensure that you stick to your goals and can demonstrate success later.

  1. Address Biases.

We all have biases, whether they’re conscious or unconscious. Take a look at your own biases, and help executives and employees do the same. Provide some training to examine and overcome biases. For example, what stereotypes do employees have about someone with an intellectual disorder? Provide some real examples of people with an intellectual disorder who successfully work for other companies and contribute to their success.

  1. Monitor and Communicate.

Continuously monitor progress using both quantitative metrics as well as feedback from employees and executives. Keep the lines of communication open both ways; give information when needed (and in the format preferred by your company), and solicit information from others, particularly those who work with or manage employees with IDD. These data will make sure that your hiring, onboarding, training and management programs are meeting the needs of both the employees with IDD and the rest of the organization.

And, of course, always reach out to The Power of the Dream if you have any questions.