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Making Diversity and Inclusion in the Government Work for You


Tim: Our first panelist is Veronica Villalobos.
She’s currently the Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at OPM. In that
capacity, she manages OPM’s government-wide diversity efforts to develop, drive and monitor
strategies and initiatives designed to create a more diverse and inclusive federal workforce. Our next panelist is Dinah Cohen. She is the
Director of the DOD Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program, or CAP. Miss Cohen works closely
with senior leadership throughout the federal sector to ensure that employees, beneficiaries
and members of the public with disabilities, have equal access to federal government services
and employment. Our final panelist is Sharon Wong. She is
the Deputy Director for Coordination and Policy at OPM’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
Prior to that, she served for over 10 years as the diversity and inclusion officer at
NASA, leading their diversity and inclusion efforts. Our presenters bring a tremendous amount of
expertise and experience to this subject, so sit back and enjoy what we think will be
a very informative session. For those of you who are joining us by webcast, you can send
questions to [email protected] We’ll try and answer those at the end of the session. With that,
I’ll turn it over to Veronica. Veronica Villalobos: Great, thank you, Tim.
Good afternoon, everyone. Great to have you here. For those of us joining us by webcast,
I will tell you it’s not a room full of people, but there are some people here. I thank you
all, so we can talk with somebody as we discuss our efforts here. As many of you know, on July 26, 2010 — next
slide please, yes — on July 26, 2010, the President signed Executive Order 13548. The
goal of that executive order was to increase the hiring of people with disabilities, especially
targeted disabilities. He specifically set a goal of 100,000 people with disabilities
in the next five years to be new federal employees, so, we’re looking at new hire data from the
agencies. Just to give you an idea of where we are,
we were able to release our disability employment report last month and we are on target, about.
We have hired 18,700 plus folks with disabilities and veterans with 30 percent or more disability. But where we need to continue our efforts
is people with targeted disabilities, that was close to about 1,200 folks. So, we really
have to do a better job of hiring people with targeted disabilities. Back to the executive order. What the President
did say in the executive order is he expected a senior level official from every agency
to be responsible for this effort within each agency. Every agency is responsible for setting
targets, so you have to have a numerical goal and a percentage of how many people you expect
to hire every year. We know that budgets are shifting, that folks
don’t have the same amount of money that they did a few years ago in their budgets. What
we’re saying to people is, “Look at that percentage. What is a percentage, what is your goal, and
make sure that you stick to that goal.” We’re also supposed to increase the use of
Schedule A for people with disabilities. I can tell you that we have doubled the use
of Schedule A from fiscal year 2010 to fiscal year 2011. But I can also tell you is that’s
only one percent of hires, so we can do better there, as well. We’re also to look at how we’re going to increase
retention and return to work for people with disabilities who have work-related injuries
and illness. In this regard, there’s a real focus on how are we reasonably accommodate
those folks, and how do we make that an easier transition. This is all really going to be
made easier by a thorough, robust, reasonable accommodation program. Finally, we were to develop mandatory training
for human resources and hiring managers on the employment of people with disabilities.
That training has been developed. We are right now working on getting it up on Human Resource
University, or HRU, as everybody knows it. There are model recruitment strategies out
there, and those part of the plan there, that you can see on the slideshow. We do think
that if folks go there, they might see some new ideas. We’re also looking at how we can
share those between agencies. We have a Max website. Do folks out there know Max very
well? Max.gov, actually has all the plans for all
the agencies’ action plans on disability hiring. You can go there and see everyone’s plan and
see how folks are doing. Now, what I can tell you is it’s different for different agencies.
Depending on the size of the agency, some of these plans are going to be more meaningful
if you can match sizes. We also have a video on Schedule A hiring
for people with disabilities, but I don’t think we’re going to show that video. That’s
on the next slide. We do have that link. Seems like the slides aren’t matching up here. Let’s talk about Schedule A. Schedule A for
people with disabilities has just been changed. The director just signed the regulatory change
today. You know longer require a job readiness certificate. All you require now is a letter
from your doctor stating that you qualify as a Schedule A eligible person, as a person
with a disability. That is a huge change and we’re really excited about that. You all are
the first to know that the director just signed those regulations, so we’re very pleased. We also were able to take out outdated information
from those regulations. In terms of outreach and recruitment — let’s see, this slide here,
I think this is right. We want to increase access to candidates with disabilities. We’re
calling on agencies to establish partnerships with employment resource groups, attend job
fairs, and forward résumés to managers. Use new media to target audiences, use OPM
disability register, shared register of people with disabilities. We’ll speak more about
that in a moment. Develop an agency résumé bank. Here’s
an interesting thing. We talked to various agencies, polling how many of them have résumé
banks for people with disabilities, and very few of them do. That’s going to be key in making sure you’re
able to reach out to folks, that you’re able to keep a record, figure out who has what
skills, who can match with which jobs in your agency. That’s a really big, important piece
of what we’re asking agencies to do. We’re asking agencies to participate in the
Workforce Recruitment Program. As many of you know, this is a way you can bring interns
in throughout the year. What’s great about it — and I’m sure Dinah will talk a little
bit more about this — you’re able to figure out, does this person work well with me? This happens with all interns. It’s a great
way to bring in folks with disabilities. We bring them in through that internship program. Also, if you’re looking for a place to increase
your understanding of Schedule A, here’s my thing, and I tell everyone all the time — it’s
so easy. All you really have to do is find someone who’s qualified, who’s Schedule A
eligible, and hire them. If you have a job and you want to post it,
you can post it as a Schedule A posting for people with disabilities. You get all the
résumés in, you interview them and you can hire them right away. This is a great
way to bring in talent quickly, especially when you need it quickly. Next slide, please. Does that say OPM share
list? Excellent. We have the OPM share list of people with disabilities. To let you know
right now, we have over 800 people who are eligible for federal employment. They have
their letters stating that they are Schedule A eligible. We did use Bender Consulting Services to obtain
this list, to gather this list, because they are the only company who solely focuses on
hiring and bringing on talent with disabilities. What we’re also telling folks though is don’t
forget the VRs out there, the voc rehab programs. Use every opportunity you can to bring in
talent from every source. This is just one source of talent. Next slide please. Now, this database is now available on Max
and we can tell you is, there are faceted searches there. It’s very useful. I will tell
you that certain agencies use it more than others. But it is a great way to find talent. I will tell you that there are Ph.D.s out
there. There are people who have law degrees. There are people who are HR specialists and
IT specialists. There are people with master’s degrees, and there are folks who are interested
in working in government. It also has a listing as to geographic areas.
Where do people want to go? We see a heavy usage here in Washington, DC. We don’t see
it necessarily around the country. Next slide. That’s the last slide. All right.
