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Widening Your Candidate Pool (Part 2): People with Disabilities

Hiring people with disabilities can certainly help drive social good, but including candidates with disabilities in the recruiting process can also potentially improve your organization’s bottom line. Last month, we explored reasons to recruit military veterans. In this post, we will outline ways to achieve the competitive advantages of widening your candidate pool by including people with disabilities.

First, it’s important to dispel the idea that a person with a disability fits the profile of someone who is blind, deaf, or uses a wheelchair only. Most disabilities in the U.S. are hidden.  As Disabled World Magazine defines, these hidden disabilities include mental, depressive and emotional disorders, diabetes, traumatic brain injuries, epilepsy, anxiety and eating disorders.  In all, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that nearly one in five U.S. citizens has a disability.

While the unemployment rate among people with disabilities is about 5 percent higher than the average for people without disabilities, the truth is that many individuals labeled as disabled are passionate employees with highly specialized skills, making them desirable yet often overlooked in diverse job roles.

What’s more, hiring people with disabilities has been proven to make good business sense. Here are just a few of the many competitive advantages that can be realized.

Reduce turnover rates.  Both the U.S. Department of Education and the United Nations’ Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (SCRPD) cite that retention rates tend to be higher among employees with disabilities. According to the Office of Disability Employment Policy, Marriott International reports that employees hired through its Pathways to Independence Program experienced a 6 percent turnover rate versus 52 percent turnover among its overall workforce.

Receive tax incentives. The Federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit and the Texas Back to Work programs award businesses about $1,200 to $9,000 (depending on several factors) when hiring individuals with specific barriers to employment, including disabilities. Specialists at the Texas Workforce Commission can help determine your organization’s eligibility. Employers who spend money on specific accommodations may be eligible for additional tax breaks. But that’s not as common as you may assume: The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) found that most employers – about 94 percent of the employers surveyed – report no cost or a low, one-time cost of typically less than $500 for accommodating employees with disabilities.

Differentiate your company. A University of Massachusetts and Strength Foundation joint study found that 87 percent of the public would prefer to give their business to companies that hire people with disabilities. What’s more, it gives corporate partners reasons to notice your organization as well. Austin, TX-based Image Microsystems considers its internship and employment partnership with the Texas School for the Deaf a key differentiator, attracting major corporate clients like Dell, Inc. and leading to recognition by Texas Governor Rick Perry. Watch this video to learn about Image Microsystem’s program and the ways in which it has been mutually beneficial.

Increase productivity. Walgreen Co. has become a champion of employing people with disabilities, reporting that about 40 to 50 percent of its distribution center workforce has a disability. Why is this important to the bottom line? Randy Lewis, senior vice president of supply chain management for Walgreens, has stated that these employees are among the most efficient and productive on the distribution line. Here in Texas, Walgreens and the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), launched a pilot program to help broaden its workforce and disability inclusion initiatives beyond the distribution center and into stores.

Innovate. According to the organization Think Beyond the Label, employees with disabilities can bring unique experiences and understanding that can transform a workplace. This fact isn’t lost on major innovators like IBM and Microsoft, which have both made assistive technologies a part of research and innovation efforts for decades. Advances in speech recognition software, website usability and other business innovations have accessibility research behind them. In fact, Microsoft found that 44 percent of all computer users use some form of accessible technology.

Even with these benefits, people with disabilities remain an often overlooked candidate pool.  Forbes Insights found that among 321 large global enterprises interviewed, disability inclusion ranked fifth in the organizations’ diversity efforts, behind gender, ethnicity/national origin, age, and race/color. Only half of the organizations interviewed have disability-based programs.

Among those who do have programs in place, however, the report uncovered that search firms come in as a primary source for recruiting diverse talent, including people with disabilities. So, how can we help you? Or, if you’ve already taken steps to include people with disabilities in your candidate pool, what benefits have you seen?

Image: anaken2012 / 123RF Stock Photo