An Open Letter to Business Leaders on Hiring People with Disabilities from our CEO & President Jeff Dern

An Open Letter to Business Leaders on Hiring People with Disabilities from our CEO & President Jeff Dern

Companies are Overlooking Reliable Workers

It’s generally accepted that the U.S. is in the midst of a severe labor shortage. And that assertion is borne out by the data—according to the Labor Department, there were more than 10 million unfilled jobs in June. Is there an immediate solution to address our nation’s employment gap? Would shifting old workforce paradigms and broadening accepted views of talent create access for millions of unemployed workers who want to contribute to your workplace? Many companies have discovered a new paradigm and an often-overlooked demographic filled with diverse talent.

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

People with disabilities have the ability and desire to work. Every company’s diversity and inclusion talent strategy should include people with disabilities—labor shortage or not. 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. They have the very qualities and skills we often seek as employers — adaptability, perseverance, commitment, desire — because of their lived experiences. Without the opportunity to participate, these valuable traits go unnoticed.


There are companies across the country, from Amazon to Walgreens, that have built a competitive advantage through their talent recruitment practices. Their inclusive workforce models offer a seat at the table for individuals with disabilities, and their business results prove the model works. By providing training geared to disability inclusion, together with cost-effective adaptations to business processes, all companies can access the millions of talented workers proven to have higher-than-average retention rates and lower absenteeism.


But what about the cost of accommodation? A Job Accommodation Network (JAN) 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 (2.9x) and profits (4.1x) faster than their peers. And engagement levels of employees with disabilities are 1.5x higher in companies with the most inclusive cultures.


As head of the nation’s leading employer of people with disabilities, PRIDE Industries, the results of the Accenture study are unsurprising. People with disabilities are key to our success and are found in essential roles throughout our company. Our facilities professionals maintain 13,000 buildings at corporate campuses and military bases, such as Fort Bliss and Los Angeles Air Force Base. Our custodians serving businesses like VSP Vision 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., and people with disabilities bring innovation and unique perspectives to our vocational development and corporate services roles. Every day, we prove the value of an inclusive workforce across multiple industries.


October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), which is celebrated annually to raise awareness of the many workplace contributions made by individuals with disabilities. NDEAM was established by Congress in 1988 when there were far fewer people with disabilities in the workplace. Since that time, there’s a greater awareness about the talents of people with disabilities and how to support them for success. Today, thousands of people with diverse abilities enrich the workplace and lead independent lives.


This October and throughout the year, I challenge all business leaders to normalize workplace inclusion and provide equal employment access for all. It makes business sense, and it is good for the community.

About Jeff Dern

Jeff Dern is the President and CEO of PRIDE Industries, a nonprofit social enterprise offering employment training, placement, and support services for people with disabilities, military veterans, former foster youth, and trafficking survivors. The organization also provides manufacturing, logistics, hospital housekeeping, custodial, and other business services to companies, and recently began offering staffing and consulting services to share its employment model with businesses striving to build more inclusive workforces.

This article is featured in the Sacramento Business Journal titled Another Voice: Companies are overlooking a group of reliable workers.

Media Contact
Kat Maudru

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

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