As the coronavirus pandemic continues to cause unprecedented impact to business, employers, and employees, human capital leaders continue to face both short- and long-term challenges. Since March, i4cp has held a weekly series of calls to address the unique diversity and inclusion issues raised by both the COVID-19 outbreak and the social unrest following the murder of George Floyd. Each week, hundreds of decision makers join these calls to hear from their community and access the latest research from i4cp's Coronavirus Employer Resource Center.
This week's featured guest is Anthony Kennedy Shriver at Best Buddies.
Anthony Kennedy Shriver, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Best Buddies International (BBI) and nephew of late president John F. Kennedy, joined i4cp’s weekly Diversity & Inclusion Action Call to chat about his organization and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on employment for the individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities BBI serves.
Key Ideas Shared Today:
Best Buddies International is a nonprofit organization founded by Shriver in 1989 to establish a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development and inclusive living for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
With almost 3,000 chapters worldwide, BBI positively impacts the lives of more than 1.3 million people (with and without IDD). The organization has a presence in every U.S. state and is active globally in 56 countries and territories.
Commenting on the organization’s win/win influence, Shriver says, “What we find over and over with Best Buddies when we’re finding a job in an inclusive workforce is, yes it impacts our buddy, but it also impacts the company in such a powerful way. Companies that have hired people of diversity or people with special abilities thrive. Those companies do better.”
The pandemic has opened organizations and their leaders to new ideas.
Discussing the impact of the COVID-19 health crisis and the fears that can hold organizations back from employing people with IDD, Shriver noted that the pervasive, world-wide fear of the coronavirus is something of a uniting factor.
“People know that they have to do something different, they have to innovate, they know they have to be creative, and they have to be more open. For the first time in history, we’re all scared together. Knowing that we are all in this together, that we have to change our company culture, that we have to be more accepting, not only of people with intellectual disabilities, but people of color, people of different ethnic groups, different nationalities – all those things create great enrichment opportunities for individuals and companies.”
Finding meaningful and competitive work opportunities for people with IDD is only the beginning for BBI, says Amanda Coffman, Senior Director of Best Buddies Jobs. The organization streamlines the employment process for employer partners and BBI field teams. Employment counselors, who are versed in both candidate and employer needs, provide on-the-job support through the lifecycle of every job. BBI also supports employers with training (Disability Etiquette 101, Equitable Management, and more advanced topics) and gets involved to provide help if any issues arise.
Positive outcomes for employers: Amanda Gruber, Operations Manager of Chicago firm ActiveCampaign (a cloud software platform provider specializing in software for customer experience automation), shared her company’s experiences in employing two BBI participants.
Gruber says that BBI has been a strong ally to her firm through their 3-year association, by helping build out its diversity, inclusion, and equity program and in helping the company during the pandemic.
“Best Buddies took most of the work out of the hiring process for us, so we could focus on the people and not the process,” she observes, noting that BBI’s intermediary in Chicago sourced talent, forwarded resumes, scheduled candidate interviews, and even attended interviews.
According to Gruber, the two hires ActiveCampaign has made through BBI have been exemplary employees who are goal-driven, valued contributors to the firm’s success. In addition, BBI has continued to work with both employees, as well as the company, providing training and ongoing support.
The pandemic offers a time for individuals and organizational leaders to reflect and look ahead, says Shriver. He says this includes such things as imagining what we want organizations to look like when we emerge from the health crisis and includes envisioning the workforces we want.
“We’re going to do more with the Black Lives Matter movement,” he says, “and we’re going to do more to elevate our female employees, elevate people of ethnic diversity. We want to do a better job of helping to create a workforce in 2021 that is reflective of our country, its values, and reflects everyone who makes up our great country.”
He adds that, the more diverse workforces are in 2021, the stronger and more successful companies will be. For their part, employees will be more passionate about their work and willing to contribute more. “I hope that Best Buddies will be a piece of that equation and a really powerful one.”
Organizations interested in learning more about Best Buddies International and exploring opportunities to employ individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are invited to email: AmberCoffman@bestbuddies.org
i4cp and Best Buddies partnered on research into the benefits of employing individuals with disabilities, and the study’s report contains further information on BBI, along with features on employers who have welcomed BBI participants into their organizations. The Inclusive Talent Pool: Employing People with Disabilities is available free from deliveringjobs.org or go.i4cp.com/inclusivetalent
- The August 11th Diversity and Inclusion Action Call will welcome Dalana Brand, VP of People Experience and Head of Inclusion and Diversity at Twitter.
Visit i4cp’s Employer Resource Center to access a recording of the full Action Call.