Disability confident organizations play a leading role in changing people’s lives for the better. In creating a supportive, positive and inclusive environment for all, they proactively and positively influence workplace behavior and culture. Not to mention, they have the added edge of attracting a wider pool of applicants and retaining talented employees with a disability.
No one knows this better than global engineering group and leading provider of tools and systems for metal cutting in the mining and construction industries, Sandvik. Its team members are paving the way (pun intended!) to being a disability confident employer.
We spoke with Workforce Planning Manager, Kylie Cook, who has been with Sandvik for more than 13 years.
“I have a broad range of responsibilities, including managing our recruitment, selection and onboarding process in Australia and New Zealand to ensure we have the right people with the skills we need to be successful. I also oversee local compensation and benefits, ensuring they are fair and aligned with the market. The best part about my job is working on strategies that will improve Diversity and Inclusion, which in turn makes it a more interesting place for us all to work.”
Sandvik has fostered Kylie’s passion for making a positive impact on Pay Equity, Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.
“Everyone has the right to contribute in this world and having a disability shouldn’t prevent you from doing so. Whether we like to hear it or not, many organizations have barriers preventing people with a disability from being successful in a career. I believe people with a disability don’t need to change – organizations do!”
For Kylie, becoming a disability confident organization is not just words on a page – it’s a responsibility to the communities in which you operate.
In paving the way to disability confidence, Kylie and other employees at Sandvik share tips to recruit and retain talent with a disability, create inclusive workplaces, and change people’s lives for the better.
1. Identify your champions for change
Are there people in your organization who are willing to participate in trials or case studies for someone with a disability?
“Find the right managers and teams in your organization who are passionate and supportive towards helping people with a disability succeed. This is really important, because you need people to go the extra mile and take the time to work with the individual to make them feel safe and included,” said Kylie.
She identified Tony, a local manager at their Mt Isa site who runs a workshop and is always on the lookout for great talent. A well-known member of the local community, active charitable volunteer and overall empathetic, supportive person, she knew he’d be the right person for the job.
“He gets on board with anything that will have a positive impact on others. He’s a true champion! We created a case study with Tony, with the support of one of our Recruitment Specialists, and a DE&I advocate. We had the opportunity to make a big impact on the community by helping those who are disadvantaged join the workforce.”
2. Partner with Disability Employment Service Providers
Disability Employment Services help organizations to connect with talented individuals, understand their needs and use inclusive practices. A partnership with a local Disability Employment Agency helped strengthen Sandvik’s recruitment process.
“The agency we chose offered candidates lots of support during recruitment. We realised that it wasn’t about finding people who could fit into Sandvik. We had to find ways for Sandvik to change for each individual case. And the more support family, friends, support workers, managers and HR could give, the better!”
Determined to underpin their recruitment process with supportive, inclusive practices, Sandvik team members found a standout candidate, Morgan. While he did experience some anxiety, the team worked to understand his needs and helped him to overcome some of his challenges.
“We had some really great conversations to identify what he was comfortable doing. We let him set the pace in what he wanted to achieve and worked closely with him to bring him onboard.”
Tony recommends organizations keep in mind that every individual is unique.
“You need to work with each individual closely to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and mould opportunities to their needs,” said Tony. “Allow yourself to be guided by them. You also need to educate your fellow team members about behaviors and expectations, and ensure they feel included too.”
Sandvik actively contributes to the community in many ways other ways around QLD, NSW and WA.
Check out the other Community Engagement opportunities are available to employees on their benefits and policies page.
3. Create a safe, supportive environment with your team
Inclusive recruitment and onboarding require inclusive environments. This can sometimes mean extra effort upfront: so Sandvik takes a proactive approach.
“We gauged Morgan’s limitations and worked really closely to train him and ensure he felt confident in his role,” said Tony. “We also engaged our team – as everyone has to take ownership and be part of providing a good working environment. Now, I meet with him on a weekly basis to discuss issues and ensure we’re keeping on top of it.
“He inspires the rest of his family in his work and all the incredible things he’s achieved so far – and can also provide them with more stability and income. He’s such an enthusiastic team member and has a really strong work ethic. It’s been fantastic to see him gain so much confidence, speaking up and growing as a person. He’s made Sandvik a better place to be by being part of our team.”
Tony says the best part about working in his team is the inclusive environment, pathways and opportunities for everyone.
“We share a focus on education, health and wellbeing, and DE&I – which creates great learning opportunities for everyone. Sandvik really is a welcoming, friendly workplace with a great culture. I’m continually impressed with the support they offer all employees. Everyone has a voice and can be heard.”
4. Include and educate team members
Another pillar of disability confident organizations is education. Ensure all your team members feel included in the process and supported through learning.
“Laying the foundations and ensuring all our employees are educated about disability inclusion is the key to us all being on the same page,” said Kylie. “Looking forward, we’re excited about implementing education sessions for Sandvik managers from Disability Employment Services. This will allow us to support more people who experience barriers to employment.”
Kylie’s goal is for managers to feel excited about the opportunities of being a disability confident organization.
“For example, when our managers are recruiting, our goal is for them to initiate the conversation with our recruiters about ensuring a diverse list of candidates, including those with a disability. It will be fantastic to see these efforts happen organically, without prompting.”
On a team level, this can mean being proactive. To do this, Tony hosts weekly meetings with all parties to overcome any issues and concerns, gain feedback and maintain open communication.
5. Strive for continuous improvement
Being a disability confident organization means creating a culture of inclusion, removing barriers for people with disability and enabling everyone to contribute – a process that will always be continually growing, changing and improving.
Celebrate where your organization and teams are already doing a great job. This can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed as you tackle continuous improvement in manageable chunks – based on areas of importance, or availability of resources.
Kylie encourages leaders to do research and ensure organizational policies and practices are inclusive for all people, including people with a disability: “If not, speak up!”
As Tony shares: “Great results come in many forms. It can be individuals asking for extra work hours. It can be seeing someone’s confidence grow. Breaking down barriers and stigmas isn’t always easy. But results don’t just impact one person – it can impact their family, team members, and other employees. The ‘ripple effect’ is far reaching.
“We want to make the selection access path flexible to open employment opportunities for people with a disability. Everyone has skills to bring to the table. On a personal level, changing one life is inspiring. Having the support to change and impact so many people is… WOW! Everyone has a story you may not know! And you may discover you’ll find support in unexpected places.”