By William Erickson Researcher, Cornell University, Employment and Disability Institute
While research has shown that employers see certain practices as having the potential to improve hiring and retention, it is only recently that research has addressed which of these practices businesses actually have in place. This research, conducted by Cornell University in collaboration with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), provides insights for employers about the practices their peers and competitors may be using to increase hiring and retention of employees with disabilities.
Cornell & SHRM Research
During 2011, Cornell University collaborated with SHRM to conduct a survey of nearly 700 SHRM members asking about specific policies and practices related to recruitment and hiring, accommodation and accessibility, and retention and advancement of persons with disabilities.
Hiring & Recruiting Practices
Slightly less than half (45%) of the private employers reported actively recruiting persons with disabilities. Over half reported having a relationship with community organizations that promoted the employment of persons with disabilities and nearly 60% included persons with disabilities explicitly in their diversity and inclusion plans.
Practices & policies make a difference! Companies who reported hiring a person with a disability were far more likely to report having each of the practices above in place than those who had not. Further analysis has determined that, regardless of organizational characteristics such as organization size, employers using these practices are more likely to hire persons with disabilities than organizations without these practices in place.
Accessibility and Accommodation
About one in five employers reported having a centralized accommodation fund. The large majority, three out of four, had a designated office or person to address accommodation issues. About two-thirds had a grievance procedure to address reasonable accommodation issues. Slightly less than half (44%) had a formal decision-making process for accommodations.
Retention and Advancement
With regards to specific retention and advancement policies and practices, three quarters of employers had a return to work or disability management program. Over half encouraged flexible work arrangements (e.g., flextime, part-time, telecommuting) for all employees. About forty percent invited employees to confidentially disclose whether they had a disability in staff surveys or via other means. One in six organizations had a structured mentoring program designed to support employees with disabilities.
Metrics Tracked by Disability Status
Although organizations were less likely to track performance metrics by disability than they were for race or gender, about a quarter of employers surveyed tracked the number of job applicants with disabilities and the number hired.
As organizations seek to hire and retain increasing numbers of employees with disabilities, it is important to note that many have already adopted policies and practices to encourage disability inclusion, and that this adoption does seem to yield results. In addition, many organizations have already begun tracking disability-related metrics, a key component in assessing the effectiveness of policies and practices in increasing hiring and retention of employees with disabilities. To learn more about this research and the prevalence of other practices covered in the survey visit: http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/edicollect/1327/ or consider attending the upcoming State of the Science conference in Washington, D.C., where the findings of this and other research will be presented. The research cited in this article was completed by Cornell University using funding provided by the U.S. Department of Education National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) for a Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Employer Practices Related to Employment Outcomes among Individuals with Disabilities (grant #H133B100017). Erickson, W. von Schrader, S. Bruyere, S. & VanLooy, S. (in press) The Employment Environment: Employer perspectives, policies and practices regarding the employment of persons with disabilities, Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin. For additional inclusion information and resources visit: Business Strategies that Work: A Framework for Disability Inclusion