Meet Elsevier’s new Disability Confidence Manager
February 22, 2022
By Catherine Adenle, Simon Holt
As Elsevier’s first Disability Confidence Manager, Simon Holt talks about his new role and how Elsevier is supporting employees with disabilities
In December, Simon Holt(opens in new tab/window) was appointed Elsevier’s first Disability Confidence Manager. Recently, his colleague Catherine Adenle interviewed him about what his new role involves, what “disability confidence” means to him personally, how Elsevier is supporting employees with disabilities — and plans to make further improvements. Here, you can read a transcript of the interview and watch or listen to the video(opens in new tab/window).
What does the role involve?
As Disability Confidence Manager, my role is to work with colleagues with disabilities across Elsevier, identify disability-related barriers to them fulfilling their potential, and help to remove these. More broadly, it’s about looking at the employee lifecycle from the moment someone sees a job with Elsevier, through the application process, joining the company and then succeeding once they get here.
I am personally invested in this role, as I know first-hand how great it feels to be set up for success — and also how isolating it can feel when things don’t go right. I am severely sight-impaired and have been lucky during the past several years to have colleagues at Elsevier who have worked with me to ensure I can fulfill my potential.
When I entered the world of work 10 years ago, I didn’t find very much in place to help me to succeed. I was reliant on managers going above and beyond. Looking forward, I don’t want others to have to rely on individuals like that — there needs to be a process in place.
We now want to take things much further. We want to make sure we have systems, structures and policies in place to ensure that we are fully inclusive of people with disabilities and long-term health conditions so they can fully succeed at Elsevier. This is part of our wider commitment to an inclusive, engaged and agile culture and our desire to make Elsevier an employer of choice for individuals from all backgrounds.
People with disabilities have always made up a substantial proportion of our workforce. According to the UN, 15% of people of working age(opens in new tab/window) (16-64 years old) have a disability or long-term health condition. An estimated 80% of these acquire their disability during their working life, and also around 80% of disabilities are ‘hidden’ (i.e., non-visible). The prominence of diversity, equity and inclusion as principles that underpin both our work and wider culture has increased a great deal in the past decade both in the workplace and society as a whole.
Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has further increased awareness both of the impact of long-term health conditions on individuals and the ability of organizations to work flexibly, in an agile manner, to get the best out of their employees. Finally, advances in technology have helped us to become more inclusive: video calls, screen readers and automated closed captioning technology are good examples of this.
As a company at the intersection of healthcare, research and technology, all of these developments resonate with us. It is central to our identity to ensure that everyone can fulfill their potential, and this helps us work towards that goal. We have been making progress, becoming more disability-inclusive over several years, and the establishment of this role will help us accelerate that progress still further.
What support does Elsevier offer employees with disabilities?
There is no ‘one thing’ that makes us disability-inclusive. Inclusion means lots of different things in this context: it means accessing meetings and systems, it means being able to discuss what you need with your manager in a psychologically safe setting, it means being able to work flexibly, and it also means not facing challenges on your own. We, therefore, have several things in place to achieve this:
Elsevier Enabled, an Employee Resource Group, represents employees with disabilities and those with caring responsibilities. We have around 150 members, meet monthly, have an active Teams community, run a quarterly blog and run a bi-monthly speaker series. We help each other as a community and help guide Elsevier as to the best way to help staff further.
We launched a Building Disability Confidence training course in December 2021 in association with Disability:IN(opens in new tab/window) to give practical steps that individuals can take to be inclusive at work and feel disability confident. This course looks at what some common barriers are, as well as how managers and colleagues can support Elsevier to become disability-inclusive. This course is promoted to all employees.
We have established a process for raising disability- and accessibility-related issues for employees and have formed a team to help employees find solutions, with funds available to purchase software or equipment where necessary.
We participate in the Change 100(opens in new tab/window) disability internship program, giving graduates and students with disabilities paid work placements. This helps us recruit more talented individuals into Elsevier, whilst at the same time giving individuals meaningful work experience in an environment where they know they will be supported.
What does disability confidence mean to you?
At Elsevier, we talk about being humble, authentic and collaborative, and so from that point of view, I think it’s honest to say that we are still on the journey to disability confidence at the moment. We’ve made a great start, and everyone I speak to really wants to help, but we still have much more to do. The good news is that we are hard at work actively making progress to improve.
Current top priorities include making sure all the IT applications our employees use are accessible, as well as further improving our manager training and starting a mentoring scheme. We also need to think about what the‘ new normal’ of hybrid working means for people with disabilities. There will no doubt be both challenges to face and opportunities for further improvements. We will face both inclusively and proactively.
Where can people find out more?
The more people with disabilities work with us, the more disability confident we become. If you are applying for a job at Elsevier and would like to discuss a disability adjustment, please email [email protected](opens in new tab/window).