The Apprentice – you’re hired!

By Charles Clement

Charles Photo 

Recruiting the right candidate can be a challenging business. How do you make sure you get the right person with all of the skills necessary to do the job?

If you’ve been following the las t 12 weeks of The Apprentice you’ll see that more and more candidates are expected to show a diverse range of skills, not only technical abilities, but personal and social skills too. Just like Lord Sugar employers are increasingly using a diverse range of methods to test applicants. However, these can present all manner of challenges for disabled applicants. There is a legal duty to make adjustments for disabled candidates during the recruitment process. Let’s see what changes Lord Sugar could have made during the process.

First of all, there is the ‘brainstorming’ session at the start of each task. Everyone is vying to be heard and talking over each other and it can turn in to a bit of a bunfight. This could be really stressful for someone who feels anxious easily. The unstructured nature of these meetings may also cause problems for people who are hard of hearing. One of the most effective things here would be to do some planning beforehand. A clear agenda of what is going to be discussed and when would make the meetings a little less stressful and help deaf candidates keep track of what was happening. Another easy change that could be made would be to ask everyone to speak one at a time. This may help those who needed to lip read or use an interpreter. But wouldn’t these changes make the task easier for everyone? And just think how much more productive they would be.

Then there are all the tasks that require candidates to run around buildings or warehouses taking measurements on the fly or adding things up in their head – no calculators allowed. Now this is just asking for mistakes to be made – disabled or not. And if you have a condition such as dyslexia, this might be particularly challenging. Why not allow people some quiet time and space to double check figures and make sure they are right or, better still, allow them to use a calculator. I’m assuming that you wouldn’t ban calculators from the workplace too?

And what about the creative challenges such as creating and branding a product? Not everyone will feel comfortable with this type of challenge – particularly perhaps if you have Asperger’s Syndrome or autism, and might feel more comfortable working with figures or processes (although of course this isn’t the case for everyone). Often, people will only apply for roles they think that they can do; so if someone applies for a role as an accountant, don’t give them a generic test that requires creative thinking, unless that is required in the job.

With all this in mind, Lord Sugar might actually decide it would be reasonable to allow some candidates to bypass the process completely and do a work trial on the job. But I suppose that wouldn’t make very good television.

To ensure your recruitment process is inclusive and giving your business access the widest talent pool, contact Business Disability Forum (BDF) for more advice. BDF member organisations can get in touch with our Advice service on 020-7403-3020.

Susan Scott-Parker talks accessible recruitment at 2015 Global Recruiter Summit

By Emily Jackson


On 11 February, delegates from across the business world descended on central London for the annual Global Recruiter UK Summit. Taking place at the brilliant 30 Euston Square venue, the conference featured guest speakers from across the recruitment industry, including representative bodies, members of government and recruitment specialists themselves.

Susan Scott-Parker talks accessible recruitment at Global Recruiter two thousand and fifteen

Chaired by Chairman of APSCo and Recruitment Sector Investor, Miles Hunt, this year’s conference focussed on the topic of evolutionary recruitment and the adaptations recruitment companies must make to access the widest possible talent pool and ultimately stay ahead of the curve.

Joining a wide range of experts and industry leaders speaking at this event, Business Disability Forum (BDF) Founder and CEO, Susan Scott-Parker gave an engaging and eye-opening presentation to delegates entitled ‘Revolutionary Recruitment’. Speaking directly to the wide range of recruitment industry representatives present, Susan’s presentation established the ways in which recruitment companies will best meet their client’s ultimate goal of accessing and attracting the widest talent pool by changing how they operate.

By becoming increasingly disability confident and incorporating accessibility into each and every stage of the recruitment process, organisations will place themselves in the best possible position to attract, recruit and retain employees from the broadest possible talent pool. This process begins at the very beginning, from making online applications accessible to disabled people, to the ways in which potential candidates are contacted, all the way through to the interview process, offering the position and finally, taking on new employees.

Speaking in her engaging signature style, Susan began the presentation by asking to stand, those in the audience who could. Once standing, Susan began to read aloud a list of disabilities and asking audience members to sit down if they themselves or someone they knew had any of the disabilities noted. Before reaching the halfway point of the list, all audience members had already returned to their seats. This simple task immediately illustrated the fact that disability is not a peripheral or minor issue, but something that affects the large majority of us in a variety of different ways.

The presentation focussed on the central leitmotif which states:

“If recruiters and recruitment companies make it easier for their employers to ensure that their procedures are accessible to people with disabilities, then everybody wins a balloon”.

In keeping with BDF’s aim of working towards the mutual benefit of disabled people and business, Susan outlined a number of ways in which recruitment companies can begin to build and implement accessibility into their organisation

Firstly, ensuring candidates with a visual impairment can easily read the company’s online database and publications. This is particularly important when making adjustments for an aging workforce such as that in Britain. Furthermore, ensuring that your company website is fully accessible to the 10% of the workforce who have dyslexia so that they can use your company’s online application service successfully as opposed to taking their business elsewhere. In terms of communication, ensuring that applicants are provided with a number of different ways in which to contact the employer so that candidates with a hearing impairment for example can easily apply for the role. And finally, ensuring that your premises and your client’s premises is physically accessible to people with a disability. This could be as simple as installing a ramp where there are stairs or installing automatic doors to aid wheelchair users.

Having presented and illustrated a number of ways in which recruitment companies can incorporate accessibility into their business models, Susan went on to describe how BDF works and what it can do for its members and partners. Susan described the essence of BDF as a company which:

“…enables all human beings – in all our complexity, in all our oddness, in all our non-standardness to contribute to business success.”

To close, Susan ended with a discussion on the importance of changing attitudes. Whilst making your business accessible to people with a disability is vital if you are to succeed in reaching the widest possible skilled workforce, you should not need a business case to treat people properly and fairly.

BDF extend a warm welcome to Graeme Whippy of Lloyds Banking Group

By Emily Jackson

dfi-session-2

Senior Disability Manager at Lloyds Banking Group, Graeme Whippy, is on a year-long secondment to BDF. For over 10 years Graeme has been at the forefront of disability at Lloyds, initially as the founder of their IT Accessibility team, then working in the Group Disability Programme team which helped the organisation secure a Gold rating in the Disability Standard in 2012 and 2014.

The team at Business Disability Forum look forward to working with Graeme to leverage the wealth of experience Lloyds Banking Group has acquired on its journey to becoming a “disability smart” organisation. Graeme’s initial focus at BDF will be to help develop a Member service around workplace adjustments based on the award winning process he implemented at Lloyds and the lessons learned. Other opportunities for collaboration include sharing and further developing best practice around recruitment, retention and colleague engagement.

Graeme said:

“I am very keen to share the corporate experience I have gained, but also to get a greater insight into the experiences of other organisations across different sectors. Being seconded is not just great for me and BDF, it’s also great for Lloyds Banking Group who have reached a level where they can now assist others.”

Why small businesses should forget the myth that hiring disabled people is ‘too hard’

This Saturday 6 December is Small Business Saturday in the UK. The aim of the day is to encourage consumers to support small businesses in their communities, and highlight the success of those that are getting things right for their customers.

Operating a small business can be tough – running on tight margins, competing with large businesses and dealing with high staff turnover are just a few of the many concerns on the minds of small business owners.

Image of a small business owner smiling on showroom floor

Recruiting for roles in a small business can be particularly hard when juggling these multiple priorities with day-to-day operations; it’s often tempting to settle for the person recommended by a friend or your neighbour’s relative who’s looking for work, just to temporarily fill the void.

If your business takes a similar approach to recruitment, you could be missing an opportunity to tap into the huge market of disabled talent here in the UK. There are 5.2 disabled people of working age in the UK, 53.7% of whom are not currently employed[i]. That’s a sizeable talent pool of 2.8 million people that might have the ideal attitude, skills and experience for your role.

In the past, the financial implications of making a hiring decision has prompted many small business operators to hesitate offering jobs to disabled people, regardless of whether or not they were the best person for the job[ii]. With 42% of disabled people looking for work naming employer attitudes as a barrier to successfully gaining employment[iii], initiatives such as the Department of Work and Pension’s (DWP) ‘Disability Confident’ campaign are looking to change assumptions about hiring disabled people.

Launched by the Prime Minister in July 2013, Disability Confident aims to dispel the myths about the complexities of employing disabled people, and increase awareness of the support available to employers of disabled people.

Part of this campaign involves bringing employers, including small business owners, together to discuss the support on offer from government and organisations like Business Disability Forum to improve employment outcomes for disabled people.

Image of an employee in a wheelchair holding a pot of flowers in a garden centre

The most significant support for small business employers comes in the form of ‘Access to Work’ (AtW): a labour-market intervention that provides grants to employers which can be used to pay for practical support for staff that have a disability, health or mental health condition. The types of support covered by AtW grants include the purchase of special equipment, a support worker to help disabled staff members in the workplace, and fares to work for staff who cannot use public transport.

Businesses with up to 50 employees do not have to contribute towards the cost of Access to Work grants, making it a viable and attractive option for small businesses thinking of employing a disabled person.

Recent changes to AtW have made the scheme even more appealing to small business; the ‘standard list’ of items AtW would not fund, which included vital equipment such as software and chairs, was withdrawn in 2013.

Once your business has made the decision to hire a disabled person, you may find that guidance and support is still needed to enable that person to be successful in their role, whether it be in the form of disability training for other staff or guidance for the new employee’s line manager.

Business Disability Forum offers a wide range of publications, tools and training to employers of disabled people. Our line manager guides can provide staff in your small business with practical advice on the best way to work with, manage and support disabled staff members.

In early 2015, we will also be launching a new suite of e-learning products suitable for small and medium sized businesses. E-learning is an ideal solution for SMEs, as it can be more cost and time effective than sending staff to face-to-face training. It’s a resource that can be used to train new staff, as refresher training for existing staff, or even to train your suppliers.

To enquire about our products and services for small business, contact us via email to enquiries@businessdisabilityforum.co.uk or call 020 7089 2452.

[i] Department of Work and Pensions, ‘Disability facts and figures’, 16 January 2014: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/disability-facts-and-figures/disability-facts-and-figures#employment

[ii] BBC News, ‘Moves to help more disabled people into the workplace’, 18 July 2013: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23355252

[iii] Department of Work and Pensions, ‘National drive to boost disability employment: first ever Disability Confident roadshow tours Britain’, 21 November 2013: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/national-drive-to-boost-disability-employment-first-ever-disability-confident-roadshow-tours-britain

Disability confident one year on

By George Selvanera

Business Disability Forum (BDF) were more than delighted when Ian Duncan Smith decided in 2013 – inspired by his joining our annual President’s Group dinner for ‘captains of industry’ and disabled opinion leaders – to help us to promote wider recognition of the term ‘disability confidence’- which we created back in 2005 in an effort to make it easier to engage and equip business leaders to improve their corporate disability performance.
Disability confidence enables us to demonstrate the business and ethical rationale for learning how to recruit on the basis of merit; for learning how to adapt so that human beings in all their diversity can contribute to business success; and learning how to deliver excellence at every step of every customers’ experience. Disability confidence is about leaders and managers across the private and public sectors feeling more confident at a personal level as they interact with ever more disabled applicants, disabled colleagues and disabled customers.

And here we are, one year on in the Government’s Disability Confident campaign. At BDF,  we work with many companies and public sector organisations striving to improve their disability performance. We are all too conscious that there is still much more to do, so we encourage everyone to support the Disability Confident campaign and:

  • Understand that disability impacts all parts of the business;
  • Identify, and remove barriers, for groups of people;
  • Be willing and able to make adjustments for individuals; and
  • Not make assumptions based on someone’s disability.