I’m going to talk real quick about best practices. We are asking agencies to make sure that you
utilize your selective placement program coordinators to their full ability. Right now, we know
in many agencies, HR specialists are doing this as a collateral duty. But it’s really important that your SPPCs,
which are folks who are solely devoted to the hiring of people with disabilities. That’s
supposed to be part of what they do every day, that they fully understand how do use
Schedule A, that they fully know that it is as simple as finding the person who is Schedule
A eligible and bringing them on board. They’re also supposed to know how to make sure folks
get the reasonable accommodations they require, even in the interview process. I’ll tell you, recently heard a story of folks
who are deaf who are being told to bring their interpreters with them to job interviews.
Agencies are supposed to be providing that accommodation. When someone is scheduling
an interview, they should ask, “Are there any accommodations that you require?” Part
of that would be providing that sign language interpreter. We’re asking agencies to evaluate your hiring
data. Evaluate where people with disabilities are within your organization. Are they in
leadership roles? Are they throughout in different GS levels or are they all at the lower GS
level? We’re asking agencies to look more deeply at that. Identify qualified people with disabilities
through existing resources, as we talked about. Vocational rehabilitation agencies, the shared
list of people with disabilities. Focus on student programs. We see a lot of success
when people bring in WRP students. Become a model employer for people with disabilities,
including people with targeted disabilities. I will tell you that the disability community
talks amongst each other, and they do know who are the good employers and where the folks
want to work and where others say, “That’s not an agency you want to go to. They’re not
great at reasonable accommodation.” Use innovative approaches to reasonable accommodation.
You’re going to hear from Dinah about the CAP program, but there’s also the Job Accommodations
Network. They’re great, and folks can think, “how would this work,” JAN is really good
at coming in and helping you figure out how to make it work. That’s the overview of what the Executive
Order was calling on agencies to do. It’s not complicated. We see lots of agencies doing
great work in this area. But the more people we bring in, the more we have to step up our
game too, and provide those reasonable accommodations. As the federal government, we should be practicing
the gold standard, and not the bare minimum. That’s really what we’re asking agencies to
focus on that. With that, I will turn it over to Dinah. Dinah Cohen: Thank you, Veronica. Hello everyone,
and hello to all my friends out in the web land. It’s a thrill to be here with all of
you, and hopefully you’ll get some new information, and I’m thrilled to be here with my OPM colleagues.
I’m Dinah Cohen, the CAP director, and in the next slide. Just a really quick snapshot of our history.
There’s always somebody who hasn’t heard about CAP before, in spite of all the presentations
I have done, and I’m thrilled to do another one, is to talk about what we have done in
our mission and our overview. We’ve been around since 1990, as a centrally
funded program from the Department of Defense, to make sure that DOD employees have the accommodations
they need to do their jobs. Based on our success, it was recommended to Congress in 2000 to
expand our program to serve other federal agencies. Chances are, if you’re listening to me now,
you are one of my CAP partners. You probably belong to one of those 68 federal agencies
that has a partnership agreement with CAP. Since our inception, we have filled over 113,000
requests for accommodations. I like to think that each and every time, I spend DOD money
to accommodate someone, I’m improving their quality of work. I’m improving management’s
perception of employment with people with disabilities, and we’re making a difference. I have a very simple mission. My mission is
to provide the assistive technology and accommodations to ensure that people with disabilities and
my newest customers, my wounded service members, have equal access to the information environment
and opportunities in the department of defense and throughout the federal government. Next slide. Who are my CAP customers? Well,
you can cross out CAP and put your customers, because I want everyone in the audience to
hear this loud and clear. When we think about people with disabilities, we’re thinking of
a very broad audience. So when you think of your customers, they should include your employees
with disabilities, as I think of them. When you think of the people you’re responsible
to help accommodate, they should be your federal managers, who are ready to hire and use Schedule
A, and be knowledgeable about it so you can move forward. They should be anyone who may
develop a disabling condition. This is one of those key moments that I hope that if you
don’t know this already, you have your aha moment. It’s not about them. It’s about us. Everyone
in this audience, everyone listening to this presentation, if we’re all lucky enough to
live a very long life, we will all develop disabling conditions. If we have strong programs
that include the employment of people with disabilities, returning that injured worker,
making sure that we’re bringing in young students under WRP, whatever it is. If we have those
things set in our program offices, then we’ll have a program that’s strong and we are the
employer choice and we will have a job. They will understand how to accommodate us when
and if, we become disabled on our jobsite. It’s about all of us. Having a strong disability
program is not an EO issue, it’s not an HR issue, it’s a management issue. It crosses
all lines, all barriers, all program activities. They should be what you think of, when you
think of your customers. I’m so pleased that for the first time, these
executive orders are also focusing on bringing back the injured worker, including them in
the statistics, including them in the initiative. It always boggled my mind that we are pushing
people out the back door under worker’s comp with minor carpel tunnel or back injuries,
and we’re advocating for people who are quadriplegic coming in through the front door. What about
the person that only needs a minor accommodation to stay employed? They’re your customers.
They’re my customers. I also think when the biggest and best tools
we have, there really has been a push in this administration through Director Berry at OPM,
is telework. We get involved with telework when it comes to because a form of reasonable
accommodation, if that is what a person needs to stay engaged and stay employed. Telework is an incredible, wonderful tool
for all of us. I think we need to think more about Telework, especially how it’s going
to support our service members. I, of course, being from DOD have a very strong passion
of how we’re going to return our wounded service members. When I talk to many of them, especially those
who have PTSD and TBI. When I ask them, “What do you really need?” I mean, I can get them
some accommodations so they can stay engaged, they say, “I need flexibility. There are going
to be days that are going to maybe be a little harder for me to get to that office, so I
want to work. I want to work for the government because I haven’t completed my mission. But
some days are going to be rough, so I’d rather be working from home.” I’m a strong advocate to bring home our soldiers,
sailors, everybody in the Marines, and have flexiplace and telework set up for them. Those
are my customers and they should be your customers. When I think about our services, they’re real
simple. This is where I give away free money. I buy and pay for assistive technology. I
buy, I pay for, I get it to the user. It’s just that simple. When people say, “Oh, it costs too much to
accommodate,” I’m like, “Uh-uhh, you don’t know me, do you?” I want to make sure that
people know that there is a program that provides accommodation so you don’t have to worry about
the cost of accommodation. That was my first objective is to level the
playing field. I don’t want to hear managers say, “I can’t afford those accommodations.”
When in reality, most accommodations with people with disabilities are way less than
$500, way less than what some your executives want to have in their office. It doesn’t matter. We want to level the playing
field, we provide the accommodations. For those who don’t know what they need, we do
the needs assessment and demonstration of the assistive technology. We provide training
on both the assistive technology and disability management. I have had the pleasure of traveling
around with Veronica, doing this executive order training at different locations, increasing
awareness of disability issues. Of course, October is national disability
employment awareness month. I hope if you are going to have an event, make it relevant.
