by Kris Foss
Nearly 40% of employers are having challenges hiring qualified employees, while at the same time one in five people in the United States have some type of disability and are facing challenges in getting hired. Some disabilities are visible, such as physical disabilities, and some are hidden; including mental health conditions, medical conditions, learning and cognitive disabilities. We also have a large population “aging into disability” for the first time and veterans with disabilities returning to the civilian workforce.
I am often asked about the types of jobs a person with a disability can do and my answer is always the same—“What do you have?” The reality is that the talent pool of people with disabilities remains underutilized, even though it includes job seekers with a wide and diverse range of education, degrees, professional certifications, work experience and skills.
Talent with disabilities brings alternative perspectives to getting a job done, to solving a problem, and to reaching a goal. It is this unique perspective and life experiences that can contribute innovative ideas, processes and market reach.
People with disabilities in the United States alone represent an annual spending power of $645 billion, and their friends and families—those who would make spending decisions based on how inclusive and accessible a company may be, represent another $4 trillion in annual spending, according to the Return on Disability Group.
Hiring people with disabilities is not about charity, but about smart business. Ranging across industries and business lines, our clients include some familiar brands such as PepsiCo, Synchrony Financial, American Express, Aon and Staples. These companies and others are taking action to meet their talent needs across the board and seeing real business results including key HR metrics:
- An average 14% higher retention rate in the same roles;
- 33% decrease in interview to hire ratios, saving talent acquisition professionals valuable time while decreasing time to fill;
- 53 points and 28 points higher rates of voluntary “self-disclosure” among jobseekers with disabilities and veteran’s respectively—important compliance results for government contractors and reflecting a positive and inclusive corporate culture;
Diversity within Disability
People with disabilities cut across all dimensions of diversity and several areas of EEO reporting including:
- 35% Women
- 21% Veterans
- 19% Hispanic
- 36% White
- 42% Black
Making the Connection
Companies have several ways to connect with jobseekers with disabilities. Cultivating talent partnerships is an important part of creating strong talent pipelines in the community. Disability Solutions creates customized inclusive hiring strategies that forge these talent partnerships, or recruiters can take the following steps:
- Conduct research within your geographic recruitment area. There can often be 50 to 75 community-based organizations in your area. It is important to start wide, in order to identify partners who can connect you with jobseekers who meet your particular talent needs.
- Utilize those partnerships to increase your pipeline of talent through a variety of pre-application engagement activities. These can be onsite informational and training sessions, or simply a guide to help partners prepare their referrals prior to application. This leads to qualified and work-ready candidates heading your way!
- Post open positions on employment websites for people with disabilities such as the Disability Solutions online Career Center, disabilitysolutionstalent.org. It is a great way to begin building a new pipeline of talent. More than 400,000 people with disabilities visit the site every month to find a career.
- Focus on talent acquisition and retention. Smart employers focus on developing talent. Provide natural supports, mentors, and ongoing training to develop the best employees and promote retention.
Growing Talent Competition
As the competition for top talent increases, leading companies are searching for new and valuable talent pools. Those taking action in reaching talent with disabilities are recognizing measurable and meaningful business outcomes. What type of jobs can a person with a disability do? What have you got?
Kris Foss is the Managing Director of Disability Solutions at Ability Beyond, located in Bethel, Connecticut. The consulting division of nonprofit Ability Beyond, Disability Solutions is CHANGING minds and CHANGING lives by creating customized plans for companies to strengthen their workforce by hiring and retaining talent with disabilities. Their consultants have partnered with top companies to successfully fill talent gaps by attracting a historically under tapped talent pool – people with disabilities.