Increase diversity by recruiting, retaining people with disabilities

by Stephanie Holstein

Having a diverse workforce includes hiring people with disabilities, which can create a positive and inclusive work environment, be good for the bottom line, and help bring down the high unemployment rates of people with disabilities. There are a number of best practices and helpful resources to make recruiting and retaining people with disabilities an effective and manageable process for employers looking to successfully implement an initiative to employ more people with disabilities.  Businessman discussing with colleagues in office

Recruiting candidates with disabilities

Prioritize hiring people with disabilities. Ensure that hiring people with disabilities is a part of your company’s overall hiring plan, and work with management to establish internal policies that demonstrate and support that priority. Also, make sure to include disability in your company’s diversity statement.

Collaborate with community-based partners. Community-based partners include nonprofit organizations, national and local disability organizations, and federal and state employment programs for people with disabilities. The following partners are available to support you with the process of recruiting, hiring, retaining, and promoting people with disabilities:

  • For federal and nationally based programs, consult the federal government’s publication “Recruiting, Hiring, Retaining, and Promoting People with Disabilities” (available at http://bit.ly/2pNuWZc). It’s an interagency-created resource guide for employers containing information about legally and proactively recruiting and retaining workers with disabilities.
  • For state and locally based programs, contact the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services’ Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR). The DVR offers a variety of support services to assist employers in understanding the resources available for hiring and retaining people with disabilities (available at http://bit.ly/2pmsedE).
  • For local organizations in your area, refer to the list of community rehabilitation programs in your county that offer a variety of workplace services and support, including job placement programs (available at http://bit.ly/2pMe9mv).

Post job announcements in targeted spaces to attract qualified candidates with disabilities. Posting vacancies on job boards designed for people with disabilities will increase the diversity of your applicant pool. Two examples are:

  • The Talent Acquisition Portal (TAP) is a national online recruitment system aimed at helping employers access the talented pool of individuals with disabilities. Employers can post jobs, search candidate résumés, interview candidates, and more (available at https://tapability.org/).
  • The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) offers employers the opportunity to post permanent and temporary positions for qualified students and recent graduates with disabilities (available at http://wrp.jobs/employers/).

Ensure equal access to employment opportunities. Make sure job postings and online application systems are accessible to candidates with disabilities. Indicate in your job announcements that qualified individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply and that reasonable accommodations will be provided. Evaluate your applicant screening processes to ensure that they don’t unintentionally exclude people with disabilities. Train your hiring staff on appropriate and legal interview practices. Confirm that interview locations are physically accessible, and allow applicants the opportunity to request a reasonable accommodation for interviews ahead of time.

Develop an internship program. Internship programs designed specifically for people with disabilities are an effective and cost-efficient recruiting strategy, and often lead to full-time hires.

Retaining employees with disabilities

Tailor onboarding programs to employees with disabilities. Include disability-specific information in any onboarding programs. Ensure workplace accessibility measures, reasonable accommodation procedures, and orientation materials are in accessible formats.

Ensure equal access to career-development programs. Implement management practices that support equal access to conferences, trainings, and other career-development programs. Make sure training materials and workplace events are fully accessible to employees with disabilities. Consider offering specialized leadership programs for employees with disabilities and reserving a portion of employee training funds for disability-related accommodations at trainings.

Conduct disability awareness and etiquette training. Educate all staff on disability etiquette and disability awareness to address unconscious bias, increase workplace inclusivity, and build a culture that embraces diversity.

Develop workplace mentoring programs. Mentoring programs and employee resource groups are additional tools that can help you address the needs of employees with disabilities and provide guidance on disability issues to coworkers and managers.

Offer return-to-work programs, workplace flexibility programs, and other reasonable accommodations. Support the ongoing needs of employees with disabilities by offering programs and accommodations that will help them succeed in the workplace.

Bottom line

Stephanie Holstein WAIf you’re looking to recruit and retain reliable talent and include people with disabilities in your workforce diversity program, get started by contacting a community-based partner in your area today.

Stephanie Holstein is an attorney with Perkins Coie, practicing in the firm’s Seattle, Washington, office. She may be contacted at sholstein@perkinscoie.com.

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