Make it focused on how you’re going to change the employment of people with disabilities
at your agency. Make it focused because I think that’s when we can truly see the difference. Of course, I’m here to support you and all
those federal regulations that we’d love the Hill to pass and for us to comply with. In my next slide, I have what I consider to
be the strategy for good reasonable accommodation programs. First and foremost, every agency,
every component, every big program office should have a budget set aside for reasonable
accommodations. Now, you say, “Well, you just said it’s free.”
It is, but I provide assistive technology. You’ll have accommodation issues that are
outside of my scope. If for some reason I run out of money, it never leaves you off
the hook of providing accommodations for your employees. It’s always the agency’s responsibility. It is always good business. As you heard Veronica
say, you don’t want to do just the minimum requirement, we want the gold standard. If
you just depend on CAP and you haven’t planned ahead for those other exceptions, we haven’t
met the gold standard. Make sure you have your own centrally funded
program, and make sure that you have policies that don’t interfere with each other. For
example, I always am trying to get videophones for our deaf customers, and then I’ll have
IT people saying, “We can’t have that on our network,” or security says, “We can’t have
those open ports.” We’ve got to work together to improve the employment of people with disabilities. You want to have reasonable accommodation
procedures. If I am that new employee that you are so smart to hire under Schedule A,
and I need an accommodation, how do I know what to do? You should have accommodation
procedures that should be easy to find. They should be on the website. You want to have that interactive process
in case that person doesn’t know what they need. And just like Veronica says, you want
to know your resources, one of them being the Job Accommodations Network, JAM. When we provide assistive technology, we’re
pretty good at knowing what you need, but you will have those situations in which you’ll
have someone that will come in with chemical sensitivity or a fatigue issue or some other
functional limitation that leaves you scratching your head and going where do I start? We start
with JAM. If they need assistive technology, they’ll
say, “Now, it’s time to call CAP.” We work closely together to make your process easy
to bring that person on board. We believe in training. We need to have annual
training, not only for your employees, like you have here, but also for your IT people.
We encourage managers to do disability related conferences and training. I’ll point one out
at the end of this presentation. And you want to make sure that all of your systems are
accessible and compliant with 508. My assistive technology will now work on databases,
on websites, that haven’t complied with 508. That’s the foundation of how things work.
It’s just like a building. If the building only has steps, then it doesn’t matter if
you have a good disability program or policy, if the person in a wheelchair cannot get in.
Same thing, if you don’t have compliance systems with 508, my assistive technology will work. On the next slide, some snapshots on the kind
of assistive technology that’s readily available from CAP. When we have people who develop
carpel tunnel or our service members who come back with no hands or arms, we provide assistive
technology for people with dexterity impairments. It could be as simple as a different pointing
device, a different keyboard, or at the high end, voice recognition technology. Some of us will find that we’re now having
challenges with our vision. I always make that comment. Have some of you noticed that
print in the phone book has gotten smaller? Like we have, many of us will develop visual
impairments. Some of us will have them already. We’ll provide technology solutions, such as
large print both in hard copy, the software that will make it easy for us to see in large
print on our computer screen. Technology will let us split the screen, so we can see what
we have to read from and what we have to copy on to. We have people who are blind, so we have the
technology that let’s us hear everything. We have the technology that let’s them feel
what’s on their computer screen in a Braille alphabet, because that’s how they prefer it. Some of us will have hearing loss, and some
of us will find it harder to listen and participate in staff meetings, so maybe some of us will
need assistive listening devices. We encourage that you have that. We encourage that you
have videophones for your deaf customers and your deaf employees so that you can have the
ability to communicate with their colleagues in the same way we prefer in our native language. People are deaf, and many of them will depend
on and use sign language. Let me use sign language in my conversations with other colleagues
who are also deaf. That’s what the videophone allows them to do. We believe in having the
technology that makes it equal access for them in the telecom environment. Many of our service members are coming back
with cognitive disabilities and traumatic brain injuries. How can we bring them back
to work and have them work in today’s information environment? We provide technology that helps
with their queuing, with their memory. Many of them will find that they find different
technologies that helps them track their information. Both Veronica and I had the pleasure of doing
a presentation together in April. It was an HREO conference. I was able to give the plenary
with my colleague, Matthew Staton, Army Captain, retired. He has traumatic brain injury, he
has post traumatic stress disorder and he’s a staff assistant to the Secretary of the
Army. As he talks about his condition, he also says that what’s easy for me to use now
is some of the technology that’s used by people with dexterity disabilities. I use voice recognition
when I do my notes because it’s easier for me to talk to my computer than to write now.
I don’t have anything wrong with my hands, but it’s part of my TBI issues. We talk about how different technologies can
support people with cognitive disabilities. There is also a lot of embedded technology.
If people need a little bit of help, Windows, Apple, there are all these tools that are
already embedded in your every-day technology that makes print a little bit larger, lets
you listen to some things, lets you have a better keyboard. Those are some of the things
of what we can provide, and you should be able to also provide to your customers. Next
slide. I want to invite you all to CAP Tech. It’s
in the Pentagon, so if you’ve never seen assistive technology, this is the best way to see it
because it allows you to see the technology, touch it, feel it, and understand how easy
it is to bring that person with a disability on board. The best thing about any technology
center where the hours are somebody else’s, like the TARGET Center at Agriculture, is
that it totally demystifies how that person’s going to their job. So I encourage you to
do that. Next slide. We already talked a little about the model
employer. Let me give you my little twist on it. When we talk about the executive order,
the big thing that I like to add is again, how easy it is to use Schedule A. We use it
all the time, it’s an incredible tool. I know there are some managers out there that
are thinking, “What kind of employees am I going to get under Schedule A?” I said, “I
don’t know. Maybe you’ll get someone who won the Service to America medal. Maybe you’ll
get someone who would’ve won the Federal 100 Award twice, including the highest ranking
one, the President’s Quality Award. Maybe you’ll get someone who won the OPM President’s
Quality Award for Best Programs. Maybe you’ll get me.” I came in under Schedule A. I know, because
I’ve seen these stories about Stephen Hawking. I’m not the smartest one in the Schedule A
pool. We’re encouraging you to reach out, break down the barriers, think outside the
box. I encourage you to take full advantage of the executive order. Next slide. I want you to always think about how you can
use assistive technology through the employment life cycle. Because it’s not just about when
that person comes on board. It’s to keep them engaged. It’s when they come on board, when
you start to provide them with training and promotion opportunities, and how to ensure
that you give them opportunities to keep them on board in retention challenges and really
make the government your model employer. Next slide. We talked a little bit about the workforce
recruitment program. This program has been around for a long time because I was one of
the original recruiters, so you can imagine how long it has been around. We go out and recruit college students with
disabilities throughout the country. We recruit them, we screen them, we put them in this
pool, and they’re available for you to hire. The best thing is, Veronica already mentioned,
is that it’s a great way to introduce candidates, top-notch candidates with disabilities into
your workforce. If for some reason, it doesn’t work out, summer’s
over. We don’t always talk about the elephant in the room. The reason why the numbers are
still very poor and very low when it comes to employment of people with targeted disabilities,
is attitudes. We’re afraid. We’re not sure what we can ask and what we can do. We’re
not sure what we should do and what objects might be of an issue for somebody. The best way to change attitudes is to have
a positive working experience. The best way to change an attitude is to have that experience
with WRP or other internship programs. Because they’re just long enough so you can get the
flavor of how talented they are, and if it doesn’t work out, that internship is over.
