Explore strategies to help retain employees with disabilities.
Companies use different strategies to ensure they retain their valuable employees. These can include mentoring and coaching, professional development and training opportunities, workplace flexibility and other methods. Some sectors and industries, such as federal contractors and subcontractors, have special considerations when retaining employees with disabilities. On this page, you will find information about strategies businesses can use to ensure they are retaining employees with disabilities.
Mentoring and Coaching
Mentoring and coaching are effective strategies to help retain employees with disabilities. Mentoring involves developing a professional relationship with a colleague to advise or train them. Mentoring encourages personal growth, builds skills, and increases knowledge of the work or industry. Coaching aims to improve performance by helping them to learn new skills. It allows people to enhance their current performance within an organization.
Mentoring is an effective tool for shaping an inclusive culture. EARN’s fact sheet on Mentoring as a Disability Inclusion Strategy (PDF) can help you learn more. If you would like to further explore how to develop a mentoring program within your own organization, visit EARN’s Workplace Mentoring Playbook (PDF) to learn more about strategies, tools, types of mentoring and other vital information. Peer mentoring and coaching can be an effective means of professional development for all employees, and can ensure the success of workplace neurodiversity initiatives.
Organizations can employ many policies and practices to indicate to its applicants that they are an inclusive place to work. While often associated with retention of employees with disabilities, workplace policies and practices that permit workplace flexibility can show applicants that your organization is inclusive.
Remote work, or telework, is an example of workplace flexibility that can make a big difference for people with disabilities. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers have adopted or updated employment policies and practices to enable employees to work at home. EARN’s Adopting an Integrated Telework Policy for Employees with and without Disabilities (PDF) reviews how employers can use remote work to retain employees with disabilities. The EARN practice brief Leveraging the Shift to Remote Work to Increase Employment of People with Disabilities (PDF) explores practical reasons employers should consider remote work.
Stay at Work/Return to Work Program
Stay at Work/Return to Work programs help supervisors manage employee injuries, illnesses and disabilities and ensure that employees are able to return to the workplace as quickly and safely as possible. Programs that allow employees to resume working in an appropriate and timely manner, with or without work restrictions, are essential for minimizing health-related absences and optimizing productivity. Learn more about Stay at Work and Return to Work programs.
Retention Strategies for Specific Sectors and Industries
Federal Contractors and Subcontractors
Federal contractors are individuals or employers who enter into a contract with the United States government (with any department or agency) to perform a specific job, supply labor and materials or for the sale of products and services. A federal subcontractor is a company that does business with another company that holds a direct contract with the Federal Government. Under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, both federal contractors and subcontractors must meet certain requirements toward the goal of a workforce that includes people with disabilities. For example, they must ask employees to self-identify as having a disability. Under the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA), federal contractors and subcontracts have affirmative action and non-discrimination obligations for veterans, including veterans with disabilities. Learn more about requirements for federal contractors and subcontractors.
A strong federal workforce is an inclusive federal workforce, one that is welcoming of the skills and talents of all qualified individuals. In pursuit of this goal, the Federal Government has taken several steps over the years to ensure that it retains people with disabilities in its workforce nationwide. To learn more about retention of federal workers, explore the following resources:
- Section 501 Information Center
- Federal Government Policies and Practices Supporting Employment of People with Disabilities
- Federal Exchange on Employment and Disability (FEED)
- Federal Agency Employment Strategies: A Framework for Disability Inclusion (PDF)
In many communities across the country, the largest employer is the state government. State governments pay competitive wages and provide benefits to people in a range of positions, from entry-level to highly specialized. Learn more about the State Exchange on Employment & Disability (SEED) and the efforts of state governments to retain people with disabilities.
Small business is a pillar of the American economy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, companies with less than 500 employees comprise 99.9% of businesses and employ 47.3% of the workforce in the private sector. Small businesses provide highly sought-after employment opportunities for people with disabilities. According to research, more than 70% of people with disabilities would prefer to work in a small organization. To help small businesses include people with disabilities in their workforces, EARN created the toolkit Small Business & Disability Employment: Steps to Success, which offers step-by-step information on how small employers can create disability-inclusive workplace cultures.