For Charlotte Dales, access to talent isn’t a pipeline problem. But companies have to start rethinking their hiring process if they want to create a strong employee base.
“Everyone has come to think that to increase diversity all you need is access to pipeline. But that’s taking the view that people are just sitting around not applying for your jobs. The problem is [people] are applying for your jobs and they’re being filtered out by current applicant tracking systems or during the standardized interview process,” Dales told Hypepotamus.
Interviews and applicant tracking systems have been “rigid” and “exclusionary” to those with disabilities, mental health conditions, and chronic illnesses. Inclusively, which was co-founded by Dales, is an employment platform connecting companies to candidates with disabilities that have traditionally been excluded from the hiring process altogether.
“We’re built on the premise of self-disclosure on a candidate side and transparency on the employer side.”
In practice, the platform helps companies rethink how to best change hiring practices or update a job description to be more inclusive of neurodiverse candidates. That might look like having someone with autism opt-out of a panel interview, providing specific work-from-home setups, or making other job modifications.
The first version of the candidate portal launched in 2020 with Ernst & Young, Microsoft, JP Morgan, and Travelers. They’ve since launched an employer portal to ease the matching process and a unique advocacy portal for “nonprofits, government agencies, training programs, and anyone who’s helping people with disabilities” better connect with potential hiring companies.
Larger companies like Salesforce, Comcast, Charles Swab, and Accenture have since signed on. There are about 50 companies and 30,000 active candidates on the platform at the moment.
Unlike other recruitment platforms, Dales said Inclusively is highly targeted when it comes to connecting employees and employers.
“This community, in my opinion, has been burned historically because there are lots of people out there that can market and get a ton of millions of candidates on a platform and they can create an API to get all the jobs aggregated. But if you don’t actually have an engaged employer on the other side who’s willing to provide accommodations, there’s not going to be a lot of matches.”
Getting More Inclusive
Fixing the recruiting process is personal for Dales. She left her career in banking to create a mobile payments startup in London, which was ultimately acquired by American Express in 2017. Around that time her cousin became the first licensed facialist in the State of Florida with Down Syndrome.
“After getting my first facial from her, I knew this would be my next company,” Dales told Hypepotamus.
The problem, Dales realized, was that there was a gap between what types of jobs her cousin was told she could do and those she actually could do. “It is all about the value of accommodation.”
“Because her employer was willing to make a couple of adjustments, at no cost to them, she was able to do something bigger than she’d ever been told she could do. So I wanted to figure out a way to use technology to replicate that experience and help larger companies accommodate candidate’s unique requests at scale.”
Inclusively’s approach to hiring is also about keeping up with generational changes in the workforce, said Dales. “Gen Z and Millennials are way more likely to self-disclose mental health challenges and learning disabilities. They’ve grown up in a culture where schools have accommodated them. Now they’re entering the workforce and self-disclosing as well.”
The platform helps speed up the hiring process as more candidates seek some sort of accommodation.
Officially launching an employment platform at the end of 2020 wasn’t without its challenges. Hiring was still in flux and companies just didn’t know what workplace realities were around the corner. But Dales said that remote work has now become an accommodation that employers are comfortable with, and that can help a more diverse workforce.
Dales is based in Richmond, Virginia, and has a team spread across North Carolina, Georgia, New York, Illinois, and California. The startup is also part of the Engage portfolio.
She said her startup has been a benefactor of The Great Resignation, as people are leaving corporate jobs to work at mission-driven startups like Inclusively.
“We’re creating a way for companies to scalably update and really create a company that demonstrates culture through inclusion,” she added.