Great way to start changing attitudes. The website for that is www.wrp.gov. Great way
to get candidates. Next slide. Of course, I’m very passionate about my service
members. We went ahead and changed the laws so service members can get assistive technology
from CAP while they go through recovery and rehabilitation. The reason I’m excited about
changing that law is that when they come to start to work for you, they already know about
their assistive technology. Make them one step closer to being the employee of choice. So you can bring a mom back. You have the
appointment authority. You can use VRA, you can use the 30 percent plus. You have lots
of websites that allow you to bring in that talented individual into the workforce. We provide technology as early on, the time
they’re at the rehab hospital. When I spoke with Matthew Staton, and he tells his story.
He talks about how he uses assistive technology every day as he is the lead person before
the secretary of the Army goes out and meets with the wounded warriors. He uses that, and
he’s using it and so many of my other…In fact, that’s a picture of Matt. I’ll tell
you about where you can see his full story in a moment. Next slide. Retention. This is one of the areas that I’m
so glad that we’re part of this labor relations round table that we’re talking about how we’re
going to change things. For the first time, workers’ comp is part of this picture. We need to make sure that labor relations
staff, the people who work directly with workers’ compensation claimants, talk directly to their
disability program managers and understand accommodations. When someone gets injured
on the job, I want you to not call them workers’ compensation claimant, I want you to call
them an employee with a disability and accommodate them. I don’t think we always do a good job of connecting
the dots. So here’s an opportunity to get involved with power initiative, to start to
bring back more of your employees who got injured on the job. Because they’re sitting
home collecting money and not working. My concept is that last year, Oprah’s off
the air. What are they watching on TV now? Bring them back to work. Have them working
for you. Have them engaged. Have them do what they need to do. Help them understand accommodations.
And make sure you have those solutions readily available for them. Provide teleworkers a great way for them to
come back. Many of them won’t have severe back injuries. That’s usually one of the areas
that have the highest number of why people go on a worker’s comp. Some of them will say, “I need to stand up
a lot.” “I need to lie down a lot.” Maybe telework is the best way to accommodate them.
Have a good program in place to support worker’s compensation claimers, or I call them “employees
with disabilities.” Next slide. Here’s an opportunity for us to all get involved
when it comes to learning more about disability. I believe every manager, SES on down, needs
to attend the Prospectus Employment of People with Disabilities Conference at least once
every few years. Last year, I was happy that the chair of the EOC kicked it off. This year,
we’re getting ready to start the scheduling of our keynote speakers. We already know that Lee Woodruff, wife of
Bob Woodruff. You probably remember him as a person that was injured, and our anchor
on ABC, while he was in Iraq. He came home with TBI. What was it like to have a spouse
with TBI? How did you accommodate? Come hear her story. She’ll be at Prospectus this year.
Hear about the other programs that you need to know to ensure that you have a successful
program. Next slide. To know about this and everything else I’ve
mentioned, just come to my website CAP.mil. Kept it easy. CAP.mil. You should be able
to remember that. On our website we have also “View CAP Videos.” When you have the “View
CAP videos,” on the next slide, you’re going to see some of the videos we have. We have
the videos of 10 of the most commonly requested accommodations. If you want to know more about them, go to
our website. Download a specific program. See it. When you want to hear stories about
how people are using the accommodations, go to our website. Go to YouTube. Go and listen
to Matthew Staton’s story as he talks about a person that graduated from Virginia Military
Institute, captain in the army, got shot six times, flak jackets work, stopped five. Or maybe you’d rather hear the story about
Captain Ivan Castro. Now, there’s a paradigm shift. Army captain in army uniform, active
duty, totally blind. Still in the army, still supporting the mission. View those videos
on our website. Now, next slide. If you don’t want to see it on our videos, see it on your
iPhone. CAP now has an app. This is what happens. I go on the beach. I
get all energized, and I get these new ideas. I come back, and I go, “I want a CAP app.”
They go, “What do you want it to do?” I go, “I don’t know, but I want a CAP app.” So now
we have a CAP app because it does what I want it to do. It allows anyone who has an iPhone, especially
a lot of our young folks who use it on a daily basis, we want you to be able to see our videos,
know the latest about any events that are coming down the pike, learn about our accommodation
process, learn about disability issues. It’s all available on your CAP application. So
go to the app store, download it, and get engaged. Finally, I always like to leave you with some
resources, so here’s a list of resources because I know that I’m just one of the many tools
in the toolbox you have. You can go forth and really make a difference on the employment
of people with disabilities and our disabled veterans. So thank you for the opportunity,
and now to Sharon. Sharon Wong: Thank you, Dinah and Veronica.
Just good afternoon everyone, and thanks for inviting me to be on this panel to talk about
the government-wide initiative on diversity and inclusion. I know it’s hard going after
Dinah and Veronica and also after lunch and being the last panelist. But hopefully you
will all stay awake, the ones that are sitting here in the auditorium. So you’ve been hearing about Executive Order
13548 on increasing federal employment of people with disabilities. How many of you
have heard of Executive Order 13583, which is about establishing the coordinating the
government-wide initiative to promote diversity and inclusion in the federal workforce and
which was signed last year August? I don’t see any hands in here. Wow. OK, good. This
will work. Next slide, please. So with the Executive
Order on Diversity and Inclusion, our approach to diversity is three-fold. So we want to
look at diversity differently than we have done in the past. Another way, too. It’s also
about better understanding human behavior. As we learn more about brain science and how
our unconsciousness impacts everything we do, we’d look at that then our unconsciousness
leads to unconscious behaviors. Then our behaviors lead to unconscious habits. I’ll talk about
this a little bit more in a bit. Then the third piece of our diversity approach
is about diversity and inclusion really about bringing to bear all of our different thoughts,
our experiences, our ideas to develop the best solutions to the problems that the federal
government is tackling. So that’s really when we say how we approach diversity and inclusion
these days. It’s really around these three concepts. Now, as we talk about diversity, I think many
of you might have seen this graphic before. But we talk about all of an individual’s diversity
makes up who you are as a person. We come to work on a daily basis as a whole person.
