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How can small businesses source disabled talent?

6 minute read

How can small businesses source disabled talent?

When considering the term “Disabled talent”, in terms of employment, it is often easy to focus on the former rather than the latter, after all, “Disability”, in its rawest form means, an absence of an ability; a concept which is understandably off-putting for employers.

This is why we, for the purposes of this article, will focus on the latter word, “Talent” which many people with a disability have in spades. People with disabilities face difficulties each and every day which they must overcome. Harnessing such tenacity can only be a benefit for any business.

Furthermore, Decent work for persons with disabilities (United Nations, 2007) states that employees with disabilities, on average, have a better retention rate than their counterparts, as well as better attendance rates and productivity when compared with their colleagues without disabilities.

Couple this with the Access To Work scheme provided by the government to support people with disabilities in the workplace with specialised technology and resources: there is every reason to employ talented people with disabilities. 

But where do employers find such reliable, productive and retainable talent? In a recent study of internal hiring managers, 70% of employers didn’t know where to source disabled talent and only 11% of HR were “Confident” in sourcing employees with disabilities. 

Advertising

The best place for you to start is with the most obvious way of finding employees: by advertising the job. GOV.UK provides guidelines on best practices for job ads, it also states that employers “Must not discriminate against disabled people at any stage of the recruitment process” and that they “Must make job adverts accessible to all those who can do the job, whether or not they are disabled.”

The guidelines go on to explain the ways in which the advert itself should be composed, most of which is common sense. For example, using large and clear font, providing contact details to discuss any adjustments required during the recruitment process and allowing for alternative formats for application such as a paper form if the application is online. 

Pros

Such adverts are good for all potential employees and avoid any legal ramifications of not conforming to employment law.

Cons

Such job adverts don’t specifically target disabled talent so it’s not the most efficient way of finding disabled employees.

The Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative

The Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative, or RIDI, is an organisation that works to bridge the gaps between recruiters, employers and disabled talent. It’s directory, The RIDI100, lists recruiters with a commitment to finding disabled talent and is a resource for prospective employers. 

In the words of RIDI itself:

“RIDI has one purpose: to break down the barriers faced by the millions of disabled people who are entering or progressing through the job market. We have long known that businesses, while open to hiring disabled individuals, often feel that they ‘don’t know where to start’ when it comes to engaging with disabled candidates. However, our latest research underlines the fact that many hiring managers simply don’t know where to turn to even access this valuable talent pool. By creating a dedicated directory of Disability Confident recruiters, we believe we can help businesses to overcome this crucial hurdle.”

Pros

The RIDI100 is a superb initiative and a resource that, in time, could be vital to disabled people and employees alike. It centralises the list of recruiters that removes the difficulty of finding recruiters who serve the disabled sector.

Cons

Though it is a good resource, it is hardly comprehensive and does not represent every recruiter who represents disabled talent, let alone disabled talent as a whole. For SMEs that require specialised skill sets, the RIDI100 may not work.

Also, as with any recruitment agency, those found through the RIDI100 will charge a premium for its candidates which might be an issue for you if you’re a small business with tight budgets. 

Employability

Employability is a scheme designed for disabled graduates to find work and internships with partner businesses. It provides training to the applicants and works with employers to make the application, interview and placement as easy as possible.

Pros

This scheme is well established and has a great deal of experience in the field of matching employers with disabled applicants which goes far beyond that of a simple recruiter.

Cons

Employee partners tend to be very large businesses with a great deal of resources to give back to the scheme. Smaller enterprises would most probably not be suited to the scheme.

CV websites

It is rare that a person with a disability will list their condition on a CV. This is for several reasons but mainly, it can put potential employers off. Such employers haven’t read this article and aren’t aware of how great disabled talent is within the workforce…their loss. For the most part, people with disabilities don’t list their condition, however, there are exceptions. 

An example of listing a disability could be a blind website developer and one of her skills is improving website accessibility. In this case, it is worth explaining her condition as it is a qualifying factor for the job.

In such cases, CV sites such as Monster or LinkedIn might provide candidates.

Pros

Can find people with disable specific skills.

Cons

The majority of CVs listed will not say whether a person has or has not got a disability.

Be approachable

Finding disabled talent doesn’t have to be active, it can also be passive. Many people looking for work apply directly to businesses on a prospective basis asking about current opportunities. This means that, in the case of people with disabilities, you need to be accessible both on and off the internet.

Firstly, your website needs to be accessible. You can find some tips here in an article I wrote: Why Website Accessibility Is Essential… In a nutshell, your website needs to be easy to navigate, intuitive to use and free from waffle… That is, unless you make waffles. The most important factor, in this case, is making your contact details easily available. Tucking your email address and direct contact number away in a dusty corner of your website is no good to anyone, especially someone who may have a visual or physical disability and who finds trawling through acres of web pages a pain.

Of course, all of this is useless unless there is a response. When answering the phone or replying to an email from a prospective employee, be understanding, answer questions and if you don’t know, find out and get back to them. This is an opportunity to start building a working relationship. Above all, be patient, and your patience will pay off. As I said at the start of this article, disabled talent is a good investment. It might just take a little more effort to obtain.

Pros

Direct contact from a potential employee is an excellent way of opening lines of communications; Addressing concerns and establishing expectations.

Cons

Naturally, this tactic relies on your website being found by disabled talent which is far from certain and, though improving the accessibility of yourself and your website is good practice, actively seeking disabled talent will be much more successful.

The best option for you…

Finding disabled talent does take a little more effort, however, if you consider it like any other criteria, e.g. graduate, experience with dynamite etc…, then the process is far more manageable.

So, you can advertise, you can find disabled talent through recruiters who are accredited and specialise in disability employment, you can approach schemes that partner with businesses to employ people with disabilities, you can search for candidates on CV sites such as LinkedIn or you can kick back and wait for them to come to you… But, which is the best option for you?

The answer is, as you might have guessed, it depends. The tool has to be suitable for the purpose. 

If you want to simply not discriminate when advertising for a position, then it is easy to follow the government’s guidelines to make the ad accessible and relevant to candidates with disabilities. 

If you are looking for a recruiter to find talent for you then the RIDI100 will work well for you though, as with any recruiters, the candidate will come at a premium which may be a factor when working on a budget.

If you are willing to invest time into a full scheme to employ graduates with disabilities, then Employability can work as a partner to develop a scheme within your own business that will provide an ongoing program for disabled employment.

If you are looking for a very specific candidate it is possible to search CV sites for disabilities, however, not all people with disabilities will reference their condition which may limit your options.

If you are happy to simply wait for the right person to come to you, disabled or not, make your website accessible and understand that schemes such as Access To Work are available to help employees with disabilities realise their potential.

Conclusion

Businesses are finally recognising that there are rewards to be had in employing disabled talent. The fact that recruiters are seeing this market and initiatives such as RIDI only confirms that such employment has demand and longevity. Such resources not only promote fair, non-discriminative employment, but highlight what is most important in any candidate: Talent.

Oliver Kennett is an author and freelance copywriter living in Bristol. A graduate in both law and engineering, he enjoys exploring science, technology and social impact through his writing. As well as clients in the technology, tourism, legal and lifestyle sectors, he has written extensively for charity. In his spare time he writes short stories and novels for children and adults in the horror, sci-fi, fantasy and humour genres.

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