Hiring people with disabilities has been in the news of late, since new U.S. federal rules for government contractors set a goal that 7 % of employees should fall into this category, and a recent report from the National Governor’s Association encouraged states to employ more of the 54 million people with disabilities in the U.S. But what does it mean for your company?
Whether the new regulations affect your company or not, they put the spotlight on the importance of having a diverse work force and avoiding discrimination of any kind. A Harvard –based nonprofit organization called Project Implicit offers a free test on its website to help people become more aware of social biases they may hold but not be aware of. It can be eye-opening to take a test at https://implicit.harvard.edu. If you are not aware of your biases, how can you change them?
Many hiring managers shy away from the idea of hiring people with disabilities, thinking that it will be expensive to adapt the workplace to their needs or that they may be less able than other hiring candidates. In fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifically states that for individuals to be protected under it they need to meet all of the job requirements. And many people with disabilities don’t require any specific company adaptations. If they do, there are tax benefits available, including a Disabled Access Credit that reimburses small companies for expenses related to accessibility as well as expanded tax credits for hiring disabled veterans.
With unemployment at 14.7 percent for people with disabilities, almost double the rate for the general population, there are a lot of qualified people out there who are not getting hired. And rather than approaching it as some kind of charity, many companies are finding that hiring people with disabilities is good for the bottom line, with staffing benefits like greater loyalty to the company and less turnover.
Some of the benefits of hiring people with disabilities are harder to put your finger on. A diverse workplace fosters a more open culture that encourages innovation. And if the company culture is built on inclusion, you may be surprised at how creative input may increase from all staff members, as well as the positive responses you may get from clients and customers.
The website of The National Organization on Disability (http://nod.org), offers resources for business leaders who want to build a more diverse workforce. Most companies are good at hiring without bias, and regardless of sex, race, age, or disability. Putting some extra effort and thought into discovering any biases you may hold and looking into the resources that are available can help you increase diversity at your company. It’s the law and it makes good business sense.
Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, is an author, speaker, Human Resources professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR, and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. The author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, Jessica was named by HR Examiner as the second most influential recruiter on the Internet and the seventh most powerful woman on Twitter. She is a columnist for both SmartBrief and The Huffington Post, in addition to Blogging4Jobs and Human Resources One on One. Jessica has been interviewed for professional articles in CIO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, SHRM’s HR Magazine, and on CBS. Jessica earned a Senior Professional in Human Resources designation in 2008, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Business from Kansas State University. Originally from a small town in Kansas, Jessica currently lives near Oklahoma City with her husband, Greg and daughter, Ryleigh.