3 trends that are shaping how you recruit disabled students

Jun 15, 2021 | Diversity

More employers are looking to develop their disability agenda, Lise Austen from MyPlus Recruiters’ Club explains what you need to know when recruiting disabled students.

Over the last year disability consultancy MyPlus have experienced a significant increase in interest from employers looking to develop their disability agenda, and understand more about invisible disabilities and how to engage with disabled students virtually during the recruitment process.  Here are three trends that are shaping how you recruit disabled students.

1. Black Lives Matter has stepped up disability focus.

The death of George Floyd and the subsequent focus on Black Lives Matter has kick started an immense increase in focus from employers on diversity. However rather than focus on Black Lives Matter at the expense of other areas of diversity, quite the opposite has happened. MyPlus has been experiencing unprecedented levels of interest from clients and potential clients who are keen to progress their disability agenda.

Typically, disability will be the last strand of diversity that employers will focus on due to its complexity. Employers find it hard to understand how to open-up recruitment processes to disabled students and even the most progressive employers don’t always have the capability and skills to recruit and develop disabled people with confidence. Black Lives Matter seems to have spurred this increase in focus on diversity, bringing disability to the forefront with more companies signing up to the government’s Disability Confident scheme and committing to The Valuable 500 global movement.

With over 18% of the working age population having a disability and 14% of students having a disability or long-term health condition there are clear business benefits that can be gained from the growing opportunity of focusing on disability from an employer perspective. Many of this talent pool will have developed unique strengths and talents that employers rank highly when they are recruiting.

This has significant implications for recruitment strategies; from how you attract and select candidates, through to assessment and on-boarding. Senior level buy-in is critical.

To be successful, MyPlus advise that disability confidence becomes embedded within an organisation as opposed to it being an ‘add on’ or an ‘initiative’ neither of which are sustainable nor impactful. Have clear goals and objectives with a plan that outlines how you’re going to go about achieving it to really help get people on board.

Bringing disability to life is also crucial and a powerful way to do this is to enable candidates to hear from employees working at all levels throughout the organisation about how they manage their disability in the workplace, how they access support and how supportive the organisation is.

2. Adapting student attraction in a virtual world

The pandemic has changed the way the business world operates in an unprecedented way. Employers have had to adapt how they attract and recruit employees, including their early years talent, for a virtual world.  These changes are required to ensure that organisations are providing a level playing field enabling all applicants, including those with a disability, to display their capability and to ensure they are not losing out on this talent.

Through the support and advice service that MyPlus provides to employers we have increasingly been approached by employers asking for help in going about attracting disabled students in a virtual world. It is more important than ever that employers are focusing on this and consider how they appear in the virtual world, where data and online is at the fingertip of every student.

Ensuring every touch point that a disabled student experiences from your messaging and engagement to your website and the support you offer, provides them with confidence that you are accommodating and welcoming of applicants with disabilities and mental health conditions.

Depending on their disability, for some students the whole virtual world is a huge challenge whilst for others it’s been a big win; for example not having to deal with the challenge of commuting to work. As each disability is different so the impact has been different for disabled individuals. The key for employers is communication, to not make assumptions and to engage in conversation regarding what works for the applicant.

3. Growth in interest in invisible disabilities and health conditions

With the increase in individuals being diagnosed with neurodiverse differences and mental ill health, MyPlus Recruiters’ Club – an expert membership forum which supports employers recruiting and developing disabled graduates – has seen extraordinary numbers of employers attending events that cover invisible disabilities, more so than ever before.

As the mental health of students continues to decline, this demand reflects how employers are recognising this and trying to understand how to ensure their recruitment processes are mentally healthy, particularly for early years recruitment. Results from research in early 2020 conducted by the City Mental Health Alliance found that:

  • 76% of young job seekers say they have experienced poor mental health.
  • 91% are more likely to apply to an employer that shows commitment to support mental health and well-being.
  • 48% actively research a company’s commitment to diversity before applying.

These results highlight the importance and need for student employers to consider their attraction and recruitment strategies to ensure that they are not only able to recruit these talented students but that they are providing the support required to enable the students to succeed.

This is also reflected in our MyPlus Students’ Club webinars, which provide careers advice and support for disabled students. We are seeing an increasing number of students with mental ill health and neurodiverse conditions attend. It’s a huge focus both from the student and the employer perspective as more and more organisations recognise that poor mental health amongst students and recent graduates is on the increase and that if employers don’t look after people both during the recruitment process and once they’ve joined the organisation they’re going to miss out on a huge talent pool.

Whilst MyPlus don’t suggest that employers become experts in all the individual visible and invisible disabilities and health conditions we do recommend that organisations look at all their interactions and how they communicate with students. Ensuring that you demonstrate your support, train your recruitment teams and make it easy for the students to request support during the recruitment process and once they join the organisation is key if you are serious about becoming a disability confident employer and benefiting from this growing talent pool.

Read more advice and insight on recruiting and developing diverse students

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