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Improving the Communication Gap Between Community Partners and Employers

Years ago, in 2001 to be exact, I accepted my first position in the employment arena as a Job Coach for a local Community Rehabilitation Provider. At the time, I had no idea it would turn into a career or how passionate I would become about the work, I just knew that I had to do two things: help people with disabilities get and keep jobs.

With many of the jobs in the restaurant industry or janitorial services, rarely did anyone work more than 15 hours per week or earn more than minimum wage. We were practically begging employers to hire “our consumers”, appealing to their sense of social responsibility by using what we now refer to as the “hire the handicapped” approach.

As I stayed in the field while continuing my education and professional development, I began to see a shift. Rather than continue with the “hire the handicapped” approach that had dominated our industry for years, we began to focus on the strengths of those on our caseload as we helped them find work, showing employers that people with disabilities were valuable assets. Despite the strategy, we never stopped pounding the pavement and knocking on door after door for each person, many of whom had the same vocational goal (clerical, warehouse, etc.).

While some employers were positive and enthusiastic, many others were less receptive. And while their actions weren’t intentional, they would often discriminate against applicants with a disability. This was a problem I faced every day in my experience at a Community Rehabilitation Provider. The work was challenging and very rewarding but so much of the conversation surrounding people with disabilities remained stigmatized at the employer side.

Today though, I can tell you a different story. As a Hiring and Engagement Consultant with Disability Solutions, I now have the pleasure of working directly with companies to change the conversation from charity to ability and in the process, hire people with disabilities. In my work I see good, reputable corporations who are now actively recruiting qualified people with disabilities and I am fortunate enough to assist them in their effort.

Generally speaking, these companies are nationwide, pay competitive wages, provide benefits, and have both full and part time options. Unfortunately, there’s a problem: the same types of community agencies I used to work for, the ones who help people with disabilities get jobs, aren’t always on the same page as the employer. I saw this firsthand from the community agency side and it wasn’t until I came to Disability Solutions and started working with employers directly, that I truly understood how to bridge the communication gap. In an effort to prevent future miscommunication between community agencies and employers, I present to you:

The Community Partners’ Guide to Corporate Recruiting:  Essential Dos and Don’ts

  • Do follow the advice you give to the jobseekers with whom you work.
    • Research the business & know what they do. Just because it’s a Toyota facility doesn’t mean they’re building cars.
    • Dress to impress and wear/bring attire that’s appropriate for the occasion (e.g. steel-toed shoes or close-toed shoes if touring a warehouse).
  • Do focus on the business’s needs. Investing time upfront by building relationships, learning the jobs, becoming familiar with the recruiting cycle, and knowing what makes a good employee is a win-win. The employer will be more likely to contact you when there are job openings, and you’ll likely increase your job placement rate.
  • Do remember the big picture. If an employer is actively recruiting people with disabilities (PWD) it’s not in your best interest to push too hard, or advocate for accommodations that aren’t really reasonable. Maybe Employer X didn’t hire the person you referred, but they hired 25 other PWD over the last six months.
  • Do remember that you and the employer have the same goal. You may speak a different language at times (business vs. social services), but you both want to see an increase in the number of PWD they hire.

The preceding list is the Cliffs Notes version of an upcoming webinar on the same topic. Over the last several years my colleagues and I have worked with hundreds of community partners across the country and we consistently see the same faux pas time and time again…even from top notch agencies.

We act as a bridge, and at times translators, between employers and community partners because they often don’t speak the same language, nor do they have the same work culture, frame of reference, or priorities. By re-framing the way in which we (those of us with a social service background) view certain aspects of business, and by increasing our overall business savvy, we can actually improve employment outcomes for PWD…which makes it a win-win for everyone involved.

Read more…

Interested in learning more?  Check out our latest webinar on working with employers on hiring initiatives.  For additional details read below and follow the link to register.

It’s Not You, It’s Me: Working with Employers on Hiring Initiatives

As a company providing services to individuals and veterans with disabilities, it’s well known that people with disabilities are underemployed, with the unemployment rate for this segment of the population at 8.4% vs. 3.7%. As a result, it can be difficult to find the right job.

You’ve probably also noticed a change in how some employers respond to efforts from Employment Consultants, etc, when assisting people with disabilities during their job search. Many companies are now actively recruiting candidates with disabilities – a complete 180 shift from just a few short years ago.

Although this development is exciting, these changes can lead to difficult and uncomfortable interactions between the two entities (employer and provider), causing one or both to be frustrated, ultimately undermining the shared goal.

This webinar will review the paradigm shift while covering the following topics:

  • Corporate Recruiting
  • Common Barriers and How to Avoid Them
  • Best Practices When Working with Large Companies


Speaker –

Brianne Lott, MRC, CRC, Hiring & Engagement Consultant at Disability Solutions – As a Hiring and Engagement Consultant, Brianne assists companies nationally in reaching their hiring goals, meeting OFCCP Section 503 and 4212 regulations and developing recommendations to help recruit qualified candidates with disabilities.

Click Here to Watch
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