Change the Face of Your Workforce was the theme for a unique array of presenters who wanted to challenge their business audience to think differently about inclusion. Each conveyed the central point that giving job opportunities to people outside of your normal hiring circle – people with developmental disabilities, those who have experienced incarceration, veterans, and others – can make your business better. It is not about charity. It is about your bottom line.
Following are some of the gems that were shared:
After consulting with businesses for many years, William has seen time and time again that hiring non-traditional candidates can bring employees who have fewer absences and longer terms of employment. He said, “Inclusion helps us think differently because we may have to reconsider our normal business model and hiring practices. We can’t just copy and paste the usual job descriptions and criteria. Does the position really require a diploma? If you want a guarantee they can read, there are other ways to determine that.”
He offered further, “That if we fixate on stereotypes, we will underestimate people. We have to broaden our understanding of what people are capable of.” And, he added, “You don’t have to be the subject matter expert. Let The Arc, and organizations similar to them, be the expert. They will see things you won’t in your company that people with disabilities are capable of doing. Plus they will screen and train candidates for you to ensure the best possible fit. What’s not to try?”
In summary, William challenged his listeners that inclusion is more than checking a box that you hired a “diverse” candidate. “If we are truly inclusive, we actively seek other views, listen, and then be ready to respond and do things differently.”
As a longtime HR professional who had worked to bring many candidates to Alban CAT, Marianne now admits that she was skeptical when a colleague suggested they look at hiring people with developmental disabilities. “I just couldn’t see that working in a heavy equipment business.”
Now Marianne is a believer. Their first hire was Tavon, who just celebrated his five-year anniversary with the company, is as dependable as they come, and has one of the company’s highest “pick rate” accuracy in his work. She glows when she talks about his pride in working at Alban CAT and his example to others at the company. Alban CAT now employs three other employees supported by The Arc.
Jennifer pokes a little bit of fun at herself and her colleagues at their 99-year-old Baltimore law firm. “We are a bit old school and conservative about change. Our clients count on that. We had represented The Arc for many years and at some point, someone asked us to consider hiring a person with disabilities at the firm. That was kind of radical for us and we had to really think about it. But then we met Andrew, and his job coach, Tameka. That was nearly 10 years ago.
Andrew is focused and dedicated. He has systematic processes to perform his job and has scanned and uploaded to the cloud years and years of documents that now free me up to work from anywhere and access what I need for my clients.” She adds, “We have gotten more from having Andrew work with us than he has gotten from us. We care about him and look out for him, but believe me, he does the work! Every law firm in town should have an Andrew.”
Mone’t broadened the subject of inclusion in the workforce by sharing the experience at Johns Hopkins where they have worked hard to provide opportunities for people who have experienced incarceration. She says, “Backgrounds matter, but we have to look at it case by case. What were a person’s infractions, how long ago, what have they been doing since?” Then Johns Hopkins Medicine seeks to align their skills and talents that are transferable to their organizational needs. And similar to the earlier speakers, they rely on partner agencies in the community, not only for referrals, but for some of the supports these individuals need to be successful – help with navigating transportation, child care, housing, and other life needs.
“The people we see so often just want a chance,” says Mone’t, “and they continue to impress me. We took on one person who came straight from incarceration. He’s now been employed with us for three years. He moved out of his family and now has his own apartment and recently got his driver’s license. He just needed a shot.”
Learn more about how The Arc Baltimore can change the face of your workforce. Contact Kimberly Scroggins at firstname.lastname@example.org.