When Charlotte Dales saw her cousin become the first licensed aesthetician in Florida with Down syndrome, she not only recognized the untapped potential of people with disabilities in the workforce, but took it one step further by creating Inclusively, a technology that aids in bringing that talent to the table to top companies across the country. While Dales is located in Richmond, Virginia, the organization she co-founded is expanding their enterprise right here in St. Louis, led by Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer Sarah Bernard.
“We are really excited to expand our presence here in St. Louis,” says Bernard of Inclusively, which is a professional network and employment platform for those with disabilities, mental health conditions and chronic illnesses. “Inclusively gives St. Louis the opportunity to really be seen as a leader in disability inclusion. And knowing how supportive local enterprises are of organizations like Starkloff Disability Institute and St. Louis Arc, it has been great to see them embrace Inclusively, as well.”
Indeed, it seems Inclusively has been easy for businesses both big and small to embrace since its launch in October 2020.
“We have partnerships with Microsoft, Dell, Ernst & Young, J.P. Morgan and Travelers,” says Bernard. “Since then we’ve grown across every industry and employer size — so companies as small as Sheryl Sandberg & Dave Goldberg Family Foundation to those as large as Salesforce.”
Employers simply pay to post their jobs to Inclusively (which is free for candidates to use) and tag any potential accommodations available.
“There is an extra level of personalization that’s embedded into the platform where candidates can search for jobs by accommodations — or success enablers, as we call them — that they need,” says Bernard.
Success enablers include things like assistive hearing or vision technologies, work site accessibility and remote work.
“Remote work is the number one requested accommodation that people with disabilities make that’s most often denied,” says Bernard. “And now, given that nearly all work went remote this past year amid the pandemic, that is a reasonable accommodation that a majority of employers can make on roles. It does open the door up quite a bit for a lot of individuals with disabilities who’ve been traditionally told that that accommodation can’t be met.”
And with 10,000 candidates and counting, Inclusively certainly has the workforce to fill open positions.
“One in five people— actually one in four depending on who you’re talking about — have a disability,” says Bernard. “Only 33 percent of working age Americans with disabilities are employed, while 76 percent of that same group without disabilities are employed, so there’s just this talent pool with incredible skill sets that have not been utilized. There hasn’t really been a technology that exists that brings all of that together.”
That is, until now.
“Inclusively is founded on proprietary job matching technology, which allows us to consolidate the entire talent pool of people with disabilities into one user community,” says Bernard. “So traditionally, organizations that value disability inclusion and seek out this pipeline of talent, it has been dispersed across hundreds of thousands of disability-specific organizations. We really bring it into one spot. We’ve partnered with universities, nonprofits, government agencies and charities to bring candidates to our site. When employers sign on they can post their jobs, tag all the accommodations that they’ve made progress towards as an organization and then they can see all the candidates that have connected to their jobs.”
An algorithm serves up candidates recommended for roles.
“That really helps make it efficient and a scalable way to hire at scale the candidates in our database,” says Bernard.
A database that St. Louis-based Edward Jones was excited to engage with, according to Julie Bugala, who is Edward Jones’ director of acquisition.
“Inclusively’s purpose aligns so well with our purpose,” says Bugala. “It’s a way for us to activate what I call our promise statement. Our promise statement within the firm is that together, we will be stronger tomorrow than we are today, and we can only get stronger tomorrow than we are today if we seek to support the communities in which we serve.”
“So as we look at our strategies within talent acquisition,” Bugala continues, “we are continuously looking to attract and retain and mentor and develop a talented diverse workforce that aligns to our promise statement, and it’s a critical piece of our talent acquisition strategy. Inclusively is helping us tap into talent that has otherwise been misunderstood or unavailable or inaccessible by employers, so they are helping us unlock that talent pipeline to knowledge-based workers who align to positions we have available within a firm.”
However, Bugala believes it’s not just the talent pool that excited Edward Jones, but also Inclusively’s approach.
“It’s a really great, unique software that other employment platforms have not offered before Inclusively — at least not that we have ever had access to,” says Bugala. “What’s so special about it is that it provides an opportunity for job seekers to identify what their accommodations are, whether they be cognitive or physical. On the reverse side with the employers, as we post jobs with Inclusively we can identify the types of accommodations that are best suited for those types of roles. The system automatically makes those matches for us between the job seeker and the job, so it really does drive a much more effective process and takes out some of the discomfort an employee might have otherwise felt around the accommodations piece because Inclusively automatically sets up to make those matches for us. The technology and the software is a brilliant solution.”
Something Arch Grants evidently agreed with, as the organization awarded Inclusively one of its 2020 $50,000 grants.
“That has been tremendously helpful to help us break into the St. Louis location,” says Bernard. “It has been incredible how well-received Inclusively has been adopted by both employers and job seekers here.”
“Hopefully, Inclusively encourages other enterprises to think about not just cherry-picking specific roles that they think are best suited for the disability community, but instead posting all their jobs on Inclusively and letting us serve up candidates that are fit for those roles and encourage employers to become more accommodating to the disability community,” says Bernard.
“It has been incredibly rewarding to work on something that has such an impact.”