When the Disability Equality Index (DEI) first launched in 2014, it included just 48 companies. Today, that number has more than quintupled to 247. Fortune 1000 companies and America’s top 200 revenue grossing law firms (Am Law 200) use the DEI as a benchmarking tool to assess their workplace inclusion levels against the competition.
“We’re proud of how the Disability Equality Index has advanced to nudge companies to do more,” said Jill Houghton, President & CEO of Disability:IN. “As we look towards the future of work, we need to maintain focus on accessibility as the business core, and unleash innovation through inclusion.”
The DEI measures many elements of workplace inclusion, including (but not limited to) Culture and Leadership, Employment Practices, Community Engagement, and Supplier Diversity. The information provided for these categories creates a comprehensive view of each company’s efforts towards building an inclusive workplace.
Why focus on inclusion?
Multiple studies illustrate the benefits of an inclusive workplace environment. Deloitte’s 2018 study found that organizations with inclusive cultures are three times as likely to be high-performing, and twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets. Accenture’s study (which was part of the DEI 2020) showed that companies identified as leaders in disability employment and inclusion culture had twice the net income of their comparable peers.
Given that an inclusive culture is one in which employees feel like they are treated equally and fairly, it is unsurprising to see such positive results. Employee satisfaction and happiness are core drivers of engagement and productivity, and people with disabilities have long shown to be exceptionally valuable employees.
Additionally, an inclusive organization is more likely to strive for an inclusive customer base. Considering that over a quarter of the adults in the United States live with a disability and worldwide people with disabilities have an estimated 1 trillion dollars in disposable income, smart companies are already making great efforts to accommodate customers of all abilities.
How to build a more inclusive work environment
Inclusive cultures, at their core, are based on equality. And it’s hard to have equality when you are unable to accommodate people with different abilities. “Leveling the playing field” for everyone will not only make people feel more comfortable and appreciated but also improve their productivity and level of work engagement.
Having the right tools for success
One way you can build a more inclusive work environment is by ensuring employees are supported in doing their jobs. If you have visually impaired employees, that could involve purchasing screen readers, like JAWS, to enable them to access digital content. If you have employees with cognitive disabilities, like autism, it could mean having a sensory-relief room in which they can calm down in times of stress. In principle, these accommodations are no different from offering a working laptop or comfortable chairs. They enable employees to do their jobs well.
Ensuring accessible digital applications
All organizations have company-wide software (usually HR-related) that everyone is required to use. However, if they’re not accessible, your organization is not providing an equal environment. Employee portals, time-recording software, e-learning platforms, etc.: these are all examples of digital content that needs to be reviewed for accessibility. You can find out more about the accessibility of your programs by partnering with an accessibility consultancy like TPGi.
Employing strategic organizational planning
An inclusive work environment rarely—if ever—happens organically. Commitment and buy-in from leadership are critical, as are strategic plans for integrating accessibility into all levels of an organization. TPGi offers support for building an accessibility program through custom road maps or even embedded experts.
Gather employee input
An interesting quirk of humanity often results in two people experiencing the same situation very differently. While senior leadership may think their organization’s workplace is inclusive, employees may have different opinions. Talking to employees and actually making an effort to implement changes they suggest will go a long way toward improving morale and your workplace’s inclusivity.
The DEI is just one indicator that companies are taking inclusiveness seriously. They’re aware of the advantages and are embracing it. But even if your organization isn’t a Fortune 1000 company, you can still reap the benefits of an inclusive work culture. Contact TPGi today to learn how we can help support your efforts.