AskEARN | Retention Strategies Skip to main content

Welcome to AskEARN’s new website. As we transition to our new site, you can still visit EARN’s previous site.

About EARN

The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) offers information and resources to help employers recruit, hire, retain and advance people with disabilities; build inclusive workplace cultures; and meet diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) goals. 

Getting Started

Start here to learn how to recruit, hire, retain and advance people with disabilities; why workplace inclusion of people with disabilities matters; and how EARN’s resources can help.

A woman in a wheelchair addresses three colleagues around a small table

    Phases of Employment

  • A woman in a wheelchair shakes hands with a colleague


    Build a pipeline of talent that includes people with disabilities.

  • Two men work at repairing an engine.


    Identify people who have the skills and attributes for the job.

  • A woman with a disability wearing a helmet works in a factory


    Keep talented employees with disabilities, including those who acquire them on the job.

  • A man uses sign language to communicate.


    Ensure that employees with disabilities have equal opportunities for advancement.

Dinah Cohen Learning Center

EARN’s Learning Center offers a wide range of training resources, including self-paced online courses.

Woman using assistive technology on a computer workstation.

News & Events

EARN makes it easy to stay up-to-date on disability employment news and information. Start by subscribing to our monthly newsletter and eblasts, which will connect you to upcoming events, developing news and promising practices in the world of disability diversity and inclusion. And don’t forget to follow EARN on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

A smiling man with an earpiece sits in a wheelchair

Retention Strategies

Explore effective methods to help retain employees with disabilities.

Companies use different strategies to ensure they retain their valued employees. These can include:

  • Mentoring and coaching
  • Workplace flexibility
  • Stay at Work/Return to Work programs

Mentoring involves developing a professional relationship with a colleague to advise or train them. It encourages personal growth, builds skills and increases knowledge of the work or industry. Coaching aims to improve performance by helping workers learn new skills and enhance their job performance. Both mentoring and coaching are effective strategies for shaping an inclusive workplace culture and retaining employees with disabilities. EARN has multiple resources to support employers in their mentoring and coaching efforts:
  • Mentoring as a Disability Inclusion Strategy fact sheet discusses mentoring programs as a way to support talent development and retention using the organization’s human resources to improve employee satisfaction, develop leaders and teach new skills.
  • The Workplace Mentoring Playbook helps employers develop effective workplace mentoring programs, learn about types of mentoring and find examples of successful mentoring initiatives for all workers, including employees with disabilities.
  • 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 applicants that they are committed to fostering an inclusive workplace, including policies and practices that permit workplace flexibility, meaning flexibility in when, where and how employees perform their jobs.

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 resources on remote work include:

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.

Opportunities that help employees advance in their careers, such as professional development and training opportunities, can also help with employee retention.

Retention Strategies for Specific Sectors

Retention Resource Tip for All Employers: Every state has a vocational rehabilitation (VR) agency that can help support employers not only hire people with disabilities, but also assist with retention. Find your state's VR agency.  

Some sectors and industries have special considerations when retaining employees with disabilities. Learn more about more retention strategies for employees who are federal contractors and subcontractors, federal employers, state government employers and small businesses.

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 and strategies to help them meet their obligations under Section 503 and recruit, hire, advance and retain workers with disabilities.

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:

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. State Governments have an important role as a model employer of people with disabilities, setting an example for private sector employers in the state.

EARN offers resources that can help state government employers retain employees with disabilities. The State Exchange on Employment & Disability (SEED) also supports the efforts of state governments to recruit, hire, advance and 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 Small Business & Disability Employment: Steps to Success, which offers step-by-step information on how small employers can create disability-inclusive workplace cultures.