2022 | |

Welcoming PwD – Making Mediabrands more inclusive for all!

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Credits: Bala Pomaleh - Mediabrands Malaysia, Chief Executive Officer Muralitharan Ramasamy - Mediabrands Malaysia, Chief Financial Officer Debica Sigamani - Mediabrands Malaysia, Director of Human Resources Gavina Rajendran - Mediabrands Malaysia, Director of Marketing and Communication Linnga Kumar - Mediabrands Malaysia, Senior Human Resources Manager Valerie Aw - Mediabrands Malaysia, Manager, Human Resource Business Partner Aina Afiqah - Mediabrands Malaysia, Communication Executive Zhi Yeng Lim - Mediabrands Malaysia, Human Resource Business Partner Audrey Chong - Universal McCann (UM), Chief Executive Officer Stanley Clement - Mediabrands Content Studio, Chief Executive Officer Darren Yuen - Initiative & BPN, Chief Executive Officer Sujith Rao - Reprise, Managing Director of Reprise Performance & Technology Fan Chen Yip - Orion, Chief Investment Officer Mei Jeng Phang - Ensemble Worldwide, Managing Director

The Context
An estimated 4.5 million Malaysians have a disability, and less than 0.5% have any form of employment. The disabled community in Malaysia faces tremendous obstacles, not only a lack of disabled friendly infrastructure, but a lack of education opportunities, discrimination, and the pervasive misconception that those with disabilities are not useful – leading to the disabled being underserved and not seen. Our objective: to become an employer of choice for PwD and foster a climate of respect and inclusivity.

The Strategy & Execution
Our first task was connecting with leading PwD authorities: 1. Senator Datuk Ras Adiba: Malaysian senator, a PwD advocate & Chairman of Bernama media 2. Representatives of PwD NGOs: to understand the unique challenges of various disability groups 3. University programme coordinators: to understand representation and state of PwD graduates 4. Perkeso: to understand the landscape and hiring 5. Certified Disability Equality Training trainers: to understand needs and training required Through conversations we became more informed and passionate about our intent, gaining confidence, direction & insights which shaped our 3-pronged action plan. 1. Adapt recruitment practices: Diversity initiatives needed to extend to recruitment efforts. Through key partnerships with NGOs and universities, we increased our PwD talent pipeline. Till end Q1, we successfully interviewed 48 PwD candidates, forming 16% of interviews overall. In a typical interview process, every placement requires 3 candidates to be interviewed. With PwD hires, more time is taken to ensure a deeper understanding of applicants. COVID restrictions created additional challenges with online interviews, proving a vastly different experience for HR and hiring managers. 2. Increase awareness amongst Employees: a. Disability Equality Training: Intensive sessions designed specifically for senior management, leads, support staff & teams with incoming PwD to shed light on different disabilities and how best to interact with PwD colleagues. b. Disability Awareness Workshops: Formulated as bite-sized sessions for all staff to align understanding and remove barriers. c. Specialist sessions: A year-long plan of talks on different disabilities: Autism Awareness, Learning Disabilities, Learning Sign Language d. HR Team Roundtable: Open dialogue for staff to raise concerns or suggestions e. In-house Inclusion & Mental Health Resources: Constant communication on a wide variety of online resources and bespoke in-house programmes like Mental Health Week 3. Organisational Preparedness: A tailored PwD policy encompassed the entire employee experience cycle from recruitment practices, training, to end of employment. Changes were also made to existing policies & procedures, eg. an additional declaration question for disabilities in the employment form. Strict data privacy guidelines and enforcements were put in place and relevant employees who would have access to information were given an e-learning course. Whistleblowing and SOPs when dealing with discrimination were also enacted and disseminated to all employees so managers were best informed. An equity parity toolkit was created to ensure we are providing the best possible working environment for PwD. Aligned through assessment forms, it lays out the types of training for different PwD, and additional support provided eg. Isolated workplaces, reasonable extensions of task deadlines, additional insurance, screenreaders etc. Finally, PwD personal assistance buddies were assigned and guided to act as a point of contact and support.

The Results
By end 2021, we hired 6 PwD, 1.5% of our headcount, higher than the 1% mandate for public sector. Our goal is to expand this to 3% in 2022. Moving forward, 10% of positions we hire for will require at least 1 PwD candidate in the final candidate shortlist. Within 4 months, 40% of managers & teams with PwD colleagues have completed the Diversity Equality Training, with 35% of other employees completing awareness sessions, aiming for 100% completion by year end. We have noted a stark increase in employee net promoter scores (NPS) since our first PwD colleagues joined us. In April 2021 before the initiative was launched, NPS was 8, rising steadily to 21 in November 2021 and 43 at Q1 2022 – a 35-point improvement. This is testament that employees appreciate and are committed to building a more diverse and inclusive working environment. Senior management continues to support and endorse the initiative at every turn, taking the time to personally attend trainings and round table discussions, driving conversation around inclusivity. Our journey to become a more diverse and inclusive workplace has gained press recognition, with CEO Bala Pomaleh leading the charge to champion the initiative in the industry. Internally, the programme roadmap and communication materials are being shared with the intention to replicate it regionally. This journey has been one of discovery and enlightenment, yet there is still more to learn as building an inclusive ecosystem for PwD is ever-changing. Encouragingly, in the process of preparing for our PwD colleagues, we also ended up making Mediabrands Malaysia more inclusive for all employees.