We don’t leave part of ourselves at home. Sometimes we do. We unconsciously/subconsciously
ask that of some of our employees. But really, we come to work as a whole person
with all of our differences in background, experiences, ideas, the way we were raised,
even with our biases and perceptions of others. If you look at diversity, it’s about all the
ways that we are distinct and unique individuals and it’s about constructively using those
things that make us different and unique that reach far beyond just generalized group descriptors. Now that we have looked at defining diversity
and inclusion, we talk about workforce diversity, that it’s really about a collection of individual
attributes that together help agencies pursue organizational objectives efficiently and
effectively. Of course, these include but they’re not limited
to characteristics such as national origin, language, race, color, disability, veteran
status, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and the like because this concept also
encompasses differences among people concerning where they’re from — I mentioned some of
that before — where they have lived, and their differences of thought and life experiences. As you can see, we use the term “diversity”
really in its broadest sense. When we define “inclusion,” it’s really about a culture that
connects each employee to the organization. It’s really about where we’re encouraging
collaboration, flexibility, and fairness. Then it’s about leveraging diversity throughout
the organization such that all individuals feel that they are able to participate and
can contribute to their full potential. This is how I like to sum it up. Diversity is what
you bring to the table, and inclusion is how we utilize it. Next slide, please. So as we talk about the reasons why we’re
different, there are really three things that studies have shown. The first one they state
that genes. Genes actually account for about 50 percent of our differences. We get that
from our parents. You just can’t get away from that. You were born with it, so what
you got is what you got. Then we look at the other reason why we’re
different is our environment. Actually, our environment accounts for only five percent,
and that’s probably surprising because I know a lot of people think our environment impacts
us so much that that should be one of the reasons why we’re different. But if you think about parents and raising
up your children or families with multiple children, look at how each child is different,
OK? You would think the parents raised them pretty much in the same environment. Think
of your siblings. None of you are the same, right? You will say you’re all different,
but you’re pretty much raised in the same environment. So studies have shown the environment
is really only like five percent. The other five percent is really those unique
experiences that we all have. I mean if you look at twins, they themselves are different
from each other. We all interact with the world differently, and it’s these unique experiences
that we have that account for much of our difference. In the workplace, every employee is different
and can contribute in different ways by virtue of their individual experiences. For example,
I look at myself as an Asian-American female. I was born and raised in Jamaica the country,
not Jamaica, New York. Then I moved from Jamaica to go to college in West Virginia. I actually
went and got my degree in physics and engineering. I spent my first 15 years working at NASA.
Then I went into Diversity and Inclusion. So I’ve had a broad variety of experiences,
and I would say that those experiences give me a total different perspective in how I
am able to look at things. Now, I’m basically saying that we know we
all have differences, but how do we fully utilize these differences to get our work
done and get a federal government’s mission accomplished? I mean that is why we’re all
here. Next slide please. I mentioned earlier about our focus on unconscious
habits, and unconscious habits really impact in every area of our life. How we interact
with each other, how we make decisions, who we choose to associate with, who are in our
circle of friends, our colleagues, who we even go to lunch with, who, when we take break
during the day, we go and talk to. Let me be clear about this. We’re not saying
people are bad just because of their unconscious habits or behaviors. Our assumption is people
are good people, OK? But it’s our unconscious habits that, as we talk about particularly
on this chart, they really impact where we recruit from, who we hire, how we conduct
performance reviews, even who we decide to mentor. Here are some examples. Unconscious habits
show up in recruitment. For example, when we go to the same schools that we always go
to. Many times it’s the same colleges and universities that we went to, and we swear
that that’s the only place we can find applicants. Then we wonder why we don’t get a more diverse
applicant pool. It shows up in performance reviews when you rate certain people higher
or lower based on preconceived notions about their performance. One of the areas where this impacts is teleworkers
or people who work away from the office, when you can’t see them at work. It shows up in
mentoring programs when you mentor those that look like you, think like you, do the same
things you do. Again, I’m not saying that this is wrong because you’d like to find commonality
with others. So how are we addressing this other than training?
Because the first response to anything people always say is, “Let’s do some training.” We
didn’t go that route. Now, on the executive order as I mentioned earlier, it called for
the creation of a government-wide diversity and inclusion strategic plan. Our office actually
put that out in March of 2012. No, actually that was November of 2011. Sorry. Then we asked agencies to submit their own
individual D&I strategic plans, and those were submitted for the most part in March
of this year. These plans are really about creating a workplace that works for everyone. Again, it’s about making sure that your workforce
is drawn from all segments of society, that you have diversified leadership, that you
have a reduction in EEO complaints, that you support teleworking. We’ve heard about teleworking
so much. It’s about making sure we establish effective mentoring programs. Next slide please. So our plan, we try to make it simple. That’s
the biggest thing you need to know, is make things simple. Basically, we define three
goals. To diversify, to include, and to sustain. When you talk about workforce diversity, that
is really about recruiting from diverse qualified groups of potential applicants so that we
can secure a high-performing workforce that’s drawn from all segments of society. In defining
that goal, we also list some suggested actions. These are about looking at your outreach and
recruitment strategies, having partnerships with universities and colleges, involving
your managers and supervisors in your recruitment activities, ensuring that student internship
and fellowship programs have diverse pipelines, using strategic hiring initiatives for people
with disabilities and veterans. It sounds so obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many
agencies don’t do this. As we talk about workplace inclusion, and
I use the definition earlier about creating a culture that encourages collaboration, flexibility,
and fairness. The actions that we identify there are around ensuring that you have leadership
development programs, that you have a mentoring program, that you do succession planning,
that you create a supportive, welcoming, and inclusive workplace, that you have orientation
programs. Not just for your new employees but also for
new supervisors, new SESers that come on board. Many agencies don’t even do that. If they
have an on-board orientation program for new employees, they never think about new supervisors.
We put them in these positions but don’t provide the tools for how to do their job. Part of
that, also, is making sure you have telework policies in place and that you support telework. Then the third goal around sustainability
is making sure that we’ve developed structures and strategies that equip our leaders with
the ability to be able to manage diversity and be accountable. The actions there are around developing metrics,
having a dashboard, which our office has been working on, and ensuring that employees have
access to diversity and inclusion training. Also, within our office our deputy director
has been developing some training around cultural competency and unconscious biases. Now, Dinah talked a little bit about changing
attitudes when she mentioned the WRP Program, and I just want to give a couple of examples.
I want to share a couple of examples of how bringing on people with disabilities helps
to break down preconceived notions. At my previous agency a few years back our
SPPC, which is the Selective Placement Program Coordinator, and our Disability Program Manager
had identified a really exceptional student for our internship program. But they literally
had to twist arms to get an office to pick this person up. I’ll tell you that by the end of the summer,
all the managers in this employee’s supervisor chain were so impressed that they asked the
student to come back the following year. Not only that, they went back to the SPPC and
the DPM and asked that if they identified any future candidates, to refer them to their
office. Now you talk about changing a mindset? How resistant they were to taking the student! Another example is we had a division that
hired a person with a hearing impairment. After some time they were so impressed with
the individual and his work, that they all took a sign language class to be able to better
communicate with this person. So, that shows how you can break down these preconceived
notions that we have about others. Now, just in closing, I want to say diversity
and inclusion really only works when everybody makes it their responsibility and feel accountable.
