Asian countries present specific challenges to diversity and inclusion executives, both local and foreign ones.
For companies coming from abroad, those challenges may seem bigger and harder to understand. But that doesn’t mean that local executives aren’t feeling somewhat lost as well.
Presenters at the joint council meeting from The Conference Board Diversity and Inclusion Councils highlighted the inclusion of people with disabilities to the workplace as a crucial diversity challenge for companies doing business in Asia.
According to the diversity and inclusion executives that where part of the joint council meeting, the reasons why people with disabilities aren’t integrated into the workforce, have to deal more with culture and history given that for Asian cultures it is just not a common practice.
The roots of this problem where identified in:
- Lack of supply. For Asian organizations who are seeking to employ people with disabilities, the challenge usually lies in finding the talent. HR departments are struggling with a perceived lack of supply, as they don’t know where to turn to identify potential candidates. And once they find a solid pipeline, they find it hard to target individuals with disabilities through proper recruitment efforts.
- -Stereotypes and old fashioned attitudes. Stereotypes and old fashioned attitudes still prevail in Asia, mostly due to people not understanding the types of disabilities and how to accommodate them in the workplace setting. There is still a strong perception that people with disabilities can only do certain things and that they should cope with that; it is not common to find people open to welcoming disabilities into the office.
- -Lack of role models in organizations. Because there is a lack of integration and openness to receiving people with disabilities in the workplace, there is a rising need of organization leaders to step up and lead with example. Without proper role models that can motivate and inspire others, it will be hard to move ahead towards a more diverse and integrated workforce.
In order to make a change, the first champion of integration must be a senior executive. One who leads through example and motivates the company to hire people with disabilities not only to fill any role in any workspace, but consciously matching the job duties, workspace needed, and accommodations, to the individual’s needs.
Mentoring is another key part for integration. Since employing people with disabilities is relatively a new practice for companies in Asia, it is strongly suggested for organizations to introduce mentoring programs that can pair the individual with a disability with a person without a disability. For both employees this will be an opportunity to learn and embrace a different colleague relationship.
In any diversity practice it is all about being open to new options and circumstances, and about leading by example from top to bottom. No matter which challenge rises, companies with strong leadership will be able to handle the issue and get the most out of it through learning experiences.