Enabling HR to hire differently-abled people

The human spirit is one of ability, perseverance and courage that no disability can steal away.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          –– Anonymous

One of the most significant trends in the history of globalization, occurring right now, is hiring a diverse workforce and encouraging diversity at the workplace. Different perspectives viewing the same issue and a blend of talent are brewing creativity, innovation, and growth within organisations. However, we need to look at diversity and inclusion (D&I) at a workplace through a different viewing glass. With over a billion people with disabilities worldwide, representing a large pool of otherwise talented and skilled people, HR professionals and companies must start including differently-abled people in their motto of having D&I at the workplace.

The employment rate for differently-abled people in 2011 was 47.3% that marginally and gradually increased to 53.2% in 2019. However, it is 18% less than for those non-disabled (81.2%). This is the second blog of the 4-part series where we discuss diversity at a workplace. But one cannot accomplish diversity without giving equal opportunities to everyone not only across ethnicity and gender but also to the marginalised ones who are limited by nature in terms of how they can function physically or mentally.

The 2017 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey indicated that while 57 percent of HR professionals and leaders had goals to recruit a diverse workforce, only 28% of the respondents had aimed for hiring differently-abled people.

It is this section of differently-abled people that is usually left out when we talk about inclusion. Without hiring people with disabilities, who leave no stone unturned when it comes to working, we cannot ever achieve diversity and inclusion in its real sense. In this blog, we discuss why an organisation needs to recruit people who are differently-abled. Also, we highlight different ways for HR professionals to enable themselves to hire differently-abled people.

Using Online Talent Assessment Tools for Recruiting Differently-abled People

Using talent assessment software, employers can evaluate a candidate’s aptitude, intellect, and eligibility. The software can be used to developing online tests, which are then proctored and evaluated in the online space. Differently-abled people can take these tests from the comfort of their homes at a time that is convenient for them.

Every candidate with a disability is unique. The online test can be customized to a large extent to incorporate or remove features to avoid any kind of discrimination against a disabled candidate. These customizations go beyond traditional assessment settings, which rely on large-scale delivery of tests under the same conditions, without any exceptions.

AI at the Forefront

Research firm Gartner has predicted that artificial intelligence (AI) and emerging technologies will reduce barriers to access jobs, increasing the number of people employed who are differently-abled to triple by 2023. People with disabilities exhibit critically skilled talent, the value of which has been undermined till now. Using AI-driven technologies while recruiting keeps those skill-sets on the forefront while selecting a candidate and eliminating any cognitive or unconscious biases.

As AI tools remove the scope of human intervention in selecting the right candidate, it levels the playing field by choosing applicants with skills and experience pertinent to the specific job, thereby ensuring employers that they have access to the best talent. This pool of best talent also involves differently-abled people.

The Word of Caution

One should keep in mind that algorithms and software designed to develop AI-driven machine learning tools are, after all, designed by humans. And if people, while designing or implementing, do not input the right personal features or characteristics, we might end up discriminating against people who are differently-abled. If the training data of an algorithm lacks diversity, it can firmly establish existing patterns of exclusion in an extremely harmful manner. If a recruitment platform exhibiting machine learning is not trained with underrepresented features of the disabled workforce, the technology will continue emulating the phenomenon of exclusion of differently-abled people.

The Way Forward – Using AI Ethically and Smartly

Recruitment tools using AI include:
  • Text searching technology: for screening job applications,
  • Facial analysis technology: for scanning facial expressions and body language of applicants during video interviews, and
  • Voice scanning technology: for evaluating a candidate’s speech, tone, and word choices

The use of these technologies must take into account the limitations exhibited by people with disabilities and the way they function differently from a general candidate. A software engineer and HR professional must sit together to correct bias in the algorithm and compensate for the limited ability that people with disabilities possess.

Following is a general guide for HR professionals, enabling them to hire differently-abled people while using AI-driven technologies.

  • Represent all the traits exhibited by a person with a disability so that he/she does not get screened out.
  • Train AI hiring tools with more diverse data that includes employees who are differently-abled, overcoming biases.
  • Make Inclusive Offers: AI-enabled technology can detect bias in draft advertisements for recruitment before they appear in the media in front of potential applicants. Use AI-driven tools to identify the language that promotes biases and reframe the post appealing to a broader spectrum of qualified candidates.
  • Use AI guidance to improve the tone, voice, and length of your job offerings to reduce biases.
  • Identify Risk: Recognise the group of people who might not be able to provide the expected input (e.g. blurred speech), or be perceived differently by AI (a person sitting in a wheelchair). And design your algorithms in a manner that accommodates them.
  • Test your model periodically to identify biases and mitigate them, constantly feeding it with accommodated features to improve the selection of differently-abled people.
  • Embed your machine learning algorithm with emotional intelligence (EAI). It is easier said than done. However, HR leaders must find a way to allow the recruiting platform or software to compensate for how a disabled person functions and perhaps give him an extra score for exhibiting job-specific skills in a manner as good as any general candidate.

Fair Interview Practices (Traditional Setting)

Once a candidate has been screened in and selected during the initial rounds, HR professionals should follow fair practices while interviewing the person. It’s imperative to treat all job candidates respectfully, fairly, and equally. One must ask them the same set of questions to determine the best professional for the position.

European labor laws prohibit employers to ask disability-related questions before making a job offer. Hence, employers and HR professionals need to focus on the candidate’s qualifications. However, they must ask them job-specific questions as to know how one disabled person would accomplish any particular task and allow the candidate a fair chance to provide an answer that will showcase his skill and quality.

Added Benefit of Hiring Differently-abled People

According to recent research, organisations actively recruiting differently-abled professionals not only cultivate goodwill from their communities but also see 89% higher retention rates. Further, these companies have grown significantly faster with a 72% increase in employee productivity and a 29% climb in profitability.

Image-1 Hire Differently-abled Professionals with Recruitment Smart

AI hiring tools designed by Recruitment Smart allow an employer to conveniently train the algorithm with more diverse data, including that of employees who are differently-abled. Sniper AI, developed by Recruitment Smart technologies, is built on a robust Machine Learning algorithm that works more accurately the more you use it. Every search provides more informed feedback to the system, allowing it to calculate better how to match candidates to roles and accommodate limiting features of differently-abled people to find them eligible for a given job position.

Recruitment Smart platforms automate the screening process, understanding the nature of bias, if any, and addressing them through an AI-based recommendation engine engendering ethical hiring while emphasizing information and identity protection. Through our AI algorithm, we can determine any extant inherent bias in the system and can then work towards neutralizing the same. We have helped our clients identify 5-6 different biases and reduce them by over 40%.

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