ANTEC® Report: Disabled Are a Productive Workforce

Posted: 06/23/2022

Keynote speakers on the first day of ANTEC® included several who discussed employment strategies to overcome a tight labor market. 

In a previous posting we highlighted Lloyd Martin of CKS Packaging, who detailed the company’s “second chance program” that recruits the homeless and nonviolent offenders for company jobs—workers who now account for over 10 percent of the 3,000-plus workforce in the firm’s 26 plants.

A second speaker, James Emmett, advocated hiring the disabled, explaining that they perform as well as, and in some cases better than, other workers. Emmett’s business, James Emmett & Co. of Monticello, Ind., advises executives on the benefits of recruiting from this “alternative workforce” and helps them develop disability inclusion programs and training. 

Emmett opened his remarks by asking: “What’s the No. 1 thing that companies want?” when it comes to employment. The answer, many responded, was “someone who shows up.”

With that in mind, Emmett said 48 percent of disabled workers achieve greater job tenure than co-workers; 90 percent perform equally as well or better than others; and disabled workers on average have 34 percent fewer safety incidents than co-workers. The reason for this last? The disabled tend to pay closer attention to manufacturing rules. 

Emmett explained that companies win in several ways by hiring the disabled. They gain access to a pool of dedicated—and sometimes qualified—candidates; save on recruitment and training costs; and fulfill social responsibilities to local communities. 

Importantly, companies can tap into a national network of organizations that work on behalf of the disabled and which can help in the referral and recruitment of people. Government at the state and federal level offers incentives to invest in programs to hire the disabled. And organizations like Emmett’s can assist in developing programs and services that help integrate the disabled within a workforce. 

He pointed out that only 17 percent of the disabled in the U.S. are born with their disability; 83 percent acquire disabilities in later life. Most disabilities, moreover, are invisible like autism or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Only 29 percent have visible disabilities. 

Emmett said that for companies to be successful in recruiting and working with disabled workers, they’d need:

  • A visible champion in the organization to oversee a program
  • Buy-in from company leaders at multiple levels
  • A focus on the business benefits of hiring disabled workers
  • And holding all workers to the same level of expectations. 

Most of all, there needs to be a clear messaging of the program to everyone. Be loud and proud, he advised. 

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