Seeing things through a different lens at Stonnington

City of Stonnington Service Centre.
Image: Staff smiling while assisting a customer at City of Stonnington's Service Centre.

Local councils in Australia are often referred to as the ‘grassroots’ level of government because their decisions and activities directly affect the community.

It’s crucial that the workforces of local councils reflect the diversity of everyday people within their boundaries, including those living with disability, to represent the interests of residents.

As part of its commitment to diversity and inclusion, the City of Stonnington in Melbourne’s inner south-east has spearheaded several strategies to make the organisation a great place to work for everyone.

A recent strategy involved a successful 12-month partnership with JobAccess’ National Disability Recruitment Coordinator (NDRC) to develop workplace policies and practices that accommodate people with disability.

Emily Anderson, Talent Acquisition Lead at the City of Stonnington, says the feedback and support from the NDRC allowed her and council’s hiring managers to view disability recruitment through a different lens.

“I think the feedback was really valuable. It made me put on different lenses each time we undertook a recruitment process,” Emily explains.

“We’ve hired people living with disability since working with the NDRC and it’s made the process a lot smoother,” Emily says.

What is the NDRC?

The NDRC partners with larger organisations across Australia through free, tailored partnerships to provide one-to-one support for building disability confidence.

It works alongside employers to help identify and remove systemic, attitudinal and environmental barriers in the workplace to improve equitable access to employment for people with disability.

Thinking more deeply about disability

While the Council had already run staff training on disability awareness and inclusion, and had a reasonable adjustment policy, Emily was interested in what more the Council could do in the disability recruitment space. Then she learnt about JobAccess and the NDRC online.

“I wanted to get a sense of what do we need to do to uplift in that area: where can we make changes that are going to make a real difference,” she says.

“We realised there probably are quite a few barriers in our recruitment process. I thought I’ll see who’s out there that runs the service, that are specialists in their field and have done this before.

“I didn’t want to waste any time with it. I wanted to make sure that when we did the review that it was done well, and we were going to see some positive changes and outcomes from it.”

A dedicated NDRC Professional Adviser, Rob Crestani, was assigned to Stonnington and worked with Emily to review the Council’s recruitment policies and procedures through the lens of a person with disability.

The recruitment review helps identify any gaps in the hiring process and suggests good practice to make it an accessible and inclusive experience for candidates with disability, starting from the application stage to onboarding new employees.

The NDRC also delivered disability awareness training sessions for Stonnington staff. These sessions are designed to drive awareness among recruitment teams, hiring managers and HR specialists by sharing facts, dispelling myths, and advising on various supports and good practices to improve confidence and make the hiring process more inclusive.

Image: Cars driving along Glenferrie Road in the City of Stonnington

Several small wins add up to change

Rob put together a detailed report with a range of suggestions about the simple changes the Council could make to improve their end-to-end recruitment process. It covered things like content on the website, how they advertise vacancies, the application process, position descriptions, the screening, interviewing and selection process, and their relationships with Disability Employment Services (DES) providers.

“It was quite a detailed report with really good information. It included summaries of each of the issues, what are the things to consider, and then what are the actions. It was a really informative but easy to follow plan,” Emily says.

“He spelt everything out - this is what the problem is, this is why it’s a problem, and then suggestions for how to rectify it.

“Rob was actively engaged with me and supported me the whole way through.”

The report suggested the Council fix things such as website links that weren’t working, and position descriptions that weren’t accessible for screen readers. Rob also ran a disability awareness training for the Council’s hiring managers.

Emily says small wins included adding in a line in the application acknowledgment email encouraging candidates to ask for any support or reasonable adjustments that may be required and adding her own contact number.

“We’d always put the hiring manager in the job ad, but Rob highlighted how important it is that the candidate has someone they feel comfortable with to open up about, and that may not be with the person making the final decision, it may actually be with HR,” she explains.

“So even something as simple as putting my name and contact number in an email confirmation to them to reach out to if there’s anything they want to discuss. That’s been really good.”

Emily is also now distributing the Council’s employment opportunities to local DES via the NDRC, and she’s developed relationships with her local DES offices. She has run a webinar with DES staff to talk them through Stonnington’s processes and how best to help candidates find and keep jobs with council.

Smoother process with disability hires

Since the partnership with the NDRC, Emily says she’s felt more confident hiring people living with disability.

“I definitely felt more confident in the process and our hiring managers have felt more confident too. Knowing what our process is, where can we go to for help, was really valuable.”

One of these hires was a helpdesk officer role in the IT department that was filled by a woman who uses a wheelchair. Emily discussed any changes that might be needed to help her do the job, including building compliance with wheelchair access, and they consulted the JobAccess website for information.

“Just making sure the doors are the right size, elevator access, parking, all of those things were all good to go,” she says.

“That was a really smooth hire because everyone kind of knew what to do, following the workplace adjustments policy and procedure that Rob had helped to update and get more information into as well, as part of the review.”

Looking to become disability confident? Get in touch.

The National Disability Recruitment Coordinator (NDRC) provides tailored and dedicated support to help recruiters, HR leaders, line manages and C-suite executives become disability fit.

Contact JobAccess on 1800 464 800 to connect with the NDRC or submit an enquiry.

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