Mobility & Adaptability within the Workplace

by Saundra Eckstadt, Inclusion & Diversity Committee

The buzz word of past days has been Employee Resource Groups or Business Resource Groups, or even known as “Business Focused Peer Group Networking”, especially pertaining to people with disabilities. Many companies begin forming these groups with great intentions and expectations of opening dialogue amongst their employees to “share challenges, strategies and best practices for developing, transforming or supporting a disability-focused affinity group that provides business value to the company and professional growth for its members.” (USBLN)  
It's a win - win, sound familiar? Yet, many company still struggle to get employees onboard with their goals at their local levels where the “real work is done” because, number one, they fail to deliver the purpose, objective and goals - “basically the why behind what we are doing!” And, number two, they fail to engage their current employees in the strategic planning of diversity and inclusion initiatives.

When we talk about mobility and adaptability in the workplace, it affects all employees, not just the ones you want to hire. It must take intentional effort for all employees to have an opportunity to understand the value of mobility and adaptability in the workplace. As I consider this topic, I researched the definitions of each:
  • Mobility is defined as “the ability to move or be moved freely and easily”
  • Adaptability is defined as “the quality of being able to adjust to new conditions”
    (Oxford Dictionaries)
Both of these words apply to all employees. As Human Resource Practitioners (HRP), we are often more focused on the new hire who is a person with the disability for integration into “our” workplace culture and systems we currently have in place. Our intentions are good, however, the department or workspace receiving this new hire needs to have intentional training on how to acclimate and integrate as well.  

Many people have never been exposed to working closely with a person with a disability. Regardless of the level of disability, we, as HRP's cannot possibly know what a person with the disabilities or coworker's needs will be in any situation. It is our responsibility to ask questions. It is really simple. How can I help you succeed at this job? What do you need to make your workday comfortable? And make it happen.  

I was at a SHRM conference in Pennsylvania several years ago. As I was leaving after the conference, I ended up sharing a taxi cab ride with a fellow HRP. She told me the assumptions that her department had made about a new hire that was blind. They assumed that they needed a special bathroom for this person and made sure it was in place for his first day. On his first day, as they were introducing him around, he requested the location of the men's room. They informed him that he had his own bathroom close to where his office was. Dumbfounded, he informed them that all he needed to do was to be led to the restroom one time from his office and that he would be able to find it with his adaptive equipment he wore around his neck. They spent a lot of money for no reason other than they simply did not ask questions.  

Last year, I was privileged to work with the Missouri Council of the Blind to assist them with their five year strategic plan. I did not assume how I would need to adapt my methods. Instead, I set up a conference call to discuss the best methods of communication and how we would work together as a team to accomplish their goals. They let me know their needs and I adapted my methods for working through the plan. No pun intended, but it really opened my eyes on my own preconceived thoughts and ideas. The bottom line, we are all people.  

I want to leave you with some things to think about:
  • Do you want to have a workplace culture that includes everyone?
  • Who do you need to include in your current workplace to reach your strategic planning goals as it pertains to diversity and inclusion initiatives?
  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • When or even better, why not now?
Be encouraged, you have a HRMA Diversity and Inclusion team willing to help provide direction and open dialogue. You are not alone on this journey. Every day is a new day to discover how you can implement mobility and adaptability into your workplace culture and make it become the norm.