Our office, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, is not about just the senior managers making
it happen. Every one of us has to take this on and be responsible. We can write policies,
put out guidance. Yes, you may not be able to hire. But if you
think about the inclusion piece, it is about making sure we have an inclusive welcoming
environment, and it’s all of us that do that. Every single one in our offices do that. Diversity
initiatives are only successful when the entire team commits, communicates, and collaborates. As we talk about working towards a vision
of where we respect, appreciate, and value individual differences so that we can capitalize
on the strengths of a diverse workforce to better perform our mission. Think about the
different perspectives, the different ideas, the richness of what each person brings to
the workplace and how we can effectively utilize that. So with that… Veronica: Great. Thank you, Sharon. So I just
wanted to tell you it was my idea that we should really talk about the two executive
orders together. The main reason is that up until this point we’ve always treated them
as if they’re separate, and we hadn’t been aligning the work that we were doing. In this regard, we could have the veterans
piece up here as well because it all needs to align, and we have to do a good, constructive
job at our agencies figuring out how the programs are to work together and how we collaborate
and get out of our silos because I’ll tell you, for example. With this executive order, it’s the first
time that I know of, from a government-wide place, where we figure out how do we work
with our workforce recruitment program, and OPM. It’s also the first time we look at how do
we do return to work, and reasonable accommodation, and keeping people in their jobs and treated
like part of that process. They’ve always been treated as separate pieces. Often, we think of Schedule A for hiring people
with disabilities and we forget that there’s also 30 percent or more veterans out there,
whom we can also utilize that hiring mechanism, and we kept them separate. We’re really asking agencies, “How can you
be innovative? How can you bring these pieces together?” We do have Schedule A in that first
goal of diversify, because people were excluding people with disabilities. That’s not going
to work. We have to include them. Same with veterans. When we look at inclusion, when we talk about
diverse leadership, we’re also talking about people with disabilities. When you look at
your numbers for your agency, you should expect to see that whatever the participation rate
is at your agency for any given group, that’s also going to be reflected back at you at
the senior leadership level. We want to see more of that. Telework is a big push because it really works
for all of us, but it particularly works for people with disabilities. One of the things
that all the research shows is that if people use telework, it works both ways. There’s
a feeling of trust in the office between the manager and the employee. I know that’s hard
to come by, it’s hard earned trust. But that actually does drive up engagement. Sometimes people will say to us, “What does
inclusion have to do with telework?” It actually drives up engagement. Employees feel trusted,
and that’s the other piece of it. Those are the things we’re thinking about.
How about your mentoring programs, right? Are we making sure that people with disabilities
are participating in those mentoring programs? Employee resource groups. There’s a new group
called Feds that focuses on people with disabilities, for people with disabilities, by people with
disabilities. It’s not some outside group trying to create some synergy there. Those
are the kinds of things we want people to think about. How can you make it better in
your workforce for everyone? Final point. All the research does show when
you have a truly inclusive workplace, when the numbers are high and people are rating
their employee viewpoint surveys high, you actually have a higher percentage of people
with disabilities. It’s something about the way people treat each other and understand
how to work with one another. It just increases and gets better when we have more people with
disabilities in the workplace. It doesn’t seem a direct correlation, and yet somehow
that’s where the numbers are going. Those are the things we wanted to share with
you about the different Executive Orders. And of course, there’s always the law. When
we look the Rehabilitation Act, you can actually set goals on how many folks you’re going to
hire, and we are required to do reasonable accommodations. I think we’re supposed to open it up for questions
now, right? Do we have any, or should we talk amongst ourselves? Here’s a couple, great. Nancy: Hi, my name’s Nancy. This is a question
for Sharon. I’ve heard you speak a few times, and I’m still curious about your perspective
on the CAP or the dialogue groups that you did at NASA. As a lawyer, I’m interested in
the risk factor there. Were there any conflicts that rose to the level of a grievance or a
[indecipherable 0:56:00] grievance related to those conversations? You know the genre
I’m talking about? Sharon: Yes, I’d forgotten the name of it,
DDP. Diversity Dialogue Project, the conversations that we would have. For those that may not
know, we have this program where we got groups of employees, probably about 12 to 15 together.
We met for two hours every other week for six months to talk around different diversity
measures when we met. You stay with the same group. And of course,
it took a couple of weeks to build trust. Because of that too, we also realized that
while we did have a couple of cases where, as people became comfortable in a month or
two into the program, sometimes they start sharing things that, I think just didn’t realize
they were sharing. That was a lessons learned for us, that up
front, we also have to share, that if they raise any kinds of issues or concerns, that
rose to the level of say harassment or things that we needed to gain confidentiality, we
could not maintain confidentiality on something like that. Because yes, it did happen in a
couple of cases where we realized that happened. But because we tried to make the environment
very comfortable and trust in, at the same time, there was that fine balance in terms
of what people could say. But I wouldn’t say it happened every time. I would actually say
it was just a handful of times, which then we had to make sure that it provided a comfortable
environment. Nancy: [inaudible 0:57:44] Sharon: Absolutely. I would say there were
probably two or three signature programs, and we started off with that particular program.
Why I felt that really aided in changing the culture was because you could bring up issues. We had such a diverse group. We had a mix
and match of just about…I personally went through each group and made the selections.
People would feel free to share, and they actually, at the end of it, would learn. We’d
have somebody that would say, “I didn’t know this about people with disabilities.” We’d have a situation, for example, once we
were discussing the Confederate flag. By the time they had gotten to be so trusting, it
was like I don’t know why this offends African Americans, for example. We were then able
to have that rich conversation. We’d have very similar themes with a person
with disability that somebody would say, “I’m not sure how to deal, do I open doors? Do
I offer to help?” Then in those small groups, that’s where the learning really occurs, when
people are able to share the things they don’t want to ask. They’re afraid to ask in a bigger
group. It was on a wide variety of diversity topics. Man 2: Hi, this question is for Dinah. You
talked a little bit about when trying to secure a reasonable accommodation for an employee,
that it’s important to engage in an interactive process. Could you describe what that interactive
process entails? Dinah: More than happy to. Interactive process
is really something that should be done between, well, the correct parties, but always include
the employee with disabilities. I think sometimes we managers think we know all the answers
and know what the person needs. So the interactive process is you start with
the employee, making sure they understand the task. There’s three parts. First is the
job or the task that you want that individual to do on the job site or wherever you want
them to perform that task. We review all those different daily elements — what they expect
to have done. What do you want or expect? What are your expectations of them? Then you have that interactive process where
you’re actually talking to them and say, “Where does your functional limitation impact your
ability to perform some of these tasks?” Because we don’t have any obligation to accommodate
someone in their personal life. It’s really what do they need to perform the tasks on
the job? Where does their functional limitation impact their performance or their specific
task? Once you have that conversation — “These
are my expectations. This is your functional limitation. This is how it’s impacting it.”
Then you can start to look at the solutions. So, let’s say for example, a person is blind.
