How Companies Recruit People with Disabilities

By , April 25, 2012

A wise Chief Diversity Officer once said that when it comes to recruiting and hiring qualified people with disabilities, “intention isn’t sufficient.” There are abundant ways in which companies can show genuine resourcefulness in employing more people with disabilities. Tried-and-true practices include targeted recruiting outreach, holding senior management accountable, and clearly communicating a company’s commitment to a diverse workforce on corporate websites.

The Society of Human Resource Management, in collaboration with the Cornell University Institute of Labor Relations School’s Employment and Disability Institute, recently released the results of a survey of 662 Human Resource professionals and SHRM members about their organizational practices and policies related to recruiting and hiring people with disabilities.

SHRM asked its members to reveal the ways in which they strive to integrate more people with disabilities into their workforce. The survey also separates the results by type of company – public or privately held – and sector.

Highlights: Overall, nearly two-thirds (61%) of organizations say their corporate Diversity & Inclusion plans include explicit language about people with disabilities. Also, 59% of companies require subcontractors and suppliers to adhere to disability nondiscrimination requirements, and 58% train HR staff and supervisors on effectively interviewing people with disabilities.

HR professionals report that they believe one of a company’s most effective tools for hiring workers with disabilities is a well-trained HR staff. Training that addresses how to interview people with disabilities, including information related to the Americans with Disabilities Act such as not directly inquiring about a person’s disability during an interview, which violates the law, but also training and resources that help cover gray areas such as whether a hiring manager can question a candidate’s ability to perform a job. (Legally, a hiring manager may ask a candidate how he or she might perform the job at hand, but cannot specifically relate this question to a disability. The candidate, if he or she chooses, may raise the idea of an accommodation.)

The survey also shows that larger publicly owned organizations, like Fortune 500s, are more likely to have polices and practices in place for recruiting and hiring people with disabilities compared with smaller organizations, which are more likely to be privately held. (See A Closer Look at Fortune’s Best Companies to Work For.) For example, nearly 60% of publicly owned for-profit organizations say they “actively recruit” people with disabilities, while only 41% of privately owned companies say they do the same.

Furthermore, more public companies than private companies say they include progress towards hiring goals for people with disabilities in performance appraisals of senior management, include explicit language about hiring people with disabilities in their Diversity & Inclusion plans, and expect senior management to demonstrates a strong commitment to disability recruitment and hiring.

That’s not a surprise, as many public companies are also federal contractors. The government requires contractors to prove that they’re taking active steps to recruit people with disabilities in order to win government business. In fact, the Department of Labor recently proposed a rule to require all federal contractors to fill at least 7% of their workforce with people with disabilities. (See Rooting for A More Inclusive Workforce.) That should help shore up the higher unemployment rate for this group.

One final insight relates to tax breaks. More public companies (42%) say they take advantages of tax incentives for hiring people with disabilities, vs. only 21% of privately held companies. Tax incentives include the Small Business Tax Credit, Architectural/ Transportation Tax Deduction and the Work Opportunities Tax Credit. Think Beyond the Label’s free online tool, Hire Gauge, is a great way for companies to calculate the tax incentives on hiring one or more persons with a disability, including a veteran with a disability.

The SHRM recruiting and hiring survey is the first in a series related to the employment of people with disabilities. Later this year, SHRM will release a survey on how companies accommodate their workers with disabilities. The third installment will highlight retention and advancement practices.

I’m looking forward to learning more. Just as there are a plethora of practices for bringing qualified candidates with disabilities on board, there are loads of ways to keep these employees productive and satisfied, too!

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Author: Barbara Otto

Barbara Otto is the CEO of Health & Disability Advocates, which manages Think Beyond the Label.