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Community Partnerships: An Effective Inclusion Strategy

Explore information about creating and sustaining effective community partnerships.

Community partnerships are outcome-based relationships that can facilitate disability hiring and retention efforts. Regardless of size, employment sector, or industry, businesses benefit from agreements with national, regional, and local organizations.

Finding Applicants with Disabilities

Many organizations can help your business hire, retain, and support employees with disabilities. Some of these organizations are large and work across the country or a state; others are small and may only work in a single city or county. Below are a few profiles of these organizations.

Creating Community Partnerships

If you are planning a partnership to support hiring or retaining employees with disabilities, check if the partner meets some or all these criteria:

  • Located within a reasonable distance to the employment site
  • Serves candidates who are qualified for positions in high demand
  • Utilizes networks of other employment service providers to expand candidate outreach
  • Provides reasonable accommodation consultation and assistance
  • Provides resources for assistive technology procurement or training
  • Provides consistent data on applicant flows and referrals
  • Develops training and resources on a range of disability topics
  • Offers a central point of contact for referrals in multiple locations, if possible
  • Offers a diverse variety of job candidates with different skills and qualifications
  • Provides support for transportation to and from work (e.g., travel training or finding carpool partners)
  • Links employees to supports outside the workplace, such as caregiving support

Remember that some organizations are highly specialized and may only focus on certain aspects listed here. For example, some groups focus on helping procure assistive technology for workers with disabilities and train them to use it. Other organizations focus on one area – even one neighborhood – or one type of disability.

Deepening and Sustaining Partnerships: Steps to Success

Take these steps to make your relationships with community partners more useful and sustainable:

  1. Get involved. Reach out to learn about the systems, organizations, and services already in place to support employment for people with disabilities. If your organization works in multiple places, embed personnel wherever you recruit, to better understand local and regional disability workforce partners and initiatives.
  2. Invite collaboration. Find partners willing to assist in locations where candidates will be recruited and trained. Get involved in activities such as business advisory groups, job fairs, and event committees.
  3. Evaluate fit. Find potential collaborators who share your values and objectives.
  4. Dedicate resources. Develop relationships and find the resources you need to fuel partnership efforts, such as funding for supportive services or training from local agencies, or sponsoring disability-focused career events. 
  5. Expect relationship development to take time. Many projects or joint efforts require time to plan. In addition, both sides need time to learn how each partner’s process works and in what ways they work best together.
  6. Identify gaps. Use strategic relationships to fill gaps in the internal process. For example, seek out partners who can help with the use and integration of assistive technologies in the workplace. Some businesses leverage partnerships to increase capacity with hiring initiatives. Many organizations develop partnerships with agencies that can supplement on-the-job coaching and training assistance provided by managers. 
  7. Identify mutual goals. Ensure partners can meet your workforce needs for a diverse candidate pipeline, training, or supportive services, as defined by company objectives. Potential partners will also have criteria for outcomes. 
  8. Measure progress. Create metrics to analyze progress and use them to define success. This can be done by tracking the number of candidate referrals who are converted to hires, or the number of trainees who complete a sponsored training program. Celebrate the wins along the way. 
  9. Evaluate and refine. Regularly meet and communicate to evaluate partnership agreements to ensure progress toward intended outcomes. Make changes as needed to ensure investments in workforce partnerships are yielding results.

Case Studies

Below are case studies regarding businesses that have taken steps to develop partnerships with organizations to help include more people with disabilities in talent pipelines and workplaces:

FALA Technologies: Manufacturing Career Opportunities

Employer Case Study: Learn about an innovative pre-apprenticeship program for people with disabilities in New York’s Hudson Valley.

JPMorgan Chase: A Remote Shift for the BeST Team

Learn about JPMC’s Business Solutions Team (BeST), which consists primarily of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and their pivot to remote work during the pandemic.

CVS Health: Drafting a Playbook for Success

Employer Case Study: Learn how CVS Health's Abilities in Abundance program leverages partnerships to support its disability-focused hiring initiatives.

Developing Effective Collaborations and Partnerships in the Federal Sector

Explore a roadmap of strategies that improve collaboration and communication between employees with disabilities and managers in the federal sector.