Chief People Officers have a problem.

They want to build inclusive cultures that accommodate the needs of a diverse workforce. It’s not all for altruism: modern workers are demanding these things, and having them in place leads to more engaged employees, higher productivity, and less turnover.

Employees want more accommodations and personalization. For many, remote work during the pandemic allowed them to be more in charge of their work environment, which helped them to be more productive and happy.

But when Chief People Officers bring potential solutions to their legal and compliance teams — ones that offer a better accommodation process and work personalization at scale — they’re often met with roadblocks. These solutions can be seen as introducing new risks. Fear becomes inaction.

Why rock the boat?

There’s more risk in doing nothing.

When it comes to workplace accommodations, legal and compliance teams rarely want to deviate from their established frameworks. There can be a fear that by offering new solutions, they’ll inadvertently increase their risk exposure.

But the risk landscape is changing. The number of discrimination lawsuits related to disabilities doubled for employers in 2023. People who received accommodations in high school and college are now seeking them at work, and modern workers are more likely than their predecessors to disclose disabilities to and request accommodations.

For many companies, accommodation requests are soaring. These rising legal cases and a shift toward self-identification underscore the urgency of adapting better accommodations processes.

But many companies’ current systems are largely reactionary, compliance-focused, and manual. They don’t scale, which can cause a backlog. Prolonged accommodation requests increase the risk of litigation. And an inefficient process sours the relationship between workers who need accommodations and their employers, leading to miscommunication, turnover, and, potentially, legal action.

Inclusively collaborates with companies to move beyond compliance-based accommodations towards a more inclusive workplace, focusing on accessibility and employee support.

This approach not only upholds compliance but also creates psychological safety across employees and helps guard against future legal issues.

Our Hire product helps companies find untapped talent and accommodate that talent. The New Orleans Saints and Pelicans recruited 10% of all their full-time employees through Hire, attributing this success to becoming more accommodating. This shift has not only allowed them to attract a more diverse talent pool, but has also set them up for success in supporting these employees once hired.

Our Retain product, meanwhile, helps companies accommodate existing employees, ensuring they bring their full, productive selves to work. Employee accommodations (or Success Enablers as we call them at Inclusively) are collected anonymously and shared in the aggregate back to the company. Only appointed administrators have access to this aggregated data and can build and edit responses. The data provides a broad view of company-wide needs without linking to individuals and without requiring self-disclosure.

The emphasis is on pre-emptive action. By anticipating and addressing everyone’s needs, companies foster a psychologically safe environment for employees, encouraging those with disabilities to disclose and request what they need, knowing their employer is proactively concerned.

A common misconception about Retain is that it’s part of the interactive accommodations process, but it’s not — it precedes the interactive process entirely.

Employees often don’t know what they can ask for or are unaware that the company already offers certain accommodations. There’s a gap in connecting available resources to the people who need them most, which calls for a consolidated approach. People with disabilities also are often unwilling to self-disclose, sometimes because of fear or stigma.

But Retain’s data is collected anonymously. We take security and privacy seriously, ensuring only necessary data is stored and collected. Our team’s expertise and support is vast, with key advisors like investor and civil rights attorney Regina “Gina” Kline, co-founder of the American Association of People with Disabilities, John D. Kemp, and Christina Mallon (She/Her/Hers/Disabled), who currently leads inclusive design at Microsoft. They bring their significant experience in authoring, enforcing, and designing inclusive policies and practices.

Again, Retain’s focus is on pre-emption. It enables employees to educate themselves before deciding to self-identify. This avoids the need for an interactive process too soon that might compel premature self-disclosure, or where one might not be necessary. We are pushing for a more proactive, less reactive approach to accommodations across every enterprise.

Chief People Officers can reinvent how they enable employees to thrive — and bring Legal along so everyone is comfortable.

CPOs who are meeting the future of work head-on find that the traditional legal frameworks within their companies are somewhat inflexible. These frameworks haven’t evolved alongside the needs of the modern workforce.

For companies, the rigidity is becoming unsustainable, and litigation is increasing. So, the message to Legal is this: creating a better, more transparent accommodations process that accounts for continued improvement decreases risk.

Inclusively’s approach not only upholds compliance but also strengthens the company’s relationship with employees, helping future-proof against legal issues while helping employees and companies thrive.

And we free up Chief People Officers to enable productive, satisfying, and inclusive workplaces.