SEEK is an organisation that aims to champion diverse and inclusive workforces. And with good reason too. Diversity has many advantages; it can generate strong business outcomes, it represents the customer group served but overall, SEEK said it is “simply the right thing to do”.
The world’s leading online employment marketplace business, has led an innovative program in the last year in its own workplace, helping vision-impaired people get work experience.
SEEK believe at the heart of creating a diverse workforce is creating an inclusive workforce and Toni Williams, SEEK Diversity and Inclusion Manager said the organisation has embedded inclusion into the company’s set of beliefs.
“At SEEK we have a set of beliefs that guide our behaviour and conduct at work, one of these is to have a culture where people feel valued,” she said.
“This sets the tone for how inclusion is valued from the top down in our organisation. Inclusion is genuine and embedded within our culture and we foster an environment where people can be their real selves at work.
“We apply an inclusive lens to everything we do, so be it that you are a single parent, have elderly parents you care for or have physical or psychological health issues you will be set up and supported to succeed.”
In 2014, while working with Vision Australia to onboard an employee with low vision, SEEK became aware of the low number of people who are blind or have low vision in the workforce.
Across Australia there are around 350,000 people who are blind or have low vision and this figure is expected to rise to 550,000 within the next 15 years. Of those who can work, 60 per cent are unable to find employment. This is often due to perceptions that it would be easier to have an able-bodied person do the job.
SEEK said they saw an opportunity to bridge the employment gap for vision impaired people, solve a business need, and raise awareness of the issues people with vision impairment face when looking for work. The result was an eight-week work experience program in partnership with Vision Australia.
SEEK aimed to learn through the program how to:
- Create a more inclusive workplace for people who are blind or have low-vision
- Open a new talent pool for SEEK, and
- Provide rewarding work experience for participants.
Ms Williams said it was important that all tasks that participants completed were meaningful.
“Whether it was writing ad copy or responding to jobseeker enquires via email, the work that participants produced had to be things they were proud of and looked good on their resume,” she said.
Vision Australia helped SEEK make necessary workplace and technology adjustments including screen magnifying capabilities and voice activated software.
“We wanted to give participants work experience that was beneficial but more importantly open an untapped talent pool to our own recruiting,” she said.
“We detailed SEEK’s organisational purpose and vision to participants and invited them along to team meetings to fully integrate their experience and allow them to pick up valuable communication skills.”
On the flip side, existing employees and leadership did their own fair share of learning how best to facilitate a diverse and inclusive workplace.
Vision Australia came into the workplace to identify potential issues and offer advice, much of which was about being mindful – like ensuring knives are not left on kitchen benchtops.
Ms Williams said SEEK is continuing its program with two sessions occurring a year and plans for a permanent paid program in the works. One employee from the pilot program has continued work on an ongoing basis.
“One of the key learnings we had was that the workplace doesn’t have to be perfectly accessible, you can start small and work your way up. It should not be a deterrent from starting,” she said.
“Another key aspect was being flexible. Peak hour times for commuting may not be best for blind people or those with low vision so we worked with participants to understand their needs and what worked best for them.
“We found out that by participants being able to avoid peak times on public transport it had a huge impact on stress levels and achieving a work life balance.
“Also, we learned about the enormous amount of support out there from industry bodies who advised us on anything we were unsure of and needed greater understanding of.”
SEEK said it was important to share what they had learned and created a series of videos titled “Open Your Eyes” to extend the reach of the pilot program. They encourage other organisations to do the same and look beyond traditional approaches to sourcing talent that encourage diversity and inclusion.
DID YOU KNOW?
Reventure’s research shows a culture of meaning and purpose in organisations is what most Australians want in their work. Fostering employee participation and inclusion is the first step in building such a culture (Delivering Purpose and Meaning).