The Diversity Field Officer (DFOS) is an initiative of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) in collaboration with Deakin University.
The DFOS aims to offer support to small and medium sized businesses to increase their disability confidence to employ people with disability. The DFOS is focused on building the ‘disability confidence’ of small and medium businesses to become more welcoming, confident, inclusive, and accessible.
The DFOS commenced as a pilot program in 2015 which assisted up to 50 Geelong businesses across 15 industries to build their skills and confidence in relation to people with disability as employees and customers.
The service offering is customised for each business and its objectives. In addition to a customised business review, the service works to build capability within the business’ leadership, with tailored support so that good practice becomes embedded within the business. This is supported with tangible practical steps that can be adopted by the business, plus the service provides connections and networks to ensure it is seamless.
There is an initial time commitment by the businesses of up to 4 hours across 3 meetings, which are conducted at their premises, plus a commitment to take steps to become more welcoming. The service includes:
- a business analysis meeting to understand their business and workplace culture;
- an ‘experiential’ meeting about disability and unconscious bias;
- a ‘disability friendly check’ – i.e. a walk about their premises with written feedback given on areas to improve
The business then receives a customised Recommendations document full of short, medium and long term recommendations, which the Diversity Field Officer will work through with them to implement a selection of these recommendations over the next 12-24 months.
There is no expectation that businesses who take part will hire new staff tomorrow, but the DFO service likes to work with businesses that are open to exploring the potential of a more diversified workforce and becoming more welcoming of customers and stakeholders.
The evidence-based model has been designed with small business at its heart and (the DFO service) is currently offered as a no cost service that works one to one to assist small and medium businesses to become more confident to:
- retain employees who may acquire a disability (or may already have a disability that is not visible or disclosed) so that skilled talent is not lost
- tap into a broader talent pool when making the next recruitment decision
- become more welcoming of the 1 in 5 Australians who have a disability who are customers, stakeholders, referrals, word of mouth or family, friends, or colleagues who all form a potentially untapped market, (i.e. more welcoming customer service)
- improving accessibility of their premises and how they conduct business
The project also seeks to:
- increase the disability confidence of small and medium sized businesses, taking into account visitors, customers, employees, and contractors
- increase accessible tourism/employment options for people with disability, with the aim of greater inclusion
- open the mindsets of businesses to create employment pathways and opportunities for people with disability to work and/or gain skills.