by Greta Menard, Founder & Principal, Capital MarCom
Ask a business owner what
keeps them up at night, and they're likely to mention talent management—not
just the challenges that come with finding great employees, but also hiring and
keeping them. The competition for top talent is, indeed, fierce. And in the
face of this, more and more progressive employers are tapping the power of the
"disability dividend" by proactively hiring employees with
disabilities and fostering disability-inclusive workplace cultures.
If you're unfamiliar with the
benefits of hiring people with disabilities, just ask some of the many
companies already reaping the rewards, from SAP to Walgreens. They'll
all tell you that proactively hiring and advancing employees with disabilities—including
veterans—makes good business sense. As Mark Wafer, a Tim
Hortons franchise owner puts it, "workers with disabilities are more
productive, work more safely, stay longer, require less supervision, are more
innovative and have less absenteeism." More innovative, indeed. Because people with
disabilities are often accustomed to thinking creatively, they tend to be skilled problem solvers
with a demonstrated ability to adapt to different situations and circumstances.
Diversifying your workforce with employees with disabilities can deliver
another benefit, as well—a slice of a trillion dollar market segment. You see,
people with disabilities
represent the third largest market segment in the U.S. So employees with disabilities can help
businesses gain a better understanding of how to meet the needs of an important
and expanding customer base.
If you're a federal
contractor, which many Arlington Chamber members are, there's an additional and
very important reason to foster a culture of inclusion—the law. In 2014,
updates to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act took effect, requiring federal
contractors and subcontractors to increase their efforts to recruit
and retain qualified people with disabilities. And if you aren’t a federal
contractor or subcontractor but perhaps want to be in the future, taking steps
to increase your company’s inclusion of people with disabilities now may
provide a competitive edge later.
The updates to Section 503 have sparked increased demand for tools
and resources related to disability inclusion. So how can you get started? Here
are five steps you can take toward a disability-diverse workforce:
out the Steps to Success: Not all
businesses—particularly small ones—know where to start on this journey. That's
why the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (DOL/ODEP)
created Small Business & Disability Employment:
Steps to Success. This free,
online toolkit provides a path to an inclusive workplace, outlining effective
small business strategies for hiring and advancing qualified people with
2. Connect with EARN:
The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN)
is a free resource for employers seeking to recruit, hire, retain and advance
qualified employees with disabilities. Take a look at EARN's website (AskEARN.org),
subscribe to its newsletter, tune in to its webinars, and read about other employers
who are getting it right.
3. Subscribe to Business Sense: Created as a ready
resource for small business owners and entrepreneurs, ODEP's Business Sense newsletter provides an inside track for all
employers on the latest information related to disability employment.
4. Leverage local
partnerships to find job candidates: A key strategy for finding qualified
candidates with disabilities is building relationships with local recruitment
sources, such as vocational rehabilitation specialists, American Job Centers,
disability and veterans service providers, and other organizations. Start with
the Arlington Employment Center and
the ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia.
Another great resource is Chamber Board member Linda Chandler, whose company Linden Resources works to expand employment
opportunities for people with disabilities right here in Arlington.
5. Hire interns with
disabilities. Research shows that employers who have internships for people
with disabilities are 4.5 times more likely to hire a person with a disability
than those who do not, making it a wonderful gateway to a more inclusive
workplace. Check out these resources
to connect with intern candidates and learn more about internships and mentoring
programs for people with disabilities.
While there is certainly more to tapping the
talents of workers with disabilities, these are just a few steps in the right
direction that you can take right now. The key takeaway is that disability diversity is great for business. It's your
key to an untapped talent pool, and an effective way to add value to our
workplaces and the Arlington community at large.