The benefits of diversifying the workforce
The number of people with disabilities in the workforce rose two percentage points last year to 21 percent, still far behind the 65 percent of workers without disabilities. Tory Atkins - chief human resources officer for Murdoch’s Ranch and Home Supply, which has seven stores in Wyoming - says the biggest barrier when hiring people with intellectual, developmental or physical disabilities is taking that first step.
"It does take someone as a leader to be open, I think that probably is one of the first hurdles to get over. It's not really about policies and laws and procedures," Atkins said.
More companies are looking to this largely untapped source of talent to fill millions of jobs and diversify their workforce. A Walgreens distribution center created thousands of full-time jobs for people with disabilities, without sacrificing productivity or profits. Walgreens expanded its "same jobs and same pay as everyone else" mandate to other locations, and has shared the model with 400 other businesses.
Instead of asking "what kind of jobs are good for people with disabilities," successful employers say the first question should be "where do you have hiring opportunities, and what does that job require?" Because there are people with disabilities who can do it. Atkins says it's also important when onboarding new staff to appoint a mentor.
"Make sure that there is someone who goes the extra mile to build that trusting relationship, and is providing them direction and support to achieve the task that they have been assigned," Atkins said.
He also said workers with disabilities bring a strong sense of positivity and ownership to their work, which is contagious, and has created a culture of teamwork among colleagues with different abilities. And when workers feel valued, seen, and enjoy the people they work with, they tend to stick around.
"In the locations where we have hired folks with disabilities, that positivity - and that connection that gets built with those individuals who join the team - definitely has a positive impact on retention."