3 ways Johnson & Johnson is proud to support people with diverse abilities
For International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we’re celebrating how the company has committed to being a safe space for people with diverse physical, neurological and mental health abilities—and sees them as crucial business assets.
People living with diverse abilities—physical, neurological and intellectual—have often faced barriers to thriving in traditional workplace settings. But working to eliminate those barriers benefits us all by fostering the innovation that comes from diverse perspectives and by resulting in more inclusive and equitable communities.
That’s why Johnson & Johnson joined The Valuable 500, a group of 500 large public sector corporations that have made a commitment to tap into the strengths people living with diverse abilities bring to the workforce.
“When employees feel comfortable bringing their authentic selves to work, they are best positioned for success,” says Jennifer Taubert, Johnson & Johnson’s Executive Vice President, Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals, and the Executive Committee Sponsor of the company’s Alliance for Diverse Abilities Employee Resource Group. “By championing the unique skills and perspectives of all colleagues, we create a culture of inclusion that ultimately benefits the patients, consumers and customers we are privileged to serve.”
Read on for even more steps the company has taken to make it easier to attract and support employees of many different skills and backgrounds.
A Resource Group Created for People With Diverse Abilities
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)—voluntary, employee-led groups that bring together employees who share common identities or experiences—thrive at Johnson & Johnson. The 12 ERGs currently in place provide mutual support and networking opportunities to their members as well as much-needed perspective to non-members across the company.
The Alliance for Diverse Abilities ERG focuses on supporting colleagues with diverse physical, neurological, cognitive and mental health abilities.
“These groups all bring unique abilities and perspectives, and yet in society at large they struggle to get accommodations in the workplace and fight stigma,” says Craig Kramer, Global Chair of the ERG, which now boasts 90 chapters around the world.
While someone with a physical disability might require a wheelchair ramp to move about the workplace, he explains, an individual with autism or an anxiety disorder might need a quieter, less hectic atmosphere to feel safe and comfortable.
Many members of all these groups also report feeling stigmatized, though that might be starting to change, especially given the prevalence of mental illness: 1 in 4 people will have a diagnosable mental health problem, notes Kramer.
“COVID-19 has increased awareness of mental health, and more people are looking to talk about it. That’s really given us a big push,” he says.
What’s more, the definition of the word disability is broadening, though some people—especially those with physical limitations—are more apt to identify with that label than others.
“Language is evolving, but the most important thing to focus on is that an individual at Johnson & Johnson feels like they’re accepted and valued by people who understand them,” says Kramer.
New Ways to Recruit and Retain Top Talent of All Abilities
Thanks to the Diverse Ability Talent Program, which launched this year, there are now several formal programs in place at the company to actively recruit job candidates with diverse abilities.
The company’s most recent recruitment initiative is a partnership with Lime Connect—a not-for-profit that works with high-potential university students and professionals with disabilities to help connect them with jobs in the U.S. and Canada. In addition to posting job opportunities, Lime Connect hosts recruiting events, career prep workshops and even a selective fellowship program.
Rangam, a disability-owned talent marketplace, has been helping Johnson & Johnson attract potential colleagues for about a year. Rangam posts many of these roles to its network and is also working with the company on screening and onboarding processes.
The typical application process at Johnson & Johnson starts with a personal video submission, which can be extremely challenging for someone who is blind or deaf, explains Derek Wilson, Program Leader of the Diverse Ability Talent Program. And many autistic people are uncomfortable with making direct eye contact, which can be perceived negatively in traditional interview situations.
With Rangam’s help, these processes are being tweaked so that, for instance, the panel-style interview might be scrapped in favor of a series of one-on-one interviews where appropriate.
Rangam is also helping Johnson & Johnson run its WorkSense Diverse Abilities program, which offers extra support for new employees and contractors with diverse abilities for their first year at the company. Both the new hire and their manager are assigned a peer mentor who is charged with helping them during onboarding, figuring out how to request accommodations should they need any and generally serving as a friendly sounding board during the transition.
“We aim to build an ecosystem around the hire,” says Wilson. “Some folks might not need it, but others lean on it very heavily, and having the extra support can help make them more successful at Johnson & Johnson.”
The overall goal, says Justin Grgurich, Talent Pillar Lead for the Alliance for Diverse Abilities ERG, is to continue to attract top talent while being as inclusive as possible.
“Diversity comes in many forms,” he says. “People with diverse abilities make up roughly 15% of the global population, and their unemployment rate is higher than those without a disability. Our recruitment programs will ensure we are tapping into this talent segment.”
And given that Johnson & Johnson’s products reach more than a billion people a day, “recruiting more employees with diverse abilities is a great way to mirror our customer base and marketplace,” he adds.
An Effort to Engage Suppliers From Businesses Owned by People With Diverse Abilities
Johnson & Johnson has long been a member of the Billion Dollar Roundtable, which was created in 2001 to recognize corporations that had spent at least $1 billion on using diverse—namely, minority- and woman-owned—suppliers as sources for products and services.
In 2018, the Billion Dollar Roundtable expanded its definition of diverse to include business enterprises owned by veterans, people who identify as LGBT and individuals with diverse abilities. Johnson & Johnson was inspired to contract even more of these businesses as a result, including a service that manages all the company’s periodical subscriptions and a temp agency that helps fill on-site gaps.
“Throughout our history, we have included diverse perspectives in our workforce, and we consider our suppliers to be an extension of that workforce,” says Len DeCandia, Chief Procurement Officer, Johnson & Johnson, and Executive Sponsor for the Alliance for Diverse Abilities ERG. “Having the Billion Dollar Roundtable expand its definition of diverse businesses helped support our message and our work to include those voices in our supplier community.”
For a supplier to meet the criteria of a disability-owned business enterprise, it must be certified by an independent organization such as Disability:IN, a leading nonprofit organization for diverse ability inclusion in business.
And according to that organization, Johnson & Johnson is reaching a high benchmark for its inclusion efforts: The company is among others to have scored 100% on the Disability Equality Index, which measures supplier diversity, among other criteria.