Hiring Without Judgment or Assumptions

MI Hidden Talent Tour visits washtenaw community college

Do you do the hiring in your organization? This is a topic I am very passionate about, and I think many of us are afraid to talk about it.

Recently, I was truly honored to join Lt. Governor Brian Calley, Supreme Justice Richard Bernstein, Washtenaw Community College President Rose Bellanca, and Executive Director/CEO of the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living, Carolyn Grawi, on the MI Hidden Talent Tour, promoting the hiring of folks with disabilities.

MI Hidden Talent Tour

WCC President Rose Bellanca, Lt. Governor Brian Calley, Tracie Wolfe, Hon. Richard Bernstein, CIL Director Carolyn Grawi,

There are some things I didn’t get a chance to say during this important discussion that I’d like share here. I want to do whatever I can to help change our beliefs around the word “disability.” We all have strengths and weaknesses, and we all have different obstacles and challenges in our lives. None of us are better than one another – just different. In the spirit of diversity, let’s work together to start to make our world more inclusive; to allow those differences to exist and embrace them.

As an employer, I think there are fears out there that can close doors, but I feel we can overcome these fears. Fear of saying the wrong thing, fear of the law, fear of offending someone, fear of not knowing; these can create unintentional discrimination. Instead, let’s create a place that welcomes all. I have learned more from folks within our organization (and without) and my life has been changed for the better because I met people with big hearts, inspiring dreams, and strong will. Open your hearts, your arms, and your business doors to make sure you are giving everyone an equal opportunity. It might just change your entire organization for the better!

Here are some suggestions of things you can start doing today to open up your organization to these opportunities:

1. Look at your job descriptions and job postings. Are you unintentional discriminating, and closing doors right from the beginning? Look at words that may be creating biases and limitations. List Essential and Non-Essential functions to help applicants understand the requirements of the job.

2. Implement the Interactive Process for providing Reasonable Accommodations. There are a lot of training and educational opportunities out there to help create these processes within your organization and make this easier (sometimes it’s not so easy, but it’s still important). The average reasonable accommodation costs less than $500, but many are free and may actually improve your existing systems. For $500, would you pay to get an employee that will stick around for 20 years and give you their all and their best everyday? I think the answer is YES! Don’t look at the interactive process as “more work.” It’s no different than a disciplinary discussion or a performance review. It’s a GOOD thing! Don’t be afraid to have discussions. Get more people involved and help find win-win solutions!

3. Create and maintain consistent hiring practices so you don’t unintentionally discriminate. Remove any barriers that might encourage assumptions and judgements. Make objective, sound decisions.

4. Educate your organization’s leaders, hiring managers, and staff.

5. Reach out to local organizations that will help you with education and training, support through the Interactive Process, and finding the great candidates that are out there. Michigan Rehabilitation Services and Center for Independent Living (and so many more!) will help. Here in Ann Arbor, you can join the Ann Arbor Area Business Leadership Network to keep learning, supporting these initiatives, and networking with other businesses that are working to make a difference.

6. Model the behavior for your organization. This is how we all should work everyday – promoting equal employment opportunities, fairness, diversity, compassion, inclusion, and learning from one another. Talk about it! Let’s help each other keep learning and build a new society in which disabilities are not the first thing we think about or see, but just something to talk about as needed, while working through any obstacles or challenges.

Thank you for reading this far! I welcome your thoughts on this, as I will be forever learning and sharing to help do whatever I can. I can tell you that I have learned so much by being involved in local organizations, having open conversations with staff, parents, and others, and continuing to work through these hidden obstacles. You CAN make a difference to make someone’s purpose in life a reality. And all the benefits that can come with that are truly invaluable.

– Tracie Wolfe
Recruiting Specialist
Zingerman’s Department for People