Event 3 – “Hiring & Retaining PWD Talent”

A large event space. 2 projector screens are set up – one displaying the event details and one for live note taking.

Four more distinguished panelists came together to discuss the hot button issue of Hiring and Retaining People with Disabilities (PWDs) in the workplace, for our second and final panel discussion (17 Sep). Facilitated by Jocelyn Lam, HR Leader, Global Functions Asia-Pacific, Johnson & Johnson, the conversation dug deep into knotty issues and questions in creating a sustainable caring work system.

The honest conversation centred around three key takeaways: a 3-step process of awareness, engagement, and internal capability building, the necessity of an overhaul of hard and soft processes, as well as a clarion call for more willing, committed, and fair employers alongside resourceful employees.

Assimilating a 3-step process of awareness, engagement, and internal capability into every organisation is a first step to hiring and retaining PWDs. Although the disability space is not new, it is still very segmented. Winnie Lewis, Manager of Employer Consultancy, SG Enable, highlighted the existence of “information and referral services to support PWDs requiring additional help”, “continuous improvement with job coaches and occupational trainers backing the individual at work”, and “programmes to boost overall workplace standards”.

Adrian Yap, Assistant Manager, Data Analytics Practice at PwC, echoed the impetus of reframing disability, “My hearing aid is like you wearing glasses.” Given slight adjustments, PWDs can participate and contribute effectively. When Adrian was studying in a Japan university as a student, live captioning services and the like were provided upfront without being asked. Ultimately, it is this pioneering spirit we want to replicate and the conversation has to happen within the organisation. Consultants are also at their disposal to aid decision-makers to make processes inclusive.

Winnie also pointed out the necessity of an overhaul of soft and hard processes. Given PWDs’ unique situations, talents, and needs, Daniel Teh, Founder and Executive Director of Pope Jai Thai (meaning “comfort heart” in Thai), reveals that he conducts progressive training to build confidence and skillsets, creates multiple assessments for various job tasks, and pegs the service bar to market standards. With 90% of his 30-strong staff being PWDs at the *SCAPE outlet, he requests that food be served within 10 minutes, on par with McDonald’s.

Job carving and delineating critical work function have also contributed to the team’s success. In order to enable a staff with visual impairment to gauge the length of vegetables to cut, a chopping board, designed by a Secondary 1 student, was customised.

At the end of the day, it is a two-way street for employers and employees. Employers are strongly encouraged to be open and to take the initiative to align inclusion with their work culture, such as Microsoft’s formation of a Diversity & Inclusion Council, shared by Hui Lin, a recruiter at the tech conglomerate. As more potential employers build up their inclusivity practice, employees themselves should maximise their time by upskilling, performing well, and maintaining a positive attitude.

It may be a longer journey for some, but don’t discount any opportunities willfully. Celebrate mini milestones to last the long ride, and until you find the right job, keep chugging on!

For all that has been said and done over these two weeks, we cordially invite you to join us at our final event, Japan Party, featuring oishi snacks from Japan, on Friday (20 Sep)! You don’t want to miss it!

#TomoWork #TomoWorkSG #Diversity #Disability #Inclusion 

See more of Jacqueline’s works here

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