HC talks to the SEEK Group HR Director about how HR managers can create a more diverse and inclusive workplace
In Australia, there are around 350,000 people who are blind or have low-vision, and this figure is expected to rise to 550,000 within the next 15 years.
Of those who can work, approximately 60% are unable to find employment.
In order to raise awareness of this issue and to help people who are vision-impaired with their careers, SEEK recently ran an eight-week pilot work experience program in partnership with Vision Australia.
HC interviewed Kathleen McCudden, SEEK Group HR Director, about the program, and how HR managers can create a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
What are the main goals you are trying to achieve from the program?
The aim of our pilot work experience program was to learn what SEEK can do to create a more inclusive workplace for people who are blind or have low-vision, to open a new talent pool for SEEK, and to provide a rewarding work experience for those partaking in the program and help to progress their careers .
By sharing our pilot program learnings, hopefully this will inspire other organisations to run similar work experience programs to support people with disabilities to gain skilled work experience and ultimately secure employment.
SEEK created a series of educational videos, that feature our pilot participants, to help socialise our learnings to hirers and candidates, which can be viewed across our SEEK digital channels. The videos have also been well received by the people at SEEK, as they reflect our commitment to being an inclusive and welcoming place to work.
In looking at creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace, why did you decide to specifically focus on people who are blind or have low vision?
We decided to run our pilot work experience program with participants who are blind or have low vision after working with Vision Australia to support one of our new employees re-entering the workforce after they started losing their sight.
This experience made us aware of all the services Vision Australia has available to help people who are blind or have low vision to ensure a smooth on-boarding process into a workplace. This inspired us to partner with Vision Australia to run our pilot program.
At SEEK we are very passionate about creating a diverse and inclusive workplace, and feel by running a work experience program for people with disabilities, it opens up a new talent pool for us.
Currently at SEEK we have three people working for us on a casual or permanent basis in our Melbourne office who are blind or have low vision, and they’re terrific employees who contribute as competently as their able-bodied colleagues. Moreover, as the largest employment platform in Australia and New Zealand, we are learning a lot from these colleagues and believe this will help us evolve and adapt our services, to cater for candidates and hirers who may also be vision impaired.
What are your tips to HR managers who want to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce?
To run a successful work experience program for people with disabilities, it’s important you bring in the experts (like Vision Australia and Job Access) to help you navigate through the unknown, to discuss your plans and find out their feedback and how they may be able to support your organisation.
SEEK is well known for its ‘people first’ approach, and our employees found it really rewarding to see their workplace learning and trialling how we can make SEEK an even more diverse and inclusive place to work.
Therefore, seeking your colleagues support and feedback, beyond HR, throughout the journey of establishing your program can really help create a richer experience for the participants. It will also help raise the profile of the program across your business because you have support and buy-in.
The program required a strong commitment and investment of time across HR, customer service, marketing and our technology teams, but the rewards for us have been enormous.
Diversity and inclusion is a pretty broad area, so my advice is to take a step back, look at your organisation and focus on areas where there may be a great opportunity to create the a big impact – in a very practical way.