On February 19, I helped organize a learning event with the SHRM Educational Foundation, Hawaii Island District, to present an informative program and interactive discussion on best practices in Diversity & Inclusion, emphasizing hiring people with disabilities.

The event occurred at the W.M. Keck Observatory in its Jerry Nelson Conference Center, in Kamuela. Margarete Hester,  SHRM-CP, Group Human Resources Manager at EAN Holdings LLC, and SHRM Hawaii 2019 Board of Directors member, led an exploration of practical methods in talent acquisition, workforce development, and employee retention.

A humorous video showed how people often fear the unknown, with a lesson about the importance of treating differently-abled people as human beings, all equally deserving of respect.

Participants also looked at eye-opening statistics from the Cornell University 2017 Disability Status Report on Hawaii. The report revealed the employment rate of working-age people with disabilities in the Islands was only 41.3%  — representing a largely untapped talent pool.

Best practices in talent acquisition covered the need for interview preparation, ensuring the interview questions are all job-related and do not stray from core competencies. Interview prep should also look at the atmosphere and perspective of the company from the candidate’s point of view, and instruct hiring managers on how to handle special needs accommodations.  This included discussing interview training, sensitivity training, and legal/ADA considerations to promote consistency, fairness, and regulatory compliance.

To improve talent development for people with disabilities, it was noted that regular cross-cultural or diversity training is a key to success, especially in the onboarding of new employees that move to Hawaii, so they gain a better understanding of local culture. Employers are encouraged to conduct sensitivity training for managers and teach them the difference between “intent” and “perception.”

To promote and improve talent retention, employers can create a Diversity & Inclusion Team to spread the word that company management cares about diversity. A few areas to address are: How can employers make hourly employees feel valued and respected? How can managers show appreciation for individual contributions? Do employees see themselves reflected in the C-Suite?

The presentation concluded with a fun-filled Q&A “Jeopardy-style” game over lunch to test participants’ knowledge of the issues surrounding diversity and inclusion in today’s business environment.

Handouts provided information on the State of Hawaii Vocational Rehabilitation program & incentives for employers. In addition, the presentation offered resources on Technology and Accessibility in the Workplace.

Mahalo to Malati Marlene Shinazy, MEd Pacific Leadership Consultants for donating  copies of her book Listening to Millennials Listening To Millennials: 56 Priceless Tips For Managers as door prizes. This practical guidebook is filled with common workplace challenges, case studies, helpful tips and advice on how to collaborate with millennials.

Diversity is defined as all of the characteristics that make individuals different from each other.  Diversity in the workplace includes employee characteristics such as personality, work style, religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, having a disability, socioeconomic level, educational attainment, and general work experience.

An inclusive workplace is an environment where everyone is valued for who they are, and differences are embraced.