It’s a new year, and time for new thinking and taking new approaches to the way you hire while attracting a diverse workforce [that includes people with disabilities]. A number of resources are available that can aid you in doing just that, and some, such as customized employment, are provided at no cost to businesses.
You work directly with employment consultants who can provide free consultation to improve your best practices in recruiting a diverse workforce. They will take time to understand your business and values, and can help you identify specific needs within your company by asking you to consider the following:
• How overworked are you or your key employees? Are there tasks that would be better allocated to someone else?
• Are there backlogs or bottlenecks that need to be addressed?
• What infrequent responsibilities do you find that you and your staff can never seem to fit in?
• Are there safety protocols or workplace demands that a dedicated employee could assist with through ongoing maintenance?
With this approach, you have access to a third-person perspective, which can help you brainstorm additional ways to streamline your workplace. The consultant can help you customize a job description that meets your needs and match it to the qualifications of an applicant with a disability. This is the basis of an ongoing partnership that assists people with disabilities in better accessing the workforce while meeting specific business needs.
“She’s a great asset to us,” said Gwendolyn Romines at Pet City in the Chapel Hills Mall, an employer who utilized customized employment to create a part-time position for a person with a disability who has worked for their company more than six years. “She takes care of the things we are all too busy to do.”
Many employers find they attract qualified candidates who remain with the company a long time, even in positions typically harder to fill or with high turnover rates. “Without reservation I can state that hiring people with disabilities is one of the best decisions a business owner could make. Loyal, hard-working, dedicated, punctual, committed, well-received by customers and fellow employees — traits we all look for in employees and traits that people with disabilities consistently deliver,” says Greg Grandchamp, an independent business owner about his experiences working in customized employment.
According to Erin Riehle from Project SEARCH at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, hiring people with disabilities makes good business sense: “People with disabilities working in our environment enhances our image and we receive positive feedback for our visible commitment.” In a 2006 Gallup poll, it was found that 88 percent would give their business to one that employs people with disabilities over one that does not, and it was listed in the top three traits among consumers that define a good business.
Yet, in the Pikes Peak region, people with developmental disabilities have an estimated unemployment rate of 90 percent. Often, applicants struggle with automated online applications and in-person interviews, though they are qualified for the job. Individuals with disabilities benefit from outside advocacy to help represent them to the business, or assist in negotiating a position matching their abilities to the company.
More than 47 percent of HR executives surveyed state that they have not been asked to hire someone with a disability, so if customized employment is new to you, you are not alone. There are ways to find out more about hiring candidates with disabilities and utilizing customized employment. The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation is an excellent resource that can help point you in the right direction, with many applicants ready to hire and contact information for agencies that can personalize the process (http://www.dvrcolorado.com/employers.php). Rocky Mountain ADA center is available to assist with trainings and information on accommodations (www.adainformation.org).
Cyndi Parr is employment services coordinator for Community Outreach, Inc., helping applicants with disabilities access the workforce. She is also the 2013 president of Colorado Association of People Supporting Employment First, serves on the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region board and is past chair of the 2011 Chamber Rising Professionals.