I recently attended a conference that included a large group of Human Resources professionals from organizations large and small to discuss pressing topics in HR and the field of I/O Psychology, in general. In this conference I participated in a forum on two new regulations from the OFCCP (The Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs), specifically, changes to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended and to the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act, as amended.
If you are not aware the premise of these changes is that organizations will now be required to track and report the percentage of disabled and veteran employees, aiming for a target utilization rate (roughly 7% for both). This includes providing the government data on their current workforce and tracking applicant and incumbent data from this point forward.
Are organizations meeting that goal?
Based on some recent statistics collected by the Conference Board , organizations are struggling to meet these numbers and that sentiment was shared by some organizations that were present at the forum. Specifically, in a survey conducted by the Conference Board, only 13% of the organizations surveyed either met or exceeded the target utilization rate for disabled workers. Several of the organizations present in the conference forum also expressed concerns that they may not meet the target utilization goals, but due to reporting issues, as opposed to true lack of representation in their workforce.
Why is it so difficult to reach that goal?
The organizations we spoke with repeatedly discussed the difficulty of reducing the potential stigma that an individual may feel by reporting that they have a disability. This sentiment was commonly shared as well as a means of potentially reducing this stigma for future data collections. For example, one way to reduce the stigma would be to profile a high-level well recognized employee who has a disability and celebrate this individual’s ability to be successful in the organization.
Other examples were to create very specific and targeted communications to outline why the data was being collected, who will have access to the data, and how the data can help shape future policies for individuals with disabilities. Or, work with managers to have discussions with employees on why this data is important and how the information can only be used to help the company employ a more diverse workforce.
Another major barrier that was identified was the requirement of the respondents putting identifying information on the forms to ensure that they could be tracked by job group. In fact, the Conference Board found that when respondents were allowed to provide anonymous submissions, the disability percentages were considerably higher. Additionally, there were concerns about how the statistics were required to be calculated and whether that provided the necessary information to create actionable diversity strategies.
The overall sentiment from organizations was that the intention behind the changes is positive, but how these will be implemented and the impact on organizational diversity continues to be nebulous. As a consultant who works with several federal contractors, I recommend staying close to these issues and working with other organizations to learn from each other and develop effective programs that can have a lasting impact. And not to get all sales-y on you, but Select does have a great tool that can help your organization anonymously collect that OFCCP data: Self-Identification Virtual Assistant.
 Young, M. B., & Kan, M. Do ask, do tell. The conference board research report R-1569-14-PR.