The Labor Force That Some Don’t See – Employing the Disabled
We’ve heard it for some time now. The labor market is tight. Unemployment is low. Finding the right talent is tough. Certainly, the pandemic has caused many to opt-out of employment for a variety of reasons – substantial unemployment benefits, health concerns, family care, and early retirement to name a few. If employers are struggling so mightily to find talent, why are most ignoring a substantial segment of the labor force?
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) has received a great deal of recent focus (see our post on Diversity and the Bottom Line). Many would cite advancements in actively recruiting an array of underrepresented groups along gender, gender identity, racial, sexual orientation, and age lines via DE&I initiatives. But unfortunately, the lines often stop there.
Adults with disabilities are sorely and sometimes intentionally overlooked when it comes to employment. A variety of factors bring this about, including broadened recruiting practice requirements, concerns about accommodations, unconscious bias, and widespread myths and misconceptions about employing disabled individuals.
Disability Inclusion – An Important Facet of Corporate Social Responsibility
Leaders who prioritize hiring top talent and exceptional employees should educate themselves on disability to dispel the myths and misconceptions in themselves and others. Doing so will unlock access to a substantial and highly motivated group of potential employees. Commonly perpetuated myths and misconceptions about employing the disabled include:
- Expenses related to accommodations are unreasonable. Newer buildings and most remodeled office spaces have already incorporated the basic recommended accommodations and require no further changes. A 2020 Job Accommodation Network report showed that 56% of accommodations cost nothing to execute while remaining accommodations cost on average, just $500. In the meantime, many accommodations are already provided to able-bodied employees (flex schedules, specialized equipment, ergonomic components, etc.).
- Other employees will feel uncomfortable interacting with disabled employees. My experiences with the disabled community as the former interim CFO and then Treasurer of the Board of Directors with Easter Seals of Central Texas and collaborating with Goodwill of Central Texas, both advocates of employing disabled individuals, have shown me that this is untrue. Disabled workers typically go above and beyond to be respectful, presentable, and approachable. If they are qualified for their jobs, co-workers show no hesitation in working with them. Further, discomfort in working with disabled individuals should never be accepted anyway, just as it is not for the gender, gender identity, racial, sexual orientation, and age lines noted earlier.
- Managers are unsure how to hold disabled employees accountable to performance standards. This significant misconception can be easily addressed by training managers. All employees must be able to perform the duties of their jobs to maintain employment. Counseling, training, and support can be provided to all employees so everyone is viewing performance standards in the same way and are assured requirements are being fairly enforced for all.
- Disabled workers will miss work more than able-bodied employees. Studies by the National Business & Disability Council at The Viscardi Center indicate that people with disabilities tend to stick to routines and have fewer absences than those without disabilities. Employees with disabilities also have longer tenure. They are extremely loyal to their employers and motivated to succeed at their jobs and avoid transitions, especially since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2020 only 17.9% of persons with a disability were employed.
Resources for Employing Disabled Persons
There are several ways for employers to reach talented candidates from the disability community. This includes partnering with one or more organizations that provide resources for employers and employment assistance for candidates with any range of t disabilities (mobility issues, chronic illnesses, cognitive disabilities, etc.). Examples include:
- InReturn Strategies provides “business solutions to help companies strengthen their Diversity and Inclusion model to better impact everyday organizational objectives.” Their proprietary platform creates a direct, actionable path to revenue growth and talent acquisition to drive meaningful, profitable long-term value for all concerned. It is a game-changer for talent acquisition and reaching underserved employee and customer bases.
- The nonPareil Institute is a post-secondary, not-for-profit program that provides technical and work-readiness training to post-high school adults who have autism spectrum disorder. The program builds skills that enable adults with autism to thrive in professional environments, create products for market release, or work on third-party outsourced projects (development of mobile and virtual reality applications, video games, and more) following industry standards and technologies. Companies can engage this team through nonPareil’s Power Sourcing Program.
- Peak Performers of Austin finds employment for skilled and dedicated people (including those with disabilities) through temporary employment models with government agencies. These talented employees cover a wide spectrum of administrative, financial, information technology, and other professional jobs.
A related crucial step is to ensure digital accessibility to employees, customers and any stakeholders across one’s website, processes, systems, and talent development components. Microassist provides organizations with custom training support, managed learning services, and digital accessibility consulting solutions. This helps to “empower users with disabilities to independently navigate, browse, use, and otherwise interact with your digital content.”
Helping Others. Helping Business.
This cannot be said often enough: Employing individuals with disabilities is not only the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do. With the Federal Reserve recently indicating that “the labor market may be tighter than the level of Employment suggests,” businesses have more reasons than ever to ensure they are actively recruiting and employing people with disabilities.
One in four people in the United States has a disability. Inclusion creates a profitable environment for everyone – disabled individuals, businesses, and the community at large. Many employees hesitate to mention their disabilities for fear that stigmas will impact career opportunities. These talented individuals do not desire pity or charity, nor do they seek to be an inspiration to others. They simply seek and deserve what so many of us already have – the dignity achieved through financial independence and the empowerment of contributing to our society through meaningful employment.
Would you like help expanding your recruiting initiatives to tap this very qualified group of candidates? Please reach out to the vcfo team for assistance in developing access to these streams of candidates, educating your managers and employees in any ways necessary to ensure success, and incorporating any necessary accommodations to achieve success with this initiative.
Companies should put their full weight behind diversity initiatives; first, because it’s the right thing to do, but also because of the many benefits. Click here for the full article on diversity and your bottom line.