For the 57 million Americans living with disabilities, the largest barrier to Quality of Life is finding employment. There are 30 million Americans with disabilities of working age but only 20 percent of them participate in the workforce.
The barriers to employment usually stem from stigma about what individuals with disabilities can achieve and contribute to the workforce. A survey that we worked on with PwC found that many people try to hide their disability out of fear that stigma will keep them from getting a job or limit their job options.
That’s a huge waste of talent at a time when the American workforce needs it most. With Baby Boomers retiring and new jobs being created, there will be an estimated 47 million new job openings in this decade, according The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce.
Additionally, hiring people with disabilities can have unique benefits for employers. A 2012 study by Walgreens found that workers with disabilities had 48 percent lower turnover rates than the nondisabled employee population, 67 percent lower medical costs, and equal rates of accuracy and productivity.
Here are a few ways to ensure your organization is taking advantage of this talent pool:
Foster a disability-inclusive culture
Employees with disabilities are looking for a work environment where they feel safe discussing a disability with coworkers and leaders. A firm’s leaders can play an important role in starting and sustaining the conversation internally around disability, creating expectations and driving accountability for disability inclusion initiatives. Include content and images addressing employees with disabilities on your company’s materials, social media and employee intranet, and review your disability policies and processes to ensure that these workers do not go unsupported.
The National Organization on Disability offers a suite of Disability Employment Professional Services that provide strategic guidance and practical steps customized to enhance each company’s organizational culture and improve hiring and retention rates for employees with disabilities.
Commit to a disability employment initiative
Create a program with the specific goal of hiring people with disabilities. Create hiring goals and a strategy to achieve them. Look for new places to find candidates, including disability-specific job sites or campus disability services offices. Depict people with apparent disabilities in your external recruitment materials and on your website. And educate recruiters and hiring managers on alternate interviewing techniques, as some wonderful candidates may have difficulty with traditional interviewing formats.
In addition, train your recruiters and managers on disability etiquette and awareness to help ensure that they understand the needs of candidates and new hires with disabilities—and current employees with disabilities, too. The most successful disability employment initiatives are multi-faceted and include both external outreach efforts and internal culture-change efforts.
Build a comfortable working environment
Set aside a central accommodations budget, so that employees with disabilities can access job tools and aides, without affecting departmental budgets. A study from the Job Accommodation Network found that 59 percent of accommodations cost absolutely nothing to make, while the rest typically cost only $500. The study found that providing accommodations led to retention of valuable employees, improved productivity and morale, reduction in workers’ compensation and training costs, and improved company diversity.
How is your organization recruiting people with disabilities? Let us know in the comments.