The purpose of induction is to gradually introduce a new or existing employee who has acquired a disability, to their new work environment.
Induction involves gaining insight into:
- The reality of a new job i.e., the specific aspects of the work (how it is performed), the expectations of the employer and initial on-the-job training;
- How an organisation works i.e. the role of the new employee within the overall work environment and how that employee interacts with and relates to supervisors, team leaders and other work colleagues.
It is best practice for companies or organisations to provide some form of induction, either informally (sit and watch) or through more formal procedures.
Induction is a process which may take place irrespective of whether or not there is an official probationary period. It is usually led by a supervisor and involves the collaboration of work colleagues. For people with disabilities who have successfully come through the interview process, effective induction is critical.
Depending on the nature and severity of the disability, it is at this stage that initial physical, communication, attitudinal and other barriers manifest themselves, requiring an appropriate response.
The induction process should be regarded as the initial phase of an integration programme which identifies particular needs and provides appropriate accommodations and ongoing support, as necessary.
It is equally important to remember that a new employee with a disability got the job on the basis that they are capable of undertaking the work, with (or often without) some form of accommodation or assistance. The induction process is about how to do the job and what forms of assistance are required to realise that capacity.
It may be necessary to review the way this training is delivered in order to take account of the needs of the new employee. Remember to give sufficient time and to ensure that training materials and job instructions are available in the employee’s preferred format, such as large print, Braille, tape or disc. See Assistive Technology for more information.
A company/organisation may already have a well-established induction process, influenced by a disability/equality officer who is more aware and experienced in dealing with such issues. Such a person will recognise the importance of the induction phase, be aware of potentially prevalent reactions or attitudes among management or the workforce, and will provide relevant training and consult those concerned in order to influence misconceptions and address problems at the earliest possible stage.
An employee with a learning disability is undergoing induction and on-the-job training at a company. He has been hired to deliver messages. It is noticed during his training that he often mixes up messages for ‘R. Naughton’ and ‘T. Naughton’. The supervisor knows about his disability, suspects that the performance problem is linked to it and knows that this particular employee may be unable to ask for a reasonable accommodation because of his disability. The supervisor asks the trainee about mixing up the two names and asks if it would be helpful to spell the first name of each person. When the trainee says that would be easier, the supervisor instructs the receptionist to write the full first name when messages are left for one of the Naughtons.
Alternatively, a company may be in the position of employing a person with a disability for the first time, in the presence or absence of a formal induction process. In such circumstances, the person with the disability will be breaking new ground and, generally speaking, managers, supervisors and co-workers will not be aware of the issues involved. There is clearly scope for such a company to gain insight from the induction processes of other organisations through the exchange of best practice. A person with a disability in these circumstances should try to discuss their situation with a person with similar experience and contribute to ways of overcoming barriers as they emerge.