As a former attorney and current legal recruiter, I’m always looking at fresh ways to bring exceptional talent to my clients. While the last year has seen companies develop more inclusive recruitment strategies, I’ve noticed these strategies sometimes fall short for individuals with disabilities. When I bring this up with clients, many express surprise– they simply haven’t considered the scope of available talent and how their current hiring approach fails to reach this talent pool.
It’s not just in-house counsel and law firms that can benefit from a more inclusive approach to talent acquisition. Individuals with disabilities represent a talent pool of more than 10.7 million people and employing these professionals can boost a company’s bottom line. In 2018, Accenture ranked companies on their disability inclusion efforts. Those ranked as “disability inclusion champions” achieved – on average – 28 percent higher revenue, double the net income and 30 percent higher economic profit margins than other companies. The economic case for inclusion is clear, so what’s holding businesses back?
Part of the challenge is awareness-based. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations, such as special computer equipment or modified workplace furnishings, accessible parking spots and entrances, and accessible break facilities. Unfortunately, this requirement can be misunderstood and perceived as a burden by businesses. The Accenture study found that some businesses erroneously believe the cost of disability accommodation is too high. In reality, more than half of accommodations cost nothing at all, with the rest averaging $500/employee, a nominal investment given the tremendous potential for business gains.
But educating companies about concerns like accommodation is just the beginning. Companies and recruiters can both do more to be more inclusive in their hiring process. These are three steps your business can take:
Partner with non-profit and community groups. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Many non-profit and community-based groups already have offer employment outreach, and your organization could be a great partner. For example, General Motors partners with Autism Alliance of Michigan to reach job-ready candidates who have completed a program to prepare them for interviews, enhance resumes and strengthen communication skills.While individuals with autism may have strong technical aptitude and an expansive knowledge base, unemployment and underemployment rates are estimated to be as high as 90%. Individuals with autism are more likely to have delayed speech and struggle with eye contact or reading other social cues, which can make the typical interview process more challenging. Partnering with an outside group helps bypass these roadblocks, connecting your company with a critical talent base.
Innovate with industry peers. Your company isn’t alone when it comes to inclusivity challenges. Industry peer groups can be a great resource for sharing best practices and developing innovative solutions together. For example, Diversity Lab, in partnership with Bloomberg Law, works with 105 law firms and legal departments from top companies across the country to “hack” solutions for the legal industry’s inclusion challenges. Teams are comprised of law students, firm partners and legal department leaders who all work together to ideate and pitch solutions. This collaborative approach generates actionable solutions that go beyond raising awareness– they’re designed to move the needle with real change.
Think holistically. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and some companies use this month to benchmark their disability inclusion progress. Benchmarking progress is critical to long-term improvement and accountability, but we shouldn’t limit ourselves to a single month. Diversity initiatives and disability inclusion are not separate issues for a company to check off its DEI to-do list. True inclusion requires a cultural shift that sees DEI as a daily practice, 365 days a year. If you’re partnering with a recruiter, be sure they share this belief.
As cliched as it may sound, change truly starts with the individual– you and me. Don’t be afraid to be the sticky wheel that speaks up for more inclusive hiring policies. By taking an active role in advocating for and welcoming individuals with disabilities to your organization, you’re helping to shift company culture towards true inclusion.