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Debra Ruh

Employability & Technology

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Employer Business Case

Recruiting and hiring people with disabilities is a sound business strategy used by successful businesses nationwide. The 2005 survey report, Cost and Effectiveness of Accommodations in the Workplace: Preliminary Results of a Nationwide Study, conducted by the Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), reveals that workforce development and retention of workers at all skill levels are two of the major issues facing small and large businesses today.

Likewise, a 2003 Aspen Institute report projects a major shortfall of workers over the next 20 years – primarily in jobs requiring higher education and training.

The solution: Employees with disabilities.

Businesses can meet their workforce shortages by tapping into non-traditional sources of labor by hiring employees with disabilities. Employers around the world are quickly discovering that people with disabilities are ready, eager, and willing to work. What they are finding is that employees with disabilities are often times more self-motivated, have solid critical thinking skills and solve problems every day.

Consider these "Quick Facts" provided by the Department of Education, Disability 101:

  • A fall 2005 survey of employers and individuals with disabilities found that the median cost of accommodations was only $600.
  • Seventy-two percent of individuals with disabilities reported that their accommodation was made at no cost.
  • Employers who had made accommodations for employees with disabilities reported multiple benefits as a result, including that the accommodation: allowed the company to retain a qualified employee; eliminated the costs of training a new employee; and increased the worker´s productivity (Hendricks, Batiste and Hirsh, 2005)
  • Employees with disabilities consistently have nearly 85 percent one-year employment retention rates (U.S. Department of Education, 2003). Impacting the Bottom Line

Hiring people with disabilities can do more than address the growing workforce shortage. Yes, the greater demand for skilled labor has increased awareness that many employable people are seeking employment that traditionally have not been considered as potential sources of skilled labor. But companies that are strategic in their recruiting efforts understand that there are a growing number of other reasons to tap this pool of talented workers.

In fact, both large and small companies have benefited by recruiting people with disabilities for many years. Many leading companies attribute much of their success to employing a diverse workforce that includes people with disabilities.

For example, companies can benefit financially by recruiting through government and nonprofit sources. In cases where nonprofit training organizations are used, companies can access pre-trained, pre-screened candidates at minimal or no cost.

The Department of Education´s Disability 101 report indicates that American Airlines, for example, calculated savings of 20 percent in recruiting costs by using nonprofit partners to help in its recruitment efforts. Resources are available to help your business achieve its competitive advantage by supplying a steady pipeline of qualified workers.

Take a look at the many ways in which Employer Assistance & Recruiting Network (EARN), and the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)., have identified as potential attributes provided by employees with disabilities:

I. Employees with Disabilities Can Positively Impact Business

Replacing employees is expensive not only in tangible costs (e.g., advertising, screening, interviewing, training) but also in organizational knowledge that is lost., reports EARN. Human resource experts (Griffeth and Hom, 2001) estimate the cost of a single turnover ranges from 93-200% of the employee´s annual salary Employers have found their employees with disabilities to be a loyal workforce, reducing turnover.

  • For example, High Turnover Antidote: Hire Employees with Disabilities states that among the most effective solutions to high turnover is hiring and retaining qualified employees with disabilities.
  • After an 18-month initiative resulting in the hiring of 170 people with disabilities, Kathy Egan, President of Hire Potential, discovered that "These workers were more committed and were retained on average 50 percent longer than ´traditional´ workers, and our clients were more pleased with the quality of their work and kept them on longer."
  • Marriott´s "Pathways to Independence" program shows a 6% turnover among Pathways participants (employees with disabilities), versus 52% overall workforce turnover between 1999 and 2003.
  • Employees with disabilities at Pizza Hut have retention rates from four to five times higher than that of non-disabled workers, saving over $8 million through reduced turnover.
  • Frank Coombs, owner of a IHOP Restaurant, discovered employees with disabilities are loyal, long-term workers in an industry where high employee turnover is the norm. Training each new employee costs IHOP about $1000, according to Coombs.
  • International House of Pancakes franchisee finds operational savings by hiring people with disabilities.
  • "It´s about inclusion… it has to do with talent and not ignoring people who could help us achieve our business goals" Jim Sinocchi, Director HR Communications, IBM "[we are] in bidding wars for people with disabilities."
  • Branka Minic, Director of Workforce Development for Manpower, states, "Manpower is interested in people with disabilities because that´s our strategic position… We continuously analyze labor trends, skills analysis, supply and demand… we are going to face a tremendous shortage of labor."
  • The Embassy Suites Hotel in Crystal City, VA regards reasonable accommodations as a way to keep valued employees on the job, as well as to hire qualified applicants with disabilities.
  • Veronica Villanova, Embassy Suites, has found that by expanding her recruiting strategies to include people with disabilities, she is better able to fill positions. (Employer Assistance & Recruiting Network.)
  • A Virginia Commonwealth University survey of 250 supervisors in 43 businesses indicates that supervisors are satisfied with the performance of their employees with disabilities, rating their performance similar to that of their non-disabled peers.


Related Items:

• The Neater Eater


• Columbia Business School has Produced a Pioneering Business School Case Study Profiling the Disability Market

• Nominations Open for U.S. FCC Chairman’s Award for Advancement in Accessibility (AAA)

• Boomer Business Summit, Chicago, IL, USA

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