SEEK leading the way on diversity in the workplace
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.
To raise awareness of this issue and to help people who are blind or have low vision with their careers, SEEK recently ran an eight week pilot work experience program in partnership with Vision Australia.
The aim of this program was to learn what SEEK can do to create a more inclusive workplace for people who are blind or have low-vision, to open a new talent pool for SEEK, and provide rewarding work experience for those partaking in the program.
“At SEEK we are very passionate about creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. Educating ourselves and other organisations on what can be done to create rewarding career opportunities for all Australians is central to our purpose,” said Kathleen McCudden, SEEK Group HR Director.
“By sharing our learnings, hopefully this will inspire other organisations to run similar work experience programs to help people with disabilities gain skilled experience and secure employment.”
“SEEK's pilot would not have been possible without the determination and dedication of our Diversity and Inclusion Manager, who managed the program from end to end, as well as our as passionate managers who worked along-side our pilot participants,” McCudden added.
During their time at SEEK, pilot participants were members of our Customer Service and Marketing teams, and each participant had their own role and responsibilities to perform.
To successfully onboard their pilot participants, SEEK worked with Vision Australia to set up appropriate equipment to ensure each person's unique needs were met.
“For our low vision participants we installed larger monitors with screen magnification software, while our blind participants received laptops with Job Access With Speech [JAWS],” McCudden continued.
Participants were given desks that were easily accessible and they each had a modified phone with buttons they could locate effortlessly.
Through the pilot program SEEK learnt how much support there is available for employers who are employing people with disabilities.
“Vision Australia coached us through the onboarding process, they were a tremendous help with organising and installing the technology required for each person, and even provided onsite support to aid a smooth induction, which was of great comfort to us,” revealed McCudden.
“We also feel we've achieved our goal of opening up a new talent pool for SEEK, and the positive feedback received from the business has been overwhelming,” McCudden continued.
“SEEK is well known for its â€˜people first' approach, and staff found it really rewarding to see their workplace learning and trialing how we can make SEEK an even more diverse and inclusive place to work.”
Pilot participant Chris Page, who has Macular Degeneration, says he gained valuable work experience during his time at SEEK and found it very rewarding that he could contribute as competently as his able-bodied colleagues.
“The managers and IT department at SEEK and Vision Australia were fantastic with setting me up with a desk that had adequate lighting and made sure from day one I had the software I needed to operate,” Page said.
Maria Goumas, pilot participant and now on-going casual SEEK employee, provides an insight into her experience.
“I started losing my eye sight when I was about 30, and lost it all by the time I was 35,” Goumas shared.
“People have this misconception that hiring a vision impaired person is so much more difficult, so we'll just hire someone who is sighted.
“We [the blind and people with low vision] are very tough and been through hell, personally and professionally, which give us the courage and commitment to succeed.
“I'm now enjoying a rewarding career at SEEK, who value my work, which really motivates me,” Goumas stated.
Chris Gould, a permanent SEEK employee who has tunnel vision, hopes more businesses recognise the value people with disabilities can contribute to a workplace.
“People with vision impairments find it so hard to find a job and when they do find one, they will grab onto that job and squeeze it like no one else,” expressed Gould.
“There is plenty of statistical evidence that shows people with disabilities have lower absenteeism, higher productivity and are no more likely to have a workplace injury than someone able-bodied,” he added.
Greg Brown, an employment engagement consultant at Vision Australia explained the difficulties that people who are blind or have low vision face when job hunting.
“We have engineers, lawyers, town planners, Masters in accounting, HR specialists [who are blind or have low vision], who are very highly educated people and would like to work but it can be very difficult for them to get work,” revealed Brown.
“We know when we put people forward for a job, they are very close to the skillset required and they can do the job as well as, if not better, than an able-bodied person.
“It frustrates us [Vision Australia] that there are such great people with excellent skillsets ready for employment, but they are pushed aside because of real or perceived assistance they may need,” Brown continued.
SEEK has created a series of videos to extend the reach of their pilot program learnings, which they will socailise with their candidate and hirer audiences to help educate and empower support for inclusive and diverse workplaces.
The videos feature pilot participants and vision impaired SEEK employees who share their unique stories and tips for working with vision impaired colleagues.
“In the near future, SEEK hopes to establish a permanent work experience program for people with disabilities,” McCudden concluded.