Inclusive Job Descriptions Team Wins the Sarah Bennett Holmes Award

By Jackson Beauregard

Through their work on the RETAIN Kentucky project, the University of Kentucky’s Human Development Institute’s (HDI) Inclusive Job Description team was recently awarded the Sarah Bennett Holmes Award. The Sarah Bennett Holmes Award recognizes a team of faculty, staff, students and/or external partners who have made efforts to promote the well-being and growth of women at the University of Kentucky and throughout the commonwealth of Kentucky.

The Retaining Employment and Talent after Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN) Kentucky is a federally-funded program that seeks to help individuals stay, or return to work after a non-workplace injury or illness while studying the outcomes through an intertwined research study. The program provides early intervention services to Kentucky residents free of charge.  

In addition to providing stay-at-work/return-to-work (SAW/RTW) services, RETAIN Kentucky is seeking to advance a more inclusive workforce for underrepresented populations, including people with disabilities. Inclusive job descriptions are one example of the work RETAIN does in creating a more inclusive workforce. Often, job descriptions lack information about the essential duties and demands of the job, which makes it difficult to assess how many workers can return to work safely and what accommodations they may need.

“The concept of inclusive job descriptions truly helps level the playing field,” says Michele Laur, senior job analyst with RETAIN. “Study after study has indicated that slight adjustments of language in the way job descriptions are written can really deepen the pool of eligible candidates. Not to mention they can improve retention rates as well. “

The inclusive job descriptions team works with employers and workers to create functional job descriptions, define transitional work duties and develop effective stay-at-work/return-to-work (SAW/RTW) options and potential accommodations. As a result, RETAIN has been able to introduce its job analysis services to more than 500 Kentucky employers, coach more than a dozen workers to proactively request job accommodations so they can safely return to work and identify transitional work duties for several employers. These efforts demonstrate how RETAIN is working to build a more inclusive workforce across Kentucky.

The Inclusive Worker Health Leadership Network defines an inclusive workforce as a workforce, “in which the unique skills, contributions and diversity of qualified individuals, including those with disabilities, are actively recruited, valued and integral to organizational success. It is an environment where the engagement, development, retention and advancement of an increasingly skilled and diverse workforce is promoted and supported across all employment sectors and levels.” Inclusive job descriptions can better include persons with disabilities and other diverse populations in the talent pool and labor force.

There is a disparity in employment status between individuals with and without disabilities. This makes inclusive job descriptions key, as they can help employers to better recruit qualified candidates for available positions. Inclusive job descriptions can increase employment outcomes for underrepresented populations, particularly workers with disabilities. With inclusive job descriptions, workforce diversity increases which in-turn increases economic success for employers. The work being done by HDI’s Inclusive Job Description team, and RETAIN, is helping to raise awareness and foster a more inclusive workplace in Kentucky.

RETAIN Kentucky is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Social Security Administration under a grant award of $21,600,000 to the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training that will be incrementally provided. 100% of grant funding is from U.S. Federal funds. This document does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Labor or the Social Security Administration, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.