Let’s discuss the benefits of being an inclusive employer

Dean Barnett is the Program Director of the Intelligent Water Networks (IWN). In Dean’s 30-year water industry career, he has been fortunate enough to have been involved in the building of teams through staff recruitment. Dean is one of the panel guests for the upcoming VicWater webinar: ‘Smoothing the Path for Disability Employment in the Water Industry’ on 3 March 2021. Dean brings the perspective of an employer and highlights the benefits that come with being a more inclusive employer.

Having hired many staff over his career, bearing witness to the development and personal growth of employees with disability brings him great satisfaction. Dean believes that a staff member who brings strong ethics, a commitment to growth and is enthusiastic will enjoy success regardless of their disability. The combination of a commitment from the employer to train the candidate to address any skill gaps in a supportive environment, and a commitment from the candidate to take advantage of the opportunity will help remove any perceived barriers.

Dean says, “When I reflect on some appointments of people with disability, it’s probably one of the most rewarding things as an employer to watch their personal development… we’ve provided an opportunity, they’ve done the rest”.

Important learnings have come from Covid-19 and the move from office-based work to home. The now widely accepted work-from-home scenario has provided further opportunity to accommodate special arrangements, such as a particular desk set up, or specialised screen or software, that mean more people with a disability can have the tools they need to be able to do their job. More than ever, we need to be looking for ways that will allow more people to be part of our workplaces, where they may previously have been excluded because of their disability.

A key element to providing more opportunities for inclusion is around a commitment to seeking to understand the issues that each individual faces. Making assumptions creates barriers, but a willingness to learn will always improve things. Dean explains: “In one instance, we hired a person with a disability, unsure of how this would play out, we asked staff members who had family members with a similar condition for information around how to respond in the best possible way.” The organisation made a point to understand what a safe environment looked like for someone with a disability. This employee’s confidence grew, and they went from strength to strength.

A mindset around growth and what the candidate can already do, and potentially do with the right training, rather than focussing on possible limitations, is key to unlocking further opportunities for workplace inclusion.

Dean will be joined by keynote speaker Beau Vernon, Director, Speaker, AFL Coach, Disability and Mental Health Advocate, Llewellyn Prain, Director of Western Water and Founder of WaterAble, and John Karageorge, a town planner and disability advocate.

To be part of this important conversation, be sure to register here.