Hiring People with Disabilities Can Be a Winning Corporate Strategy
For many years now, corporations have been devising hiring strategies to attract and retain more minorities in their workforce. However, too often corporations don’t look at hiring people with disabilities as a way to enhance diversity.
However, as an employment specialist, familiarizing yourself with a corporation’s diversity strategy can actually help the person you support find a great job. Understanding a company’s needs on the diversity front—as well understanding their workforce flexibility and corporate culture—can be an effective strategy to help the person you support land a great job.
“When it comes to businesses planning their diversity program, disability has always remained rather distinct,” says Karen Flippo, Program Director at the Institute for Community Inclusion/School of Global Inclusion and Social Development at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. “Even though we know that 15% of the population are people with disabilities, too often they’re left out of the conversation.”
Flippo notes that the key is not just helping a business become aware that hiring people with disabilities can satisfy their diversity standards, but observing the corporation’s workforce flexibility model. “In disability work, we often talk about individuals needing job accommodation, such as flexible schedules, rearranging tasks, job sharing, etc. But when you look at these workforce flexibility programs, the language is similar to job accommodation.”
This is similar to a business offering maternity leave or a work-at-home model for people with children or who have to drive long distances. “A lot of folks are finding themselves in that ‘sandwich generation’,” she notes. “Taking care of elder families and children, trying to accommodate them while remaining employed. For those of us in supported employment, with our job development process and informational interviewing process, we need to try to understand that corporate culture more.
“We really have to show how people with disabilities can help improve and enhance a company’s existing workforce diversity efforts. And when we look at workplace flexibility for everyone, we know that this helps production and quality—the same holds true for workers with disabilities.”
The DirectCourse/College of Employment Services curriculum has a pair of courses that can give learners tools to help businesses see people with disabilities not only as excellent candidates for work, but as people who can satisfy diversity initiatives. “The Business Perspectives course really encourages job specialists to think as an employer thinks, to use language and observational skills that resonate with employers,” Flippo says. “To think of their fears and misconceptions about hiring people with disabilities in a positive way. This course helps job specialists understand and responding to their needs, making sure their questions are answered correctly. Issues from performance to workplace inclusion to job accommodation are addressed in that course.”
For more information on promoting people with disabilities in a diverse workforce, please visit the United States Department of Labor website page on Diversity and Inclusion.