The Disability Connect Mentoring Scheme

Disabled Reverse Mentoring

It goes without saying that people with disabilities should have the same opportunities as everyone else but unfortunately this is not the case. In the UK disabled people are twice more likely to be unemployed compared to non-disabled people and need to apply for 60% more jobs. Amazingly 20% of the working population have a disability and 8 out of 10 people acquire their disability during their working life. Despite the pandemic resulting in more flexible and remote working in some cases, the overall employment situation for disabled people has worsened. 7 in 10 disabled people employed in March 2020 (71%) have been impacted by loss of income, furlough, unemployment or other damaging effects as a result of the pandemic and 42% of employers were discouraged from hiring disabled job applicants due to concerns around supporting them properly during the pandemic.

Disabled people often experience direct and indirect discrimination in the workplace and during recruitment processes. This is often not because employers do not want to support or recruit disabled people but because employers simply do not have the awareness or tools to do so. Reasonable adjustments can often be misconceived as expensive or time consuming however, most of the time they are “quick wins” to level the playing field and enable disabled employees to performance. For example, an ergonomic computer mouse may be required for someone who experiences pain in their hand. These can be purchased online for less than £20.00. Another example is potentially a slight change in working hours to allow an individual to travel to and from work off peak if they are uncomfortable with crowds. This, in theory, does not cost the business anything and will most likely increase the performance of that individual. A final example is a person with a visual impairment not having to hot desk and therefore familiarise themselves with a new workstation and spend time looking for a free desk. All very simple and cheap adjustments with a big impact to both the business and employees. Embedding and showcase reasonable adjustments will also attract and retain disabled talent and encourage a culture of diversity and inclusivity.

Mentoring is a very powerful tool and is said to account for around 20% of workplace learning (with 70% on the job learning and 10% formal classroom-based learning). 71% of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs and statistics show that mentees are promoted 5 times more often than those without mentors. To put it simply, mentoring is a relationship between two people with a goal of personal or professional development. Mentors share their experiences, knowledge, and expertise with their mentee to typically help them with their career journey. Although Mentoring can be used for lots of different reasons in and outside of work. For example, to work through a specific problem, to see a different point of view, to increase confidence, to push someone out of their comfort zone and the list goes on.

About the Scheme

The Disabled Connect Mentoring Scheme is a reverse mentoring scheme that matches people with disabilities with business leaders to help them learn about disability by the disabled mentor sharing their knowledge and first-hand experiences of their disability. Reverse mentoring turns the generic mentoring relationship on its head where instead of having the, most often, junior individual being mentor, the more senior person is mentored. A number of organisations from large, medium and small businesses and the not-for-profit and public sector have already signed up for the scheme for a variety of reasons. Some want to increase their general understanding and awareness of disability and how to increase disabled representation in their workplace and others want to increase their understanding of a specific disability (such as autism or Asperger’s) as they have identified a gap in their organisation. Others have signed up as they are currently transforming or expanding their business and want to ensure disability best practice and insight is fully embedded into every aspect of their organisation.

The mentors with disabilities are strategically matched with organisations based on their goals for the mentoring relationship. The mentor will then work with their mentee for 6 months to set and actively pursue goals and to share their insight of disability and what they have experienced in the workplace, in education and during recruitment and onboarding processes. The mentee will then take these invaluable insights away into their organisation and embed these into their organisations policies, processes, and procedures. For organisations that may be interested in signing up for the scheme they should contact info@disabilityconnect.org.uk or see the mentee zone for more information on the benefits of the scheme.

The scheme is currently also looking for mentors with disabilities to sign up. The scheme provides mentors with a dedicated platform to upskill and educate business leaders and raise their awareness of disability issues, the opportunity to build skills, experience and employability, comprehensive training and guidance on mentoring and payment for every completed mentoring session and the opportunity to network with business leaders and other mentors. More information and details of how to apply can be found on the mentor zone.

Thank you to Steve Jones for this guest post. For more information about the Scheme, here are the contact details: Steve Jones, Disability Connect Mentoring Scheme, E: info@disabilityconnect.org.uk | M: 07599115615 | www.disabilityconnect.org.uk

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