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Manpower: Building the Pipeline for a Disability-Inclusive Workplace

Employer Case Study: Learn how partnering with state and local agencies and community-based organizations lead to a more diverse talent pool for Manpower's clients.

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Organizations are constantly challenged to improve productivity and efficiency. That’s why it’s more important than ever to recognize and take advantage of top talent available in diverse populations — talent that can improve performance and competitive advantage. 

ManpowerGroup is a Fortune 500 American multinational corporation headquartered in Milwaukee, WI. Founded in 1948, Manpower is the third-largest staffing firm in the world. The company has been developing innovative workforce solutions for more than 70 years to help clients overcome staffing challenges. 

Due to its relationships with thousands of employers, Manpower is uniquely positioned to break down barriers to equality. These efforts support Manpower’s core mission to act as a responsible corporate partner in developing workforce solutions and build sustainable communities by connecting individuals to meaningful work. By unleashing the human potential of people whose work opportunities are often limited, Manpower supplies innovative solutions to meet the workforce needs of organizations, while at the same time enabling people with disabilities to achieve their employment goals.

Project Ability is a partnership Manpower formed in collaboration with state Vocational Rehabilitation agencies and community-based organizations to strengthen the workforce by tapping into the talents of people with disabilities. With a focus on specific talent resourcing needs, the partnership created targeted local recruitment strategies to identify and place candidates with the skills and dedication needed to support clients’ business objectives. 

Project Ability grew out of Manpower's commitment to hiring based on abilities and caring about people and the role of work in their lives. Through the program, Manpower worked to remove barriers to employment for people with disabilities and create employment pathways by offering targeted occupational skills training, industry-specific skills assessments, and recruitment programs. Another key component of the program was providing disability awareness and workplace accommodations training for Manpower employees and clients.

In 2010, the Project Ability pilot was launched in California and managed by a regional director. The model was successfully implemented throughout the state and in several additional states. In June of 2012, a full-time national program leader role was created and additional support resources made available through Manpower's Government Solutions division. As a result, the program doubled in size and new state partnerships were added, pilot programs supporting Social Security Administration (SSA) Ticket to Work program initiatives were initiated, and national partnerships were formed to allow for greater outreach to candidates. Project Ability also developed formal partnerships with several national clients committed to hiring candidates with disabilities.

Through automated tracking and reporting process, the program's overall success was carefully documented, allowing project leaders to clearly identify areas for expansion and provide assistance in developing hiring goals for clients. These placements were a combination of short- and long-term temporary assignments (some ending in permanent employment), as well as permanent placements.

Some lessons learned from the project included that building one-on-one relationships with service providers was vital to its success; developing these relationships with local offices was the key to sustaining partnerships long term. Manpower also learned that while business clients clearly understood the value of the services Manpower offered, service providers, state and local government agencies, and community-based organizations required a greater level of education and personal contact. 

In addition, Manpower was able to identify what project leaders felt were components of a successful national disability employment program, including:

  • A commitment from senior leadership, such as an Executive Sponsor.
  • Access to resources.
  • A clear program design for tactical implementation to ensure hiring managers, recruiters and field staff have the appropriate training and support.
  • Consistency in messaging, training and scalability.
  • Clearly identified roles and responsibilities of project staff.
  • A comprehensive communications plan.
  • Standardized referral forms.
  • Client and candidate marketing collateral materials.
  • Operations support with oversight and direction provided by a national project director and other support staff.
  • Disability awareness and sensitivity training for Manpower employees.

A challenge the program experienced was working with service providers driven by a need to close cases within 90 days. Due to this, candidates serviced by these agencies may not have been able to participate in the program. Project staff felt this would continue to be a challenge as long as the requirements for placements and the definition of a “positive employment outcome” remained unchanged. 

Manpower’s goal in developing these recruitment partnerships was to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities so they could earn a living, gain valuable work experience and obtain professional references. Project Ability also worked to share thought leadership resources supporting national awareness and educational programs that promote greater workforce participation of people with disabilities.