Meet the banks that are leading the way with employee diversity

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Australia’s financial services sector has been blazing a trail in the area of recruiting people with physical, emotional and intellectual disabilities, helped initially by small cash incentives from government, legislation and state support for specialist recruiters.

And the banks deserve a special mention for the work they have done in this regard. At a recent eFinancialCareers roundtable event held in Melbourne, recruiters from the banks said that employing people who had disabilities had become an important part of their recruitment process as it was essential that the banks represent all facets of the community.

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Gareth Wyatt, operations manager from the National Disability Recruitment Coordinator (NDRC), an Australian government service delivered by WorkFocus Australia, says that in particular, two banks are to be commended for their policies.

He says that ANZ and Commonwealth Bank have strong internal policies in this area, and are good role models for the rest of the industry.

The NDRC works with Australia's large employers, including many in financial services, to build their HR processes and general confidence around employing people with disability.

The NDRC provides a broker service, acting as a link between recruiters and employers to play people with disabilities. In the early days, Wyatt says, the main roles allocated to these candidates tended to be ‘front line’ jobs, such a reception.

However, the recruitment of people with disabilities had advanced to the point that candidates were being placed across front, middle and back-office.

“It has a lot to do with the education of employers,” says Wyatt. “We try to take the disability out of the equation. If we can demonstrate that a candidate has skills and experience, his or her disability should not be a factor.”

One of his best examples is a candidate who approached him about two years ago, saying he couldn’t find a job in banking despite speaking six languages and have two advanced degrees. Being legally blind made companies wary of hiring him, but the mandate from the NDRC to WorkFocus Group allowed Wyatt to approach employers proactively, and within a short time, his candidate was placed and is playing a senior role in his organisation.

Initially, employers were able to claim a small cash incentive for every candidate recruited from this segment of society. But, says Wyatt, it is such a small amount – AU$1500 after 13 weeks – that it plays a negligible role.

It difficult to get a sense of how many people with disabilities are employed in the financial sector, as many people don’t reveal their disabilities and companies don’t give out their numbers.

ANZ, however, reports that at the end of 2012, it had 131 people with self-disclosed disabilities across the group.

The bank adopted a Disability Action Plan in 2008 that has subsequently evolved into the Accessibility and Inclusion Plan.  ANZ specialist recruiter, Rob Crestani, says ANZ hires people with a broad range of disabilities - physical, cognitive, such as an acquired brain injury, as well as people with mental illness.

Wyatt and some of the representatives of banks present at the eFinancialCareers roundtable said there are numerous benefits to recruiting people with disabilities.

Wyatt says that institutions find that these employees are loyal, committed and very productive. “There is lots of data about low absenteeism amongst staff with disabilities, and this has a big positive affect on the business culture.”

Introducing people with disabilities into an organisation for the first time may require education of the other staff to help them overcome any concerns or discomfort they have. WorkFocus, which is a private sector company, also provides training to staff to ensure the workforce is sensitised to their new co-workers.

Stuart Minotti, a marketing coordinator at ANZ, is one of the employees recruited under ANZ’s programme.

“Sometimes colleagues underestimate my capabilities and it has been great to deliver above and beyond expectations. I produce the same high quality work as anyone else and my colleagues and managers have really recognised that. I’m an ANZ employee who just happens to have a disability rather than the other way around.”

Commonwealth Bank says that this year it has undertaken an accessibility review of its recruitment systems, run an inclusive recruitment workshop for all internal recruiters, held two mentoring programmes for job seekers and is currently developing a work experience programme.

Donna Purcell, Commonwealth Bank diversity manager says the bank is constantly looking at how it can improve access to employment at Commonwealth Bank for people with a disability.

“We work with our recruiters and specialist employment providers on supporting potential candidates with disabilities through the recruitment process.  We have also commenced a pilot programme for mentoring employees who reveal they have a disability.”


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