Despite Inclusiveness Efforts, People with Disabilities Remain an Untapped Source of Hire

As employers work to improve their diversity and inclusion, many still haven’t seriously considered hiring more people with disabilities. Although they make up 15% of the world’s population, people with disabilities are only half as likely to be employed as non-disabled people.

At a time when companies are struggling to find sufficient numbers of qualified candidates, individuals with disabilities represent an untapped source of diverse hires. So why aren’t employers capitalizing on this opportunity?

According to the World Economic Forum, “Some buy into the misconception that it might be costly for businesses to accommodate specific needs of persons with disabilities. However, our research indicates the opposite—that those companies embracing best practices for employing and supporting persons with disabilities in their workforce are also outperforming their peers and achieving tangible financial benefits.” The Forum’s research showed these companies were, on average, twice as likely to have higher total shareholder returns than their peers and achieved 28% higher revenues, double the net income, and 30% higher profit margins.

Clearly, these are compelling reasons to embrace greater numbers of employees with disabilities. Plus, there are those who have only transitional disabilities, recovering from mental or physical setbacks for example that aren’t permanent. However, employers may still hesitate because—as with many DE&I-related issues—they’re uncertain about how to begin engaging these individuals effectively.

Great Ideas from a Trusted Source

I recently participated in Cornell University’s Diversity and Inclusion Certificate Program, which provides some very comprehensive materials on disability inclusion in the workplace. Beyond offering a broad overview of the role HR professionals play in addressing this issue, the program focuses on how companies can minimize disability discrimination across the recruiting and employment process, which is a great way to start making effective inroads on disability inclusion.

For example, here are a few initial steps employers should consider:

  • Make recruitment of people with disabilities an explicit organizational goal.
  • Ensure that the company’s DE&I plans specifically address “people with disabilities.”
  • Appoint a disability inclusion/recruitment point person.
  • Design interview processes that minimize disability discrimination and maximize equal opportunity for consideration of candidates with disabilities.
  • Ensure that people with disabilities are considered in hiring managers’ goals.
  • Form relationships with organizations that champion people with disabilities.
  • Access a pipeline of qualified candidates with disabilities.
  • Offer internships for people with disabilities.

Of course, I’ve barely scratched the surface of the Cornell program, which dives into all of this in much greater detail. I highly recommend the program to everyone in the HR and talent attraction functions (not to mention members of the c-suite). It doesn’t matter what level of awareness or education you’re at on this topic, the program offers insights that are valuable to everyone.

And if you’re interested in learning how people from diverse backgrounds feel about their candidate experiences with you, be sure to participate in Talent Board’s 2021 research program. Your time to sign up is running out!


Be safe and well.

Kevin Grossman, Talent Board President

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