Recruiting and hiring people with disabilities
Recruiting and hiring people with disabilities
According to the 2019 Insights Report by Goldman Sachs, finding and keeping talent has become the number one barrier to success for small businesses. Studies have shown that the performance and productivity levels of workers with disabilities do not significantly differ from other workers. Also, several studies show that workers with disabilities have significantly lower turnover rates than workers without disabilities. Hiring people with disabilities is a sound investment in the future of your small business.
Where you search for workers makes a big difference. And it’s a decision you can’t afford to get wrong. Are you inadvertently screening out valuable talent because you’re not casting your net wide enough? If you are recruiting only from mainstream, traditional sources, you might be. Check Finding Candidates with Disabilities, a resource from the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN), to find out.
One-off recruiting and hiring is costly. By partnering with community or national disability organizations, employers can access a steady stream of talent. Many of these organizations provide free or low-cost support services, such as coaching new employees, job-specific training, and information about tax incentives for employers who hire people with disabilities.
How can you build sustainable partnerships with these organizations? Here are three things to consider.
Don’t hesitate to share your concerns about potential risks with employment service providers in your area.
What jobs are the hardest to keep filled? Why? Talk though your hiring pain points with employment service providers in your area. Make it clear that if they can’t help with the pain points, the partnership probably won’t work.
Are you willing to try new ways of getting work done? By thinking through this question, you’ll be better prepared to lay the groundwork for a sustainable partnership. Sometimes, in a small business, a few questions might highlight areas where extra help might increase efficiency. Consider the following:
If you answered yes to any of these questions, consider speaking to a local employment service vendor to find out if they can help. They are always looking for opportunities for people to work in local communities.
To keep your hiring process legally compliant, consider hiring in two phases.
Before making a job offer, avoid any questions that force the applicant to reveal a disability. You should not ask questions like these:
After a job offer has been made but before work has started, you may collect some medical information about the applicant. If this reveals a disability that prevents the applicant from performing an essential job function and that can’t be accommodated, you may withdraw the job offer.
Employers are required to accommodate applicants with disabilities who need an accommodation in order to participate in the hiring process. However, many applicants with disabilities will not need accommodations to go through the hiring process.
Typical accommodation requests for an interview are simple to provide, such as an accessible location or written materials in electronic format.
About one-third of small businesses in the United States have a contract with the federal government. If you are among them, you might have accountability for hiring people with disabilities under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act and VEVRAA. Part of this accountability involves tracking the number of people with disabilities in your applicant pool. During hiring, you’ll need to invite applicants to voluntarily identify as a person with a disability or a veteran.
A recruiting and hiring process that’s accessible to people with disabilities will be more accessible to everyone. How can you ensure that your hiring process is fully accessible? Consider the following questions:
Retaining talent is a competitive advantage for small businesses. Turnover costs you more for several reasons. With fewer employees in each role, it’s harder to backfill with other employees when someone leaves. Employees who leave sometimes take their customers with them. Finally, without a large, dedicated HR department, hiring tasks fall to supervisors or other employees, taking time away from other work and causing further disruptions in operations. For these and other reasons, it costs small businesses, on average, about 100% of annual salary to replace a lost employee.
Disability-inclusive workplace practices are also great strategies to retain all talent, both with and without disabilities. Consider these tips:
 Goldman Sachs. (2019). Voice of small businesses in America: 2019 insights report (PDF).
 Hernandez, B., & McDonald, K. (2010). Exploring the costs and benefits of workers with disabilities. Journal of Rehabilitation, 76(3), 15–23; Romano, S. T. (2003). For firms, hiring disabled people offers a big payback. Crain's Chicago Business, 26(14), 9.