by Nicholas Wyman, HR Expert Contributor
Look around your workplace. Does it invest in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)?
Just 1 in 13 American employers have a dedicated strategy to attract, hire and retain people with disabilities, according to recent data from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
That’s a mere eight percent of companies.
If you’re one of those companies, that means you’re paying more than just lip service to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) by including people with disabilities. About one in four adults live with a disability in the US, that’s 61 million people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is the largest group of jobless people in our nation.
And, when people with disabilities do find work, they suffer the worst pay gap, earning just 66 cents for every dollar that people without a disability earn.
Beyond the figures
And COVID-19 has hit people with disabilities the hardest. One in five workers with disabilities were ‘let go’ from their job in March 2020, compared to just one in seven of the general population. That’s according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
About one in six of the next generation (between the ages 3 to 17) identify as having a physical, intellectual, or developmental disability. Those figures are too big to ignore. But some companies might put the employing of more people with a disability in the “too-hard basket”.
Meanwhile, savvy employers like UPS are capitalizing on the benefits of actively recruiting and retaining people with a disability. Simply put, engaging with a broader range of perspectives in key decision-making helps guarantee superior business performance and a competitive edge.
Research has shown diverse workplaces enjoy these benefits, including higher or better:
- Workplace productivity
- Employee reliability and punctuality
- Staff satisfaction, job commitment, loyalty and retention
- Individual and collective innovation leading to new product and services development, and
- Cultural inclusivity, workplace communication and transparency
Your talent pipeline and market
But let’s extend that. People with disabilities aren’t just your untapped pipeline of talent, but also your potential customers. They are a market segment with a discretionary income of $21 billion annually, the third-largest market segment in the US.
If you employ people with disabilities, your company is making one of the most cost-effective investments it can make in your growth and profitability.
Here are some extra benefits of embracing diversity in your business. You’ll be increasing:
- Market penetration
- Company reputation and customer attitudes towards company products and brands
- Customer diversity, loyalty and satisfaction, and
- Engagement with the local community.
One company enjoying this approach is the multi-billion-dollar global enterprise, UPS, the world’s largest package delivery company. They not only deliver packages, but offer dream careers for people with disabilities. This program started over a decade ago when UPS in Louisville, Kentucky, partnered with Options Unlimited to create the Transitional Learning Center.
There, UPS training supervisors and Options Unlimited job coaches pace would-be employees through a two-week, pre-employment program. It’s part classroom training, simulated work environment, and covers jobs responsibilities, safety procedures and soft skills.
Here’s the proof:
- 87% of trainees are placed into competitive jobs at UPS
- Nine out of ten trainees stay on with UPS, with more than half still working there more than seven years after graduating, and
- 15 graduates are now trainers, with four of them even part-time supervisors for frontline operations at UPS.
And that’s what we all need to do as a nation – honor the potential that people with a disability offer for our workplaces. As we rebuild our economy, let’s reset our approach to disability employment and inclusion in the mainstream labor market.
Here are some prompts to get you going:
- Talk to your management and staff about hiring, inducting, and working alongside people with a disability
- Consider how you can embed diversity, equity and inclusion in recruiting, screening and selection
- Revisit your concept of workplace and job design – are there barriers that could be real hurdles for people with a disability?
- Don’t reinvent the wheel – reach out to disability organizations or workplace intermediary organizations with expertise in bridging the gaps, and
- Form a strategy to encourage the employment of people with a disability.