Jeff Dern, President and CEO of PRIDE Industries, contributed an open forum article in the San Francisco Chronicle about the benefits of incorporating people with disabilities into the workforce. What follows below is an excerpt of the article. You can read the full text here.

Labor shortage? People with disabilities are ready and able to work. Hire them.

It’s generally accepted that the U.S. is in the midst of a severe labor shortage. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there were more than 10 million unfilled jobs in June [of 2021]. Thankfully, there’s an immediate solution to this employment gap. By broadening the accepted view of talent we can create access for millions of unemployed workers who want to contribute.

Who are these enthusiastic, reliable employees? Individuals with disabilities.

All employees need training and support to be successful. When workforce investments are oriented in an inclusive manner, an individual with a disability can achieve anything. Because of their lived experiences, they often have the very qualities and skills employers often seek: adaptability, perseverance, commitment, desire.

Without the opportunity to participate, however, these valuable traits go unnoticed.

Each company’s diversity and inclusion talent strategy should include people with disabilities—labor shortage or not. Some of the most successful companies in the country, including Amazon and Walgreens, have built a competitive advantage through talent recruitment practices. By providing training geared to disability inclusion, these companies have gained access to millions of talented workers who have higher-than-average retention rates and lower absenteeism.

But what about the cost of accommodation?

One Job Accommodation Network survey found that of 600 businesses surveyed, 56% reported that accommodating employees with disabilities added no costs, while the rest reported an average of $500 to accommodate an employee with disabilities.

So, what did companies get in exchange for $500?

A lot, according to global consulting firm Accenture’s Getting to Equal 2020: Disability Inclusion study. It reports that companies led by executives focused on disability engagement are growing sales 2.9 times faster and profits 4.1 times faster than their peers. And engagement levels of employees with disabilities are 1.5 times higher in companies with the most inclusive cultures.

As head of the nation’s leading employer of people with disabilities, Pride Industries, I found the results of the Accenture study unsurprising. People with disabilities fill essential roles throughout our company and have been a key to our success. Our facilities professionals maintain 13,000 buildings at corporate campuses and military bases, such as the Army’s Fort Bliss and Los Angeles Air Force Base. Our custodians post dramatically higher retention rates than the national average. Our manufacturing floors teem with decades-long tenured employees working with longtime customers like HP Inc. 

People with disabilities have the ability and desire to work. Business leaders need to normalize workplace inclusion and provide equal employment access for all. It’s good for the community, of course, but it makes business sense, too.

Media Contact
Kat Maudru

PRIDE Industries is a social enterprise delivering business excellence to public and private organizations nationwide.

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