Some of the most important work we do each year is to meet with companies that are enthusiastic about embracing employment inclusion of individuals with disabilities, and are wondering how to get started. Below, I’ve broken out the various areas of discussion that we try to focus on when helping companies in this way.
1. Let’s match a job with a candidate.
Here we talk about leveraging any one of the many employment resource and education and community support groups. These groups are to be used as resources in evaluating specific employment positions in order to match a position to a candidate overcoming and challenged by a disability. I call it giving the resource agency a ‘license to hunt’. This is just what I said to Jennifer Zimmerman, (Job placement manager with Pleasentview Industries, and member of our Mayor’s Committee) several years ago, when AMS began our inclusion drive. We wouldn’t be where we are today with our hiring efforts if she had not jumped at doing the opportunity assessment.
I strongly believe that job coaches, career development professionals, educators, and others in careers of helping people find their place in the workplace are far better at assessing the tasks of a job and helping make an employment match. The key here is knowing the right resource groups to invite to your business, and this is an area where the Mayor’s Committee has substantial contacts and is excited about making introductions.
2. Give the new employee a running chance at success.
Here again a partnership between a business and a county, federal, or private employment resource group is advisable. Orientation into a job is critical for all employees, but may be even more so for an individual with a disability. Maybe the job requires accommodations, or maybe not. A good assessment of the job responsibilities and the candidate’s capabilities will help determine this. The good news is that most accommodations are very simple, and have little cost. A job coach, sometimes provided by the resource group, is an excellent resource to help an employee get oriented to the new job. Often job coaches are provided for several months at no expense to the employer, and they can play a critical role in the newly hired employee’s success.
3. Learn to appreciate and respect diversity in the workplace.
Your efforts to be more inclusive in your workplace will have an impact. My experience has been that the change will be for the best. People will smile more. People will respect that your company is a true partner with the community. Your company will stand out. In the proper setting, with a good employment match, your employees will soon see that individuals with disabilities can be great contributors to a company’s productivity. You may find, as I have, that attendance, longevity, attention to detail, and productivity for your new hire may out-perform the norm. Or, you might find, as I did when I started a hiring program for youth from at risk environments, that they were getting away with murder at work. In this case, the management had been timid about holding the youth to the same employment standards as the rest of the workplace, and in doing so had enabled bad behaviors. A quick adjustment was made and we were back on track.
4. Know when to leverage the employment partnerships on an ongoing basis.
Whether it is additional recruitment efforts, or quarterly walk throughs to discuss any ongoing challenges, the resource groups we work with are impassioned for the success of their candidates, and should be included in any questions or challenges that might come up. While we at AMS Fulfillment have had upwards of 18 individuals with developmental disabilities working with us for several years, we recently took the recommendation of Vivian Kimoto, Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) Representative and Mayor’s Committee Member, and offered a course in diversity training. Our attending employees really enjoyed the training session.
5. There is funding available to support a company in making inclusive employment decisions.
There are several programs designed to encourage employers to pursue inclusive hiring practices. Our Mayor’s Committee has experience in where these funds are available, how to apply for them, and who are the key contacts.
6. You are doing your part as a Company focused on Civic responsibility.
While this might first drive a decision to be inclusive, we prefer it to be one of the last reasons you hire individuals with disabilities. We are confident that when the right partnerships are aligned, with the proper candidates and employment opportunities, that success is forthcoming. The law in some states will require companies with Government contracts to demonstrate that their employment efforts are inclusive. We at the Mayor’s Committee applaud those new guidelines, but once again believe that this should be the last reason to pursue inclusive hiring. Employing people that are energized about their job, excited to come to work each day, eager to meet your productivity requirements, and dedicated to a long-term relationship are strong business reasons to engage individuals into employment.
As a local employer that makes inclusion a prime element of our hiring practices, we employ people from all walks of life, including individuals that have been incarcerated, youth that have grown up in at risk neighbor hoods, people with any number of disabilities, high school and transitional individuals starting or re-starting their careers, and also individuals with other challenges that have kept them from entering or re-entering the workforce. AMS Fulfillment, depends on over 300-employees to receive-store-pack-and ship 10’s of thousands of consumer products each day for our clients, out of six building locations in Santa Clarita. We have no products to sell at AMS, only the productivity, the care, and the attention that our people put into handling each item we ship. Our concern about getting the best attention to our responsibilities has been the drive to seek enthusiastic and ready to go personnel.
On behalf of the Mayor’s Committee, and as Chairman of the Committee, I hope you will consider an inclusive hiring strategy, and in doing so, reach out to us to help you down this rewarding path.