Within the talent management field, there is an ongoing expansion of the definition of diversity. Beyond the historic perceptions of diversity – gender, race, and ethnicity – employers are becoming more aware of the benefits of inclusive work environments that consider a broader array of diversity characteristics. Among the expanding list of diversity characteristics that employers recognize, disability is gaining attention. The changes in federal contractor regulations have played an important role in driving recruitment trends, but so has a deeper understanding of the prevalence and distinctness of the disability experience. To include sourcing talented people with disabilities in recruiting strategies is to acknowledge what Walgreens’ CEO, Gregory Wasson (pictured), shared in an interview with CNBC in August of 2013: “ People with disabilities are a vastly underutilized resource….We have studies that show 20% fewer accidents in our distribution centers. We have 70% lower workers compensation costs, lower absenteeism, and nearly twice the retention rate of these employees.”
In spite of these positive findings and experiences voiced by an increasing number of employers, the fact remains that while there is no shortage of qualified people with disabilities looking for work, businesses still claim difficulties recruiting them. Reaching out and developing ongoing collaborative relationships with community-based organizations serving veterans and people with disabilities is one of the most effective ways to recruit individuals with disabilities, including veterans. Walgreen’s began their disability inclusion initiative by partnering with organizations that specialize in vocational rehabilitation in South Carolina, and it has resulted in a nationwide effort to staff all of their distribution centers with 20% employees with disabilities. This model has provided a practical business case for the entire corporate community, one that would not have been possible without effective collaborations at the community level in each distribution center location.
In every community across the country there are multiple agencies, organizations and institutions that are already connected to groups of jobseekers with disabilities, including veterans. Partnering with multiple organizations will yield a larger pool of candidates with a broader range of skills, education, and work experiences to fit positions across all job categories.
Workforce development professionals – in particular Disability Resource Coordinators (DRCs), Disabled Veterans Outreach Programs (DVOPs), and Local Veterans Employment Representatives (LVERs) in American Job Centers – encounter jobseekers of all ability and experience levels, some of whom happen to have disabilities. By actively communicating with workforce development staff and letting them know that your business welcomes qualified candidates with disabilities and veterans, they will be more apt to refer candidates with disabilities for those positions. State Vocational Rehabilitation agencies, community-based nonprofit organizations, and Centers for Independent Living are all connected to people with disabilities who are looking for work. Businesses can connect to these jobseekers by developing reciprocal relationships with service providers and workforce development staff in each community where they hire.
Understanding the needs of the community-based partner can further enhance relationship development, eventually leading to talent pipelines and even targeted training programs. This is especially true of collaborations with educational institutions. Businesses can reach out specifically to student disability services offices on campus, attend career fairs, and contribute to curriculum development in relevant fields. Community-based partners will each have unique mandates and desired outcomes of their own, and will undoubtedly benefit in many ways from enhanced collaboration with the business community. However, it is important to continually evaluate the efficacy of each individual partnership, and to explicitly state desired outcomes from the onset. Beyond recruitment, employers should be able to access training and information, assistance with accommodation solutions, and on-the-job support from community partner organizations.
Sustained partnerships will yield a better understanding of the applicant pool, and help community-based partners become familiar with the types of positions and desired qualifications within your business. Ultimately, this should result in long term benefits that will support recruitment, retention, and professional development of employees with disabilities.
Click here to visit the EARN site to learn more about developing community partnerships to enhance recruitment efforts.