September 28, 2017 BestCompaniesAZ

Giving a Voice to the Largest Minority Group: DUNAMIS at USAA

By Lee Vikre | @LeeVikre

People with disabilities are twice as likely to be unemployed as the general working population. While this is disappointing, it also represents an opportunity for organizations who tap into this underutilized hiring market. 

Hiring people with disabilities isn’t just socially responsible, it benefits the company. People with disabilities tend to be experts in overcoming obstacles and innovation. They’ve had to be, since everyday situations that able-bodied people take for granted call for creative thinking for people with disabilities. Employers also find their disabled employees to be loyal, dependable, hardworking, and longer tenured.

Some employers still believe that hiring people with disabilities will cost more, but more than half of the accommodations people request cost little to nothing. Many accommodations include scheduling flexibility, dress code modifications, or sitting/standing adjustments – all of which are popular requests from employees in general. Honest communication during the interview process helps smooth the way, while focusing more on strengths than disabilities. Most of the time, accommodations are not a big deal.

What is a big deal, however, is building an inclusive environment. Existing employees are typically very accommodating if they understand the co-worker’s disability and the appropriate ways to interact.

Employee Resource Groups or Diversity Business Groups (DBGs) are powerful influencers for employees and employers alike. USAA’s DUNAMIS DBG has a dual purpose, according to Dareion Johnson, CPM, Program-Project Manager and DUNAMIS group chair. DUNAMIS stands for Disabled United iN Action to Make an Inclusive Society and is also a Greek word that means mighty, powerful, capable and “to have the ability to do more than what is perceived.” This newest DBG at USAA’s Phoenix campus provides a platform for people to be welcomed, valued, heard and respected; and if someone’s voice is not loud enough, DUNAMIS will speak loudly on their behalf.

Explains Johnson, “This is the one minority group any person can be a part of without ever wanting to and without any notice. It is one of the minority groups that is often forgotten, but has the largest membership of all the minority groups.”

One example of how a DBG can have a direct impact; DUNAMIS is creating awareness about service animals in the workplace, and how to interact with both employees and service animals. At an employee event, the DUNAMIS team brought in four service dogs and their handlers. Not only did they educate employees, but encouraged a number of USAA employees who are now becoming involved with service animals through donations, fostering, or training. Although USAA has always supported employees with service animals, the Phoenix Campus had their first two employees with service animals start in 2016. Now, USAA has over 6 employees with service dogs employed at this campus, with a projection of 10 by the end of 2017.

Johnson is enthusiastic about his experience with DUNAMIS. “When I hear the words, ‘I thought I was alone’ or ‘I am glad I am not the only one experiencing…’ I know we’ve made a connection, an impact.” He goes on to stress communication; “The only way we are going to be truly inclusive is to know when we are not being all-encompassing. Often not knowing is blocked by fear or the unknown consequences. DUNAMIS hopes to wipe away those fears and encourage real conversation without worry of any kind from all levels of USAA employee population.”

Best companies agree that diversity is more than race and gender. “It’s the collective strength of unique characteristics, experiences, skills, backgrounds, perspectives and cultures,” says Johnson. “USAA strives to deepen its employee population with most qualified candidates that fit within our core values, standards and meet the mission.”

Learn more about USAA, their culture and current career opportunities. You can also meet hiring representatives from USAA’s Phoenix Campus at our 3rd Annual Diversity & Inclusion Career Event, Wednesday, November 1. Register today!

About the Author
Lee Vikre – Hiring Jedi
A workplace culture maven, writer, and speaker, Lee Vikre has helped numerous companies develop “best company” cultures, gaining recognition at the local and national level. Lee has been called the Jedi Master of hiring because of her exceptional recruiting abilities and friendships with people who love Star Wars. Her favorite activities involve matching people with their dream jobs at award-winning best companies. Lee coaches CEOs but still hasn’t been able to train her three dogs not to bark during conference calls.