Promising Practices

Communicate: External and Internal Communication of Agency Policies and Practices

In the 2012 report, Federal Agency Employment Strategies: A Framework for Disability Inclusion, the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor outlined federal best practices for recruiting, hiring, and advancing people with disabilities. The Communicate recommendation describes a way to communicate policies and practices both internally and externally.

Federal agencies can use communication strategies to attract qualified candidates with disabilities and increase retention by unifying disability inclusion efforts across all programs and departments. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) communicates regularly to both internal personnel and external stakeholders about efforts to attract and retain employees with disabilities using a variety of platforms, tools, locations and methods.

Transforming Culture

On the Cultural Transformation of USDA webpage, every USDA employee is called to “ensure that USDA is a place where there's equity of opportunity for all employees.” The USDA proactively shares this message through clearly communicated policy guidelines, in-person and online training events, and through accountability procedures. This is a commitment to improving customer service while creating a diverse, collaborative and highly effective workforce.” USDA Assistant Secretary for Administration, Dr. Gregory L. Parham summarized:

“We know that there is a common core that we think everyone should adhere to…so let’s take the best of whatever anyone is doing and use it so that everyone can benefit.”

Internal Communication

Michelle Clark, Section 508 Coordinator with the USDA talks about the need for federal employees with disabilities to “express ideas, express problems, and also express solutions.” Working with a team of over 50 Disability Program Mangers, Selective Placement Program Coordinators, and Accommodations Managers, the USDA holds regular meetings to discuss disability focused practices and policies, communicating a consistent message to HR Directors and frontline supervisors. Using the eFedLink website, USDA Departmental Disability Employment Program Manager Alison Levy has been able

“to host webinars nationally and create more connections between folks in headquarters, folks in the field and the various system that we have in place to support them.”

External Communication

The USDA has established strong working relationships with national and state-run agencies as well as local community-based organizations. The purpose behind these relationships is practical. As Montez Ashley, Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist with the USDA Forest Service, Eastern Region, remarked,

“Collaboration and partnership is key to ensuring that as we’re bringing in different individuals and working to diversify our workforce…we utilize the partnerships that we have, either through the Department of Veterans Affairs and Vocational Rehabilitation in providing information for their job boards, for their clients.”