You’re not going to make that person be able to see, but you want to know what tasks that
they need to do that may need any special assistive technology. What task does their
blindness or visual impairment impact their day to day operation? Let’s say, well, I need to have an accommodation
to do hard copies, and maybe what’s on the computer screen. So you start to look at those
kind of tasks. Then you say, “Well, what are some of the potential solutions. The interactive
process is usually a conversation of what you want to do. The final phase of the interactive process
is that you provide those assistive technology solutions, but you then follow up. I think
a lot of times we just give in and say, “OK. You got your stuff. You’re good to go. Bye,
bye.” We have to make sure that we’re not only providing
them the assistive technology or if they want — it’s not all about assistive technology.
Maybe all they need is a flexible schedule. Whatever that accommodation solution may be,
that we follow up with that individual. Does this meet your expectations? Is it having
a positive impact on your performance and your ability to meet your manager’s expectations. It’s really those major components of the
interactive process. Man 3: Good afternoon, and thank you to the
panelists for coming today and for OPM for putting on this wonderful presentation. My question is for Veronica. Veronica, relation
to Schedule A, you talked about a targeted disability. Now, what is a targeted disability
and what are a few examples? Veronica: Sure. We’ll start with what a targeted
disability is. It’s usually what people think of as a severe disability. Somebody who has
mobility impairment or someone who’s blind or is deaf or is hard of hearing to a certain
level. It might also include other more serious conditions, but you can find it on the SF-256,
and there’s a listing there of what the severe disabilities are. Again that’s SF-256. Schedule A is actually broader, and there
can be people who are not necessarily a targeted disability, but they have a serious disability,
and their doctor can certify that. They can be hired under Schedule A. It is a really great way to bring in a lot
of talent, and that’s why it’s important for us. I’ll tell you. We talked about how are
we going to collect this data into the future? We made sure we keep that category of folks
who have historically been the most difficult to employ, because people have these unconscious
bias. Some of them — let’s be honest. It’s not even that unconscious, right? They just
didn’t want to hire someone who had a more severe disability. We’ve kept that list to
really work with a group of folks who have experienced discrimination. But then there’s a broader list of people,
and we see a lot of talent there. A lot of times they need accommodations coming into
the workplace, so we’re preserving that. Yes, sure. Brenda Brittain: Hi. I’m the Disability Program
Manager at the Department of Commerce. Welcome, everybody. It’s great to be here and to hear
from each one of you. My question is one that I’ve been asking for
a while and it’s regarding training, Schedule A training. Something that we could load online
to our Commerce Learning Center, because a lot of people can’t get training one on one. Instructor-led, I think, is really good to
break down the attitudinal barriers. To talk about disability etiquette, you really can’t
do that in the Schedule A training. I agree that supervisory training needs to include
all of that. I’m working on that as well. But do you know when we’ll have something
that we can load on to our learning centers online, so that they can have certifications
to provide that they did the training? Veronica: Sure. It looks like we’re going
to have something by the end of…and I don’t want to over-promise here, October. Because
what we are doing is we’re making sure that everything is perfectly 508 compliant. We
do have a very quick thumbnail training on Schedule A. I know folks want a little bit more in depth,
but what I always say to everyone is it’s almost like a cartoon, because it’s that easy.
It just shows you how simple it is that someone can just be brought on through Schedule A.
But we are doing something more in depth, and that will be available on HRU, and we
can certainly share it to be used on your server. The other thing, and this is great, I’m glad
you said this, because I would’ve certainly forgotten. We’re doing a symposium, promising
employment practices for people with disabilities. Apparently we wanted to put a lot of Ps in
the title so it would be hard to say it over and over again. That’s September 19, it’s from 9:00 to 4:30
at the US Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Virginia. The reason we have it there is it’s
a beautiful facility and it’s very accessible. This is free to all employees. This is something
that anyone can register for, and we’re going to be sending it out through our normal LISTSERVs.
But we can certainly send that out through this group as well so that folks can hear
more about that. Dinah: I also want to add that we have, it’s
about 10 minutes-ish, a video and in training. It’s an online training and talks to not only
about CAP, but reasonable accommodation, the executive orders, Schedule A. At the end of it, you can answer the questions
and have a lovely certificate. Again, it’s something that anyone can do at their desktop.
It is a good place to start. We have a couple new videos coming out, or online training
as we would call it, on Telework, on reasonable accommodation, on accommodations with people
with dexterity disabilities. We’ll be doing one soon on cognitive, so there are always
things and we push them out. The big key is, make sure that you sign up
for our LISTSERV, that your CAP friend sign up and be my friend on Facebook. That way,
you’ll get all that information because it’ll be always pushed out, the latest and greatest,
including some of the webinars we’ve done together through the target centers. So where
there’s a lot of information there, we try to keep it easy and we realize a lot of people
rather do their learning from their desktop. Moderator: We do have a question from the
web. Are agencies required to hire a Schedule A applicant regardless of the depth of experience
of that applicant? Also, is this the fear of agencies to use Schedule A authority? Veronica: Actually, the answer is no, you
don’t have to hire someone from Schedule A. You can actually determine who is the best
fit for the job. What I have found personally, and I think sometimes that’s most meaningful,
is when I started at my office, I didn’t have any employees. It was me and one other person
who had been at the agency, and I was new to the agency. I used Schedule A to hire, at the time, three
people, all at once, very quickly. They helped me set up the office. Could not have done
it without them. So it was a perfect mechanism, but yes, I did got and find the most qualified
people. And you’re not required to hire that way. There was a second part to that question,
I think. Moderator: About the fear, or agency… Veronica: I’ll be real honest. I think the
fear is people don’t know how to interact with other people who are different from themselves
in certain ways. What everyone with a disability will tell you is, ask. If you’re not sure how to interact with someone,
ask. How shall I shake your hand? Would you like for me to open the door? It’s really
just about asking a person and allowing them that autonomy to tell you what they’d like. Moderator: We also have a question about inclusion.
What are some inclusion best practices? And how do you measure improvements or declines
in inclusion? Veronica: Sharon, do you want to take part
of that one? Sharon: Sure. Let me start with the second
part, in terms of how do you measure? One of the things that we have looked at is really
the EVS scores. That’s the Employee Viewpoint Survey. If you look at the questions that
they ask there, it’s really about how employees feel about the workplace. That’s very much tied to how they feel about
being given opportunity, how they’re feeling in terms of working in their particular work
environment, the people that they’re working with. That is the indicator that we have been
using in terms of measuring inclusion. One of the things I mentioned about is a dashboard
that we’ve been developing. It is based on diversity index and inclusion index. The inclusion
index piece is based on some of the questions from the EVS. I think the first part of the question was… Woman 3: I have a question
on that. [inaudible 1:09:42] . Last conversation
I attended was with colleagues from your office presenting to EEO directors. I heard the reference
to the algorithm a couple times around that equation that you just mentioned, Sharon. My recollection is that lawyers at OPM are
still struggling with approving that. I wanted to make the suggestion again that once the
algorithm is agreeable here, I really strongly suggest that there would be some very focused
conversation with the general counsel’s offices around key agencies. Because once you’ve finished
that battle here, we’re going to have to re-fight it all over again. I think it would be very important to share
whatever your legal opinions here finally approve. Share the rationales because we’re
left with fighting our own general counsel’s offices without the benefit of the legislative
or legal analysis history that you’ve gone through here. Veronica: Sure, I’ll tell you. A part of what
happened is, VA has been a real leader in this, and we did share what they were working
on. It wasn’t inclusive enough. Honestly, we had to add factors, so it was race, national
origin, and sex. We had to add disability. We had to add veteran status. We had to include
people with disabilities and we wanted to focus on people with targeted disabilities
too. So we added those elements and now you can
look through and you can see where are all these different individuals in terms of the
senior executive service, in terms of pipeline. Just in terms of their GS levels or their
levels, maybe you’re not using GS. We also looked at the employee viewpoint score
and we looked at five major factors that can be closely correlated with an inclusive workplace.
