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How to embrace disability to attract talent and improve business culture

How to embrace disability to attract talent and improve business culture

International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPD) 2021 – by Georgia Bergers MRICS

RICS exists to set standards and regulate its members and member firms. Even before the updated rules of conduct, our responsibilities for ensuring the diversity and inclusion of our profession should be obvious. We must ensure that disability is included as a form of diversity, and that people with disabilities are welcomed into key roles to shape our global businesses and the built environment.

It is critical to bring new perspectives into the RICS community, to be able to inform how we approach diversity issues. In late 2018, I joined the RICS Americas World Regional Board and established a DEI Working Group, whose mission is to broaden the diversity, equity and inclusion conversation beyond gender. Elevating the voices of people with lived experience is always the group’s top priority.

What we’ve learned so far:

Through the working group’s conversations with people with disabilities, some of the things we’ve learned are:

1. Consider new expertise – for the best expert advice, consciously seek out professionals who have lived experience with disabilities. Consider this when appointing consultants, recruiting, and engaging with employees. Who better to advise on disability than someone who has a disability? Remember that diversity of thought drives the most innovative solutions.

2. Network – actively diversify your professional and personal network. We cannot expect to attract talent and solve new problems with the same inputs. Our forum speakers on LinkedIn [linked within this article] may be a good place to start to find new connections.

3. Include first to attract talent - do your processes and policies for recruitment, retention, development processes help a person with a disability to join your organization? Are there structures to ensure they thrive once there? Being proactive attracts and helps people with disabilities join your business, as well as supporting existing talent who may be afraid to speak up for fear of being stigmatized. Offerings like flexible working arrangements and digital accessibility tools makes your workplace better for everyone.

Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID world

The theme of this year’s International Day of People with Disabilities is “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world”. In a climate of dramatic changes to our workplaces and the way we work, we have an urgent need to retain and attract new talent. Both reasons make this year’s theme particularly relevant.

There are significant differences in employment and income level for people with disabilities. The unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities is nearly double the national average in the United States. RICS members and employers can play a big part in making real change happen in our workplaces, while charting a better future out of COVID19 and addressing the talent pipeline.

Embracing Disability to Attract Talent and Improve Business Culture

With our generous panel of expert speakers at the recent RICS DEI Forum, we explored the topic of “Embracing Disability to Attract Talent and Improve Business Culture”. It was a truly enlightening and moving session and we extend a huge thank you to Gayatri Kini, Sheri Byrne Haber, Peter Slatin, Rojene Russell and Emily Myers. You can watch a recording of the DEI Forum, and hear from professionals who are experts in their respective fields, who also identify as having a disability. No matter where you are in the world, you’ll take away new perspectives to help you increase inclusion and make your company and culture one that will attract talent from new pools.

As we re-define how we work, we have an opportunity to ensure a more varied and representative group of voices are heard. We can take the lead by creating a culture that affirms the needs of current workforces, and advocate for adaptations in the workplace, many of which are low or no cost. Directors, managers and human resource professionals can provide support and education to the broader firm to help reduce stigma and demonstrate fairness through hiring.

Get involved

We’re growing our working group. If you’re a Chartered Surveyor (MRICS, FRICS) or work for an RICS Member Firm, and are interested in supporting the Americas regional initiatives to promote inclusion in the built and natural environment, please reach out to Lorella Patterson