Tips for Building Your Disability Friendly Brand: Key Takeaways from the NOD Corporate Leadership Council’s April Networking Luncheon
Representatives from over 35 companies attended the NOD Corporate Leadership Council’s April networking luncheon, “Fostering Engagement, Attracting Diverse Talent: The Value of a Disability Inclusive Brand.” EY, Charter Communications, and The Hershey Company shared some of their strategies for building disability-friendly brands, ranging from sensory-friendly events and fostering service dogs on the corporate campus, to integrating universal design principles into consumer products and embedding people with disabilities across the product design process. Each of these companies has realized returns on their investments in branding their workplaces as disability friendly, including increased rates of disability self-identification, broader appeal in the consumer marketplace, and improved employee engagement.
We culled key takeaways from the exclusive Council event that you can use to signal that your company is committed to disability inclusion to employees, jobseekers, and consumers alike:
- Engage your employees with disabilities in developing and testing products and services. Peter Brown, Vice President of Design for Charter Communications said, “We bake accessibility into everything you do, just like baking a blueberry muffin. It’s hard to add the blueberries after you baked the muffin.” At Charter, they are embedding people with disabilities across their design team, ensuring that products are being tested and monitored for accessibility at every step of the process. This also spurs team-wide innovation in their work to build accessible products and improve quality of life for the people with disabilities that use them.
- Look for creative opportunities to engage all of your employees in disability inclusion. Alicia Petross, Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion & Engagement for The Hershey Company, found just such an opportunity when she met Hachi: a Chocolate Labrador puppy training to be a service dog. A Hershey employee was fostering Hachi, and asked if she could bring the puppy to work. Alicia saw having Hachi on the Hershey campus – and other dogs like him – as a chance to build community and enhance Hershey’s disability inclusive culture. Since implementing the program in partnership with Susquehanna Service Dogs, the company’s disability self-identification rates have risen 29%, indicating increases in employee engagement and trust in the company.
- Share employee stories with your entire workforce. David O’Brien, Partner, Americas Brand, Marketing and Communications for EY, discussed how having employees – including senior management – share their personal stories, has created an inclusive and empowering environment where employees can feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work. EY shared a video with Council members featuring a non-binary, transgender employee who is also on the autism spectrum relating how important acceptance at work is to her. Similarly, PwC showed a video of an employee who uses a wheelchair talking about how his unique life experiences have enabled him to be a more productive and accomplished team member. Visible storytelling, like these examples, goes a long way toward building trust and fostering pride across the workforce. O’Brien related that “…as the story [in the video] has gotten told, our own people have shown remarkable pride in this. They’re interested. And then they are so prideful of the fact they work for a company like this.”
- Put your brand behind causes. The panel was moderated by Sheri Klein from The Ad Council. Sheri shared a case study of the Love Has No Labels anti-bias campaign, which showed that 63% of employees felt good knowing they work for a company that supports the campaign. Visibility matters, and just as employees feel proud to work for inclusive companies, consumers also care deeply about how and where they spend their money.
With this in mind, think about what a campaign highlighting your company’s commitment to hiring people with disabilities could do for your employee engagement. Find out more about the NOD Compact Awareness Campaign.
Plus, don’t miss the next NOD Corporate Leadership Council event! Join us on September 25th in the Washington, D.C. area for our Annual Forum + Leading Disability Employers Dinner: “New Frontiers in Disability Employment“.