Hands held together

As the job market continues to improve and unemployment falls, employers in a variety of sectors are having trouble finding qualified employees. They may not realize that they’re overlooking a major pool of qualified candidates, who have low rates of absenteeism and high retention rates: people with disabilities.

Starbucks CH2MHill logosAs a recent article in Fast Company highlighted, hiring people with disabilities can have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line, as major companies from Walgreens to Marriott to Pizza Hut have seen. People with disabilities participate in the workforce at a much lower rate than people without disabilities (19% versus 68%), and have nearly twice the unemployment rate of people without disabilities.

Two major national companies have been in the news recently for their proactive efforts to hire people with disabilities. Diversity and inclusion in its workforce is a priority for international engineering company CH2M Hill. As employee Rachel Schneider wrote in a recent Q&A with Think Beyond the Label, “It’s O.K. to be you, especially at CH2M HILL.” CH2M Hill’s accommodations for employees with disabilities include flexible schedules and working remotely, as Schneider does, an accommodation that costs an employer very little but makes a big difference for an employee.

A training program at a Starbucks plant in Nevada also highlights a major employer’s efforts to recruit and hire people with disabilities. Starbucks has partnered with the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) to create a training program, which includes time both in the classroom and on-the-job. According to Ken Pierson, DETR Business Development Manager, “Companies, like Starbucks, that give individuals with disabilities an opportunity to work often end up with some of their most loyal employees. The investment in training often results in a high retention rate.”

So how do you begin to tap into this pool of qualified workers? FastCompany provides some tips, including making hiring people with disabilities a priority and being a welcoming place to work. Organizations that help people with disabilities get jobs, from nonprofit agencies to alternative staffing firms, are also great resources that can help you diversify your workforce.