We validated this with outside research and studies, so that it was very clear why we
picked those. It’s very important to us that, when we talk about all these initiatives,
everyone’s included, and that includes people with disabilities. I know Sharon was going to take it, but I’ll
tell you my favorite inclusive strategy. This is something that when we present and corporate
America’s there, they come up and say, “We don’t do it that way. We think that’s a great
idea,” is creating succession plans where we have deep benches of talent, and are figuring
out how to fill gaps among all the different individuals who we’re thinking would be great
for the next level. Up until this point, and like I said, corporate
America does this too, we almost do an heir apparent. I am, in my role, it will be Sharon,
or it will be Dinah, or it will be Bruce, whomever the person is. It could be any one
of these three folks, and how can I get them capable and ready and be the best fit. There’s a great competition among them. They
all grow, and you know what, if this position doesn’t work out for them, they can go somewhere
else and have fabulous skills to share. I think if we can really crack that nut, I think
peoples’ sense of the workplace and their sense of inclusion in the workplace will go
up. That’s one of them. The employee resource groups that Sharon’s
been working very hard on is another one. Do you want to mention that? Sharon: Sure. We’ve been putting together
guidelines, and this is just internal to OPM, we’ve been crafting guidelines with regards
to creating employee groups. The way we are looking at it is we are employee resource
groups. Now, there’s also another set of groups that
we call employee networking groups. The resource groups tend to be around your known affinity
groups, African-Americans, Hispanic, Asian-Americans, women. Within that category also your LGBT
employees. You can have veterans group, you can have a new employee group. We call them
ERGs because they’re a resource to the agency. This where these groups tend to, they actually
will help around some of your HR processes in terms of even recruitment and outreach.
You could think about people who belong to these groups. Many times, they’re actually
also involved out in the community. So, who better to help you in your outreach
and recruitment? The other group that we’re looking at, what we are calling employee networking
groups. These are more around your employee morale kind of groups. Say a Thursday lunch
group, a book club. It’s more around a social affinity type of activity in which they get
together. We won’t ask them to help with our recruitment and stuff. As we’ve developed those two sets of groups,
what it is, it brings employees together of like interests, or particularly on the ERG
side, to rally around maybe issues and concerns of like employees. Again, it’s open to everyone. Just because
you may have an LGBT group or a veterans group, it’s not that only LGBT employees or only
veterans. Because for a veterans group, you will have family members. Same thing with
a people with disabilities group. We will find that your co-workers who have a family
member that’s within that group, and so want to join. They’re all open to anyone, as long as you
have the interest and you will help with working that group. Those, we find the employees then
find that common interest. They find, particularly when an agency or an organization has such
a group, here is a group that they may go to. We’re not saying about…let me be clear.
It’s not about segregating, because sometimes we’ve heard that people say having these groups
segregate a population. That is not the point here. If you think sometimes when you first
go into an organization…you have a new employee group. Here are new employees, they know what
it’s like to be new employees. They can share their experiences together.
Does that make sense? Moderator: Thanks. Dinah, if you could talk
a little bit about people with disabilities. I think there’s a lot of mistakes that people
commonly make that result in someone feeling excluded. Dinah: My first job in the federal government
was with the Naval Research Laboratory. We’re talking about Nerd City, USA. The WRP program
started there, and it went off extremely well, because they were always looking for the next
scientist, engineer, the next Stephen Hawking, the next person to invent the next technology. Through my WRP program, it was interesting
to find that there was this one candidate who the divisions were fighting over, because
the person had a perfect GPA from Berkeley in physics and computer science. Of course,
everybody wanted this candidate. They totally forgot it was a person with a disability coming
off the WRP list. The person shows up the first day, and again,
I can say being a part of the disabled community, visibly a very severely disabled individual.
A person of short stature, had very deformed arms and legs. One manager quickly says, “How
are we going to accommodate this person?” It didn’t take very long for him to already
know how to accommodate himself, so there was very little that he needed. A few weeks
later, I did the follow-up, and they were all concerned because they all play cards
together, and he joined the card group, which is being part of the group. But they were concerned about how do they
exclude him, or what do they do about including him when they play golf. This person, again,
knowing that he may have people concerned about his role or how able-bodied he can be
or how much he can do certain things, when they say, “We don’t know, some of us play
golf, and we get together after work and we play golf.” This young man just says, “Let me tell you
about my handicap.” And they’re all getting a little nervous, and he says, “I’m left handed.”
Give us a chance. Do not assume anything. He played golf, he was a winner, he broke
so many barriers. When I did my final review on him, and I go,
“How did you work this summer,” he goes, “The most embarrassing thing that we did and had
to deal with were the student from Berkeley. He solved a problem in two weeks that we couldn’t
do in four months.” The thing is that they were concerned because
they saw him, they said he can’t play this, he can’t do this, he can’t do that. The bottom
line was not only could he do it, he understood that maybe there’s some other people that
are a little uncomfortable, and he knew how to address it. Their fears were totally washed
away, because it was not the first time someone looked at him and goes how is he going to
do that? Don’t make assumptions. Moderator: Do we have any additional questions? Woman 4: Actually not a question, but a comment.
It’s a plug for the Department of Commerce, the Office of Human Resource Management. October
4, we’re going to celebrate disability awareness with Tony Coelho. He’s going to be our keynote
speaker. It’s 10 to 12 in our auditorium and everyone’s invited. Veronica: Outstanding. Moderator: Well, for all the panelists, I
will say thank you for being here today. Thank you for the questions. You know your biggest
fear when you do one of these is that no one’s going to have any questions. We’ll have to
sit here and talk to each other or something, so we appreciate it. Thank you. Tim: We hope everyone did get some valuable
information here today. If you think of a question later, that we haven’t been able
to get to, you can still send it to [email protected] One final comment. We encourage you to complete
the evaluation form, as we not only use your input to try to improve these sessions, but
also we look forward to your suggestions for new topics. Thank you all for joining us today.

Stephen Childs

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