A proactive attitude towards employing people with disabilities was part of a cultural shift at Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure that has benefited the entire company.
“Recruiting talent with disabilities is not an act of charity – it is what smart employers do to differentiate themselves from the competition.” Such is the view of the recently appointed Minister for Disabled People, Health and Labor, Justin Tomlinson. “There are 7.6 million people of working age in the UK who have a disability and many of them are more than able to work.”
Although there are still people who view disabled people as either an expense or an inconvenience, there is finally a growing realization that it is healthy for a company to have different teams. Diane Lightfoot, CEO of the Business Disability Forum (BDF) commented: “It is encouraging to see more and more companies realizing the need to attract the broadest possible talent pool, including people with disabilities. People with disabilities are incredibly talented and incredibly diverse, with a variety of strengths, just like their non-disabled counterparts.
“A disabled candidate may need adjustments in the workplace to do the job to the best of their ability. However, these adjustments are typically small and inexpensive and can mean the difference between employers who may or may not find the best candidate for the job.”
A construction company, Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure, embarked on an inclusive journey four years ago – quite an undertaking for a company in this very traditional sector. Advocating this process, Dawn Moore, HR director, stresses that it is an ongoing journey: “You are not going to change overnight the fact that it is very male dominated. Or that ethnic representation wasn’t great. And you are not going to change overnight the fact that other underrepresented groups like disabled people may not necessarily see construction as an easy sector to get into. But we are determined to change it. We have made some good progress over the past four years, but there is much more to be done. “
The idea was to challenge everyone at every level in the company to think and act differently. Do locations need to be set up in a certain way – the way they always have been – if different approaches could support inclusivity? And could the channels be expanded and the messages changed to create a larger talent pool during recruiting? Such changes take time, but Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure hopes to earn Leader status in the government’s Disability Confident Program.
Disability Confident has three tiers, with 8,300 encouraging companies joining the Committed tier. This includes participating in a program to recruit and retain disabled people.
The step towards this is the “employer”, which has been taken over by a further 3,200 companies. Measures need to be taken here to make the good intentions come true.
After all, there are several hundred companies that have achieved “Leader” status because they have demonstrated to employees, customers and communities the positive impact of people with disabilities as part of their diverse workforce.
None of the market leaders are construction or heavy-duty construction companies – few even have a lot to do with technology – but that’s where Dawn Moore is heading Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure, hopefully within the next 12 months and with support from BDF. “We have had Level 2 accreditation from DWP since 2014 and it has been great for us to create a culture where everyone can thrive,” she explains.
“I am really impressed with Morgan Sindall’s commitment to setting the standard for employing people with disabilities within the sector and recognizing the benefits, not only for employees with disabilities, but also for the company, in order to reach the broadest talent pool possible. “
While better accessibility options and availability in the workplace are the obvious physical steps a company would take to care for disabled employees, it is also the clarity and consistency of the core message that has changed the way Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure works.
With the help of a member of the senior management team with a physical disability, the inclusive mentality is anchored in all management levels. The awareness of a person’s needs, whether disabled or not, is now much better recognized. Flexible working is a particular example that now applies to all employees and can play an important supportive role for employees whose family or health situation may change. The benefits can be felt company-wide.
Moore says, “When we started this journey four years ago, not only was our diversity profile different, our commitment to employees wasn’t great either. According to our employee survey at the time, for example, we only had 50 percent of the people who would recommend us as an employer. When we did the same survey again last year, 95 percent said they would. “
Further evidence of this culture change is that 90 percent of employees feel included and respected by their manager, compared to just one year in two. And 99 percent said their wellbeing is the company’s number one priority.
The well-known shortage of skilled workers should therefore not be accepted lying down, according to Moore. “In my opinion, there is only a skills shortage if you create one. There are pools of people, like people with disabilities, and it’s all about creating the conditions in which they can and want to work for you and then stay with you. We worked hard not to close this talent pool. Yes, because it’s the right thing to do, but also to encourage the best employees, whoever they are. “
On behalf of the government, Tomlinson agrees, “It’s no longer good enough for employers to make excuses. Companies can take advantage of the many advantages of inclusivity. “
Morgan Sindall is under no obligation to take action, but rather proves that the consequences of taking a proactive approach have been far-reaching and largely positive.
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