In a nutshell: Employees with disabilities are hardworking and bring new perspectives to your organization. You can attract them through your employer branding efforts.
When looking for people to build up or round out your workforce, don’t discount the amazing contributions and insight that can be offered by employees with physical or mental disabilities. Pew Research finds that there are 40 million disabled Americans, which equates to more than nearly 13 percent of the country’s population — a pool of potential workers that simply can’t be ignored in an increasingly tight labor market.
Some people with disabilities have problems with mobility, others with vision and hearing, and still more with cognitive abilities. These challenges might seem daunting at first, for both employer and employee, but they don’t need to be. Let’s look at some of the reasons to seek out workers with disabilities, and best practices for attracting and hiring employees.
Diversity Means Better Business
Whether you do business around the neighborhood or around the block, you’ve probably noticed that your customer base is becoming more diverse. Companies that reflect that diversity in their workforces have an edge in creativity and profitability over their competition.
“If you employ only those who identify with a small portion of the market, you just don’t have access to the insights, experiences and worldviews of the full marketplace,” writes Kim Abreu in Entrepreneur.
With workers with disabilities on board, organizations can get feedback that helps them create products and services that are most useful to the widest spectrum of customers. Disabled workers might have ideas about accessibility features or user interfaces that other employees could overlook.
When asked about workers with disabilities, Starbucks’ executive vice president Scott Pitasky made the business case for diversity this way: “These talented professionals bring unique experiences that foster innovation and new ideas while contributing to a culture of warmth and true inclusion.”
[Related article: 4 Ways to Increase Diversity]
Organizations report that employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities are industrious and interact well with customers. The Institute for Corporate Productivity found that workers with these disabilities ranked high for dependability, engagement, motivation and attendance. In fact, the institute’s research showed that one-third of organizations responding to a survey said hiring intellectually and developmentally disabled employees “exceeded expectations.”
Some organizations may be eligible for incentives or tax reductions for hiring employees with disabilities. At the federal level, the IRS offers three kinds of credits and deductions: the Disabled Access Credit for small businesses, the Barrier Removal Tax Deduction to help offset the costs of making a workplace more accessible for workers with disabilities, and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for hiring people from certain target groups.
Finding and Engaging Disabled Candidates
The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion acknowledges that one of the biggest challenges for employers is to find candidates with disabilities. The organization maintains a list of state and local resources on its website. It’s also worthwhile to reach out to local and state vocational rehabilitation agencies and veterans groups. Even small businesses can reach a wide audience of potential employees.
Candidates will want to see that your company is open to employees with disabilities. That’s why it’s important to make disability inclusion part of your brand as an employer. The employer brand is important — it tells potential employees what the company stands for and what working there is like. Glassdoor says that a diverse workforce is especially important for minority candidates, and can even help with other candidates.
You can promote your employment brand, and highlight your commitment to all forms of diversity, through microsites, employee testimonials and social media.
Conversation and education can help ease the integration of people with disabilities into your workplace, according to Entrepreneur. “Talk to your employees and, if you have the resources, invest in diversity training to make employees more familiar and comfortable with the challenges workers with disabilities face.”