Key Challenges in Workforce Accommodations and How to Foster Solutions

Apr 10, 2024

Written By: Crosby Cromwell, CGO

Bridging Intentions and Reality: Cultivating a Culture of Inclusivity  

Years ago, I remember speaking with a Chief People Officer of a Fortune 500 company undergoing significant talent challenges and several public employment lawsuits. He said, “The truth of the employee experience can be found in the exit interview.” The candor in his words instantly hit a nerve – it was a simple but powerful statement. He went on to add, “We’ve spent so much time and human capital on hiring good people that we failed to live up to some of our promises.” 

Working inside corporate diversity and foundation roles, I’ve often said that I’ve had the privilege of working at the heart of a company’s best intentions.  I want to be extremely careful not to anthropomorphize companies, still, at the end of the day, choices about how an employee’s experience is supported are the direct result of a group of (hopefully well-informed and well-intentioned) humans. Those human-made choices create cultures. Companies build policies, systems, and career paths based on those “best of” intentions. And,  we all know from our own experiences, that it doesn’t always go well. At the end of the day, humans are always going to be human. And that’s where systems can fail their own people – but it doesn’t have to be that way.  

Recently, I attended a conference focused on the future of successful workplaces, and I keep thinking about one session in particular, led by Scott Dettman, CEO of Avenica, a company determined to change the hiring process. Though Cephable and Avenica are focused on very different sides of the coin, we have an important commonality. We both want to change the current paradigm to support a better workforce, full of rich diversity and potential. He talked a lot about what companies are losing when they do not recognize and support potential   

As I listened to him, I immediately thought about the connections to the disabled workforce, our work at Cephable, and all the time, money, and resources spent on hiring people, only to fail to provide the right tools needed to make sure that they are productive, fulfilled, and successful in their roles.   

Investing in People: The Key to Unlocking Workforce Potential 

We believe that if companies would place the same energy and focus on building strong people practices as they do the products they sell, the return on investment would be a workforce that stays in place with employees who want to grow and not go.   

Can you imagine building a product, placing it on the market, never refreshing or updating the technology, and still expecting consumers to buy it? That is what happens way too often when it comes to assistive technology and the disabled employee experience.  

A great part of this journey is about recognizing the untapped potential within every individual and creating an environment where their potential can flourish – and importantly staying current on the tools that will support that productivity. At Cephable, we have had the privilege of witnessing firsthand the transformative power of accommodations, and it is a story we are passionate about sharing. 

Each of us has experienced that perfect moment when we hear the good news, “You got the job,” “You got the promotion,” and “You earned it.” It is an amazing feeling to be chosen and seen for the skills you bring to the table.  

The Crucial Role of Supports and Accommodations 

Picture this: a young professional, bursting with talent and ambition, eager to make their mark in the corporate world. Sidenote —they also have a disability that will be a part of their story within your workplace. Without the right support, managers, and accommodations, their dreams could be derailed before they even have a chance to take off. Time and resources spent on it are wasted when they leave the company. The truth is found in the exit interview – are we listening? Are we finding the right solutions to make sure to be better? 

This scenario isn’t hypothetical—it is the reality for countless individuals navigating the intersection of disability and employment. While the value of accommodations is clear, there are key challenges that organizations often face in implementing them effectively. Let’s delve into some common challenges and explore strategies for overcoming them, ensuring that potential is protected in the pursuit of success. 

Let’s Review: Key Challenges to Workplace Accessibility and Inclusion 

Challenge 1: Lack of Awareness and Understanding 

One of the biggest hurdles in accommodating employees is a lack of awareness and understanding between employees and employers. Many individuals may not be aware of their rights to accommodations, while employers may lack knowledge about the types of accommodations available or how to implement them. 

Solution: Education and communication is key. Organizations should invest in training and awareness-building initiatives to ensure that all stakeholders understand the importance of accommodations and their role in the process. Providing resources and guidance can empower employees to advocate for their needs and equip managers with the knowledge and skills to support them effectively.  

Key: Make sure employees are aware of the accommodations that are available to them, and make the options easier to find and easier to gain access to.  

Challenge 2: Fear of Reprisal  

In some cases, employees may be reluctant to request accommodations due to fear of stigmatization, discrimination, and decreased opportunity. It’s been proven too many times, that disabled employees need to be aware of potential negative perceptions or career repercussions. 

Solution: Make sure the culture is alive in all areas of the people process, including accommodations. Fostering a culture of inclusivity and psychological safety where employees feel comfortable disclosing their needs without fear of judgment allows people to feel protected in asking for what they need.  

Challenge 3: Accessibility Barriers 

Physical barriers, inaccessible technology, outdated infrastructure, and outdated thinking can pose significant challenges for employees with disabilities. Without adequate accessibility measures in place, employees may struggle to perform their job duties effectively. 

Solution: Conduct accessibility audits to identify and address barriers within the workplace environment. Invest in accessible technology and infrastructure upgrades to ensure that all employees can navigate their workspace with ease.  

Key: Listen to your employees and collaborate to understand their specific needs and tailor accommodations accordingly. 

Conclusion: Embracing Accommodations for a Thriving Future 

I’ve seen that failing to provide accommodations can have devastating impacts—not just on individuals, but on entire organizations. It is not about ticking boxes or meeting legal requirements—it is about recognizing the inherent value of every person and creating a culture where everyone can thrive. 

By addressing these challenges head-on and embracing accommodations as a strategic imperative, organizations can unlock the full potential of their workforce. It’s not just about compliance—it’s about creating a culture where every individual feels valued, supported, and empowered to succeed.  And, it requires a genuine commitment from the C-Suite to the front lines in order to implement successfully.  

In the end, embracing accommodations will be an investment to retain your talent, find unexpected innovation, and safeguard the future of your organization. And as someone who’s seen the difference it can make, Cephable is committed to partnering with like-minded companies who know that building fulfilled, and productive employees protects nothing less than everything else.  

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