Using Business Models Can Help People Find the Perfect Job


We all know that having a good job has a profound effect on people’s lives. However, job coaches and employment specialists can sometimes focus on getting a person hired – and not spend enough time on the needs of the business doing the hiring—when trying to find the perfect match.

Often times, failing to connect with the business itself not only leads to a lack of communication between employee and manager, but it can result in higher rates of turnover, poor performance, and an unpleasant job experience for everyone.

Jennifer White is the Director and CEO of Able Opportunities, Inc., a Hansville, Washington corporation. White is an expert at understanding the often elusive fundamentals of supported employment. Her organization has developed innovative methods for working with the businesses who hire supported employees.

Seeing the Business Side

White recalls what got her started thinking about the business side of supported employment: “About eight years ago, I had a parent call me. She was upset, asking when her daughter was going to be getting a raise, receiving more hours. Unfortunately, her daughter was barely maintaining this job. Then it struck me: why am I answering this question? Why doesn’t the daughter know and why isn’t the business involved?”

This prompted White to begin considering ways in which the business was involved in hiring and managing employees with disabilities. “Typically, this has been a social justice job, which I love, but over the years we’ve been weak on business-minded practices,” she notes. We come in begging for any job, instead of structuring data that focuses on how the business spends its money – for example on cross-training employees.” White explained that, for example, if a business has a job requiring six steps, but the first two are rote, repetitive, long-term, and pay less money, the employment specialist might have the perfect person to perform those two septs. This is not to say that the employee is less valuable.  They’re simple unable to perform the more complex tasks. “Those first two steps your staff doesn’t like, but I have a person who does,” White observes. “A cost analysis of a five-year period projecting the savings when splitting the job up is a convincing reason to do it.”

“We put together a cost-analysis sheet because that’s what businesses do to determine if they need employees,” White states. “You meet people who have altruistic reasons for hiring someone with a developmental disability, but long-term that’s not successful unless that person stays in the position.”

Breaking Down a Task

White asks employment support specialists to ask themselves the difficult questions: Do we talk the way businesses do? How do we speak their language? “Able Opportunities, Inc. spends a lot of time addressing these needs,” she says. “We want to speak their language, so employees and employers are able to track and communicate about how they’re doing at work, while still enjoying themselves and the benefits of the social part of the job. Currently, too many job coaches end up tracking performance for the business.

Production Charts: A Crucial Tool

Employers feel good about hiring someone with a developmental disability, but might not know how to manage that employee. “With production charts, we train employers to meet with their employee and look at the chart, which is in concrete visual terms, and points to what needs to be done,” White says. “They work really well because now the employer is in the game with the employee, and able to understand the benefits of having the employee. They also allow the employee to understand expectations, which increases productivity.”

Charts also help in case the person one was working with at the job changes. Too often, a supported employee sees so many people in their lives leave their positions, from job coaches to their manager at work. “If the person who had investment for hiring you is gone,” White says, “if we have those charts in a personnel file, you can communicate more clearly to a new person.” This can help ease the transitions.

Put These Solutions to Work for You!

Production charts are one of the many ways Able Opportunities is leading the way in improving employment supports across the country. Being an employment specialist means being an innovator yourself, thinking outside the box and working toward better relationships between employees and employers. The DirectCourse/College of Employment Services curriculum can help give employment support professionals the foundations they need to become these innovators.  We applaud the work of Jennifer White, whose breakthroughs in this field are helping supported employees, job coaches, and employers not only understand one another, but find and maintain satisfying work.

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