The Advocates Way
Massachusetts-based Advocates is one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the state championing people with developmental, mental health or other life challenges. Their philosophy and approach to their work is embodied in a mission called The Advocates Way. Part of fulfilling this meant understanding that Deaf individuals are best served in their native language – American Sign Language – and they are best understood by other Deaf individuals who have overcome similar life experiences.
Overcoming Recruiting and Hiring Challenges
As a large organization with over 2,000 employees, it can be difficult to get through to a Deaf person when only 2% of the workforce is Deaf. Advocates already puts forth to ensure accessibility in the workplace by providing interpreters whenever needed, but they wanted to do more to ensure a more inclusive environment. This meant producing content in ASL, hiring Deaf individuals into human resources roles, and expanding the traditional recruiting radius outside of Massachusetts and attracting individuals all over the country. This meant setting up a separate Deaf Services social media presence and webpage so that content could originate in ASL as opposed to simply being translated, accessible material.
Applying Cultural Beliefs To Everything
The human services field can be a challenging one for many who can end up feeling overworked, especially when the individuals you support have needs 365 days of the year. The work itself is meaningful and carries tremendous weight for the lives who are affected. Advocates provides a meaningful service that others are not able to provide – yet there are still many Deaf people who do not know that there are jobs and opportunities to work at Advocates.
Advocates continues to invest in inclusion. During the Coronavirus pandemic, Advocates’ CEO put out near-weekly video messages to their employees. They went well beyond simply captioning videos by providing a Certified Deaf Interpreter overlay on the screen. This was the greatest possible level of inclusion in a time where every one needs the other. They continue to promote ASL videos and signing bonus in an effort to expand their workforce within Deaf Services, because it is the right and best thing to do.
The human resources department’s newly created generalist position ensures that all Deaf prospective applicants and employees are able to access employment or benefits information directly in their native language. Over time, we believe that with this messaging and effort, attrition will drop, recruiting will expand and the vacancy rate will reduce to a more manageable level and Advocates’ Deaf Services programs once again grow and thrive.