Beverly Riddick

Another Overlooked Pool of Talent — People With Disabilities

May 1, 2017
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By Beverly Riddick, Executive Director

Hiring people with a disability can give you a business advantage. Rising Tide Car Wash in Parkland, FL is a growing business — not a charity, not a sheltered workshop but a business — built on the competencies of people with autism, particularly on their attention to detail. Rising Tide owner, John D’Eri, whose son is on the autism spectrum, focused on the skills people with autism have and created a business that, as his website says, “sets them up for success.”

“We moved the wash from 40,000 cars a year when we bought it to 160,000,” he said. “That’s quadruple, inside of three years. You can’t do that without a great staff.” He’s about to open a second location.

Rising Tide is just one example of the ways in which people once deemed unemployable and unskilled are, in fact, key players in economic growth. At the other end of the business spectrum is Walgreens, one of the largest retail drug chains in the U.S.

“Walgreens has found that employing individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) has contributed to higher productivity in its distribution centers, lower absenteeism, higher retention rates, and increased customer loyalty, among other benefits,” reports the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp). The report found that “the profile of an employee with IDD reads like that of an ideal employee — employees with great attendance records, strong attention to work quality and high productivity.”

Hiring people with a disability is not a disadvantage to a business. In fact, it may give it an edge.

That’s not an isolated example. Prudential, one of the members of our Advisory Board, has a program called ADAPT (Abled & Disabled Associates Partnering Together), which facilitates bringing college students with disabilities into the employment pipeline. Students with disabilities are encouraged to apply for summer internships throughout the company. Often, the students become qualified job candidates for the company.

Which brings me to another important point. People often have preconceived notions about what “disabled” means. It may mean intellectual or developmental disabilities or it may mean using a wheelchair or requiring assistive hearing or vision devices. Many people with disabilities are highly qualified, often highly experienced. Again, keep your eye on the skills they have, which may be just what you need.

Many nonprofits, colleges, and universities have set up programs to prepare people with disabilities to enter the workforce. Employers can work with these organizations directly to build a pool of candidates for every level of job, candidates who have been screened and trained, and are ready to do the work you need done.

Often, intermediaries provide on-the-job coaching to make sure the new employee fits into the culture, understands the job, and is right for the job. All this help can reduce the cost of recruitment and onboarding while increasing retention and avoiding future labor shortages. Now that’s a win for everyone.

If you are worried about “reasonable accommodation” and what that might entail or cost, relax. Intermediaries can help with that, too, and you may become eligible for tax breaks.

Again, these services are available to companies of any size, in any sector. Best of all, you don’t have to figure out for yourself whether and how a person with a disability can do the job you need done. That’s what the intermediaries do — they work with you to determine what you need, then train or find people already skilled to do that job.

Hiring people with a disability is not a disadvantage to a business. In fact, it may give it an edge.

That report by i4cp that I mentioned before found that, for Walgreens, the improved customer satisfaction that resulted led to better sales and customer retention as well as to a better image in the community.

The more I learn about the workforce we’ve ignored in so many ways for so many years — disabled, long-term unemployed, underemployed, veterans, people with an employment gap — the more confident I am that RTWBC is correct in focusing employers on skills-based hiring.

Take the opportunity to hear more on June 21 at the Ready to Work convening, hosted in Minneapolis by US Bank. The lineup of experts — employers to educators — will be energetic and enlightening. You’ll learn about overcoming the challenges of the growing #skillsgap, best practices in recruiting that don’t shut out the long term unemployed, and hear how to appeal to employees from Millennials to Boomers in the #workforce today. Please save the date